In Defence of Packaged Tours

In Defence of Packaged Tours

Some millennials might turn up their noses at the notion of travelling in a tour group – but is this warranted? This writer shares his thoughts on the relevance of packaged tours in this day and age.

The modern traveller seeks to be independent — someone who is resourceful and resilient, and not herded around like sheep. The quest for an unshackled travel experience has undoubtedly shaken the packaged tour industry; today, tour groups mainly consist of the elderly, young children, and their accompanying parents. As a millennial, I too am guilty of turning my nose up at the notion of travelling in a tour group, a stance aided along by many articles on the internet that peddles the virtues of travelling free and easy.

If you want to experience the authenticity of a place, never follow a tour group.’
‘Packaged tours short-change your time there and only bring you to money-sucking places.’

Image Credit: Bernard Spragg. NZ

Having been on a few packaged tours myself, I cannot disagree that these accusations are completely baseless; a particularly bland moment for me as a child tagging along a tour group in South Korea was the endless visits to premium ginseng shops that charged exuberant prices for its products. However, I believe the years gone by have made tour agencies wiser to current trends. For all the flak this industry has taken, there are still some advantages that one can derive from hectic days of shuttling from one hotel to another, rushing for the coach, and trying to look enthusiastic for the energetic, microphone-wielding tour guide.

One of the biggest perks of signing up for a packaged tour is the absence of any sort of pre-trip homework. Apart from travel insurance and other miscellaneous purchases, all other aspects of travelling will be planned out for you.

Gone is the worry that your next Airbnb host might be a crafty scammer, or that you might miss your cross-city commute. You do not need to rack your brains thinking about where to go, and how to get there. You traverse the country in air-conditioned comfort, away from the sizeable local crowd that swarms the metro and public buses. More importantly, you have a knowledgeable tour guide at your disposal who probably has a mental archive of recommendations in each vicinity, so you are never short of ideas.

The quasi-seamlessness of it all easily appeals to anyone who does not have the time to meticulously plan for bucket list adventures; who just wants to be mindlessly led around reasonably decent parts of the country, leaving itinerary and logistical worries in the hands of professionals who understand each place inside out.

Packaged tours are no longer as rigid as before; there is a healthy variety of itineraries, each offering a different way to enjoy a country.

Image credit: Steven dosRemedios

On the contrary, if you have the time and energy to plan a trip, but are undecided on the sites you would like to visit, take tours as destination samplers. Generally speaking, the itineraries are ambitiously packed, and while you find yourself going to many places, you tend not to be afforded enough time to fully enjoy them; almost as if you are merely skimming the surface. It is an immersive way for travellers planning a more extensive and fulfilling trip in future to experience the various areas of interest, gather information from helpful locals, and use that newfound knowledge to craft their own itinerary.

Today’s generation is one that strives to scrimp and save every penny. We fly with budget airlines, we stay at hostels, and we dine on cheap street food. Taking the spotlight away from us, packaged tours are the main revenue generators for any country’s tourism industry; without it, there will be fewer jobs for its locals. The strained income also prevents a country from sustaining even its own culture. Take La Sagrada Familia for example — it relies on income generated from ticket sales to complete its construction, and the waves of tour buses that bring in tourists by the hundreds will go a long way in aiding its cause.

There will still be lingering downsides to travelling in a tour group that leave a sour taste in the more independent traveller, and that is okay.

Different modes of exploration exist to accommodate different groups of people, and just like how you sometimes loathe the slew of safety-related questions about your off-the-beaten-track adventure, perhaps one’s uninspiring and less spontaneous trip isn’t any of our business either.

Also Read: The Importance of Understanding Cultures Around the World

About Author

Benjamin Tan
Benjamin Tan

As a nomad, Benjamin believes his place in the world is not determined by the borders of one country, but by wherever the sweet nectar of exploration tickles his nose. He continually hones his writing in the hopes that his documentation of his journeys can do the beauty of what he witnesses some justice.

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