Travel agents take a tour detour


I was gazing at a Ferdinand Bol painting depicting a group of rather stern Dutch wine merchants at the Alte Pinakotheke Art Museum in Munich when I was interrupted by a group of football supporters in Brazil T-shirts and headphones trooping past me, presumably listening in Portuguese to a virtual museum guide.

It made me wonder how difficult it must be for travel agents and tour operators to prioritise their customers’ needs.
In the Gulf, agents are re-adjusting traditional markets for new segments of travel destinations, as today’s ‘been everywhere’ travellers look for new experiences. 
Some Europeans, I’m told, are joining ‘Slum Tours’ in New Delhi, and being taken around areas where these unfortunates live and work.
 There’s no limit to the type of tours being offered. Residents grumble about the construction work in Dubai, but believe it or not, there are now construction tours for architects and professionals.
Cosmetic surgery trips to is big business for Gulf travel agents. But I only hope the face in the passport is still recognisable on their return!
Medical tours to German and Orient spas continue to be a big draw. I’ve wanted to visit the Ice Hotel in Northern Sweden for a long tme now, but was told by a friend, who went there: “Make sure you only book for one night. It’s really cold”!
 Tours which sound wonderful but which I’d personally avoid are elephant and desert safaris. Both are extremely uncomfortable.
As a teetotaller, I’ve never been attracted to the Wine Tours in France and Germany, but I understand these are extremely sought after. Religious Tours are also very popular, as are Angling Tours in England and France. I’ve only been once on a fishing tour with my late father and uncle. However, I was soon banished to my Dad’s Volvo, as I was talking too much and apparently ‘scaring’ off the fish!
Tours to botanical gardens in the UK are gaining ground, especially to Kew Gardens and the famous Eden Project in Cornwall. Personally, I prefer visiting my eldest daughter’s allotment in Sunning hill-Ascot, where she grows delicious vegetables for the family every year.
Diving enthusiasts in the Gulf region have ample opportunities for pursuing their hobby in the UAE, Oman or the Maldives.
The weirdest tours are the Graveyard and Ghost Tours in the US or Vampire Tours in Romania. These would give me nightmares, so I’d certainly avoid them.
 California and Australia offer Gold Panning Tours. I’ve not tried the California version, but I’ve visited the Ballarat ghost town in Victoria, once a thriving Australian mining town. My gold panning experience was dismal, but I did take great photos of the old mining town, where present-day actors/actresses re-enact the life and activities of the old mining settlement.
In Kimberley, South Africa, I tried diamond panning and actually ‘found’ a minute diamond, which I managed to mislay.
The Swinging Tours, now popular in certain European countries, sound too risqué for my generation. I prefer rail journeys with the Blue Train and the Orient Express already chalked up. My better half and I are looking forward to a trans-Australian trip on the Ghan Express and hopefully crossing the Rockies in the US.
I’ve been a bit mystified that he’s taken a sudden interest in the Caribbean,
“But we have plenty of beaches here”, I told him, until I found out that the Cricket World Cup will take place in the West Indies next year!

Speaking Out by Jonna Simon