News & Views

First in the Series: “Industry Q&A” Featuring Ashish Sanghrajka of Big Five Tours & Expeditions

As the director of DCI’s travel trade division, I’ve noticed that many of my industry colleagues are constantly seeking information on trends in the market and how we can better engage with tour operators. As such, DCI is pleased to launch our “Travel Industry Q&A Series.”

First up is the president of Big Five Tours and Expeditions (@bigfivetours), Ashish Sanghrajka.


Ashish Sanghrajka, President Big Five Tours & Expeditions

Ashish Sanghrajka, Big Five Tours & Expeditions

Q: What trends in the leisure travel market are you noticing this year that DMOs should understand and be prepared to address?

A: There are three primary trends I’ve noticed that are worth addressing:

  • People are breaking the mold and getting off the beaten path – like the “Treehouse Lodge” experience that we offer in Peru’s Northern Amazon in Iquitos.
  • The notion of family travel with a solid educational component has grown exponentially. We work with families that are looking to leave an impact in the places they visit. In essence, people are seeking for a reason to part with their money, people always want to travel, and it’s our job to give them a good reason to go.
  • The third driver is the influence of millennials and the impact they have on the decision making process, especially when you have a millennial traveling with the family.


Q: What factors do you consider in order to add a new program/itinerary to your product portfolio?

A: We often look at what other (non-North American) markets are doing. This gives us an indication on an experience that would be ready for North Americans. We go to our hotel partners and see what their guests are doing. We also proactively uncover new experiences. My team is challenged to come back with something brand new whenever they are in a destination that we offer.


Q: What role, if any, do familiarization trips play in your program/itinerary decision making?

A: FAM Trips do not play much of a role in our program/itinerary decision making process. We used to spend a lot of time doing them, but found that the answer lies in doing individual educationals for advisors and tailoring the programs accordingly. ProColombia leveraged advisor feedback to rethink their FAM trip offering and agent education.


Q: Based on your experience so far, what can DMOs do better when working with members of the travel trade or organizations like your own?

A: It’s about getting more involved with us. It’s important to keep messaging fresh so that organizations like mine can further diversify offerings and generate buzz.

Destinations that have done this really well include Australia with the special focus they did on restaurants with their “Restaurant Australia” campaign and India back in the early 2000’s when they launched a full campaign around experiences that went above and beyond the Taj Mahal such as Heli Skiing in India.

We do it a lot on social media, but our focus is on telling a story and having a voice on current events. We don’t use our social media marketing to sell, we use it to inspire our followers. It’s helpful when DMOs who can provide content that helps us tell a story.

Another idea for DMOs to consider is to establish an advisory board made up of travel agents, tour operators, hoteliers, etc, in order to avoid tunnel vision when they start making decisions. These individuals can serve as a sounding board to ensure that DMOs are making decisions based on what truly is important in the market.


Q: What advice would you give to DMOs looking to enter the North American market?

A: I have a few tips that may aid DMOs as they seek entry into North America.

  • It’s important to understand the arrivals to your country – be able to separate out who are visiting friends and family, who is coming in for business and who is truly visiting for leisure. This way you can determine which operators can best help you grow arrivals.
  • Then decipher your brand message – you can’t be everything to everybody and you need to put your best foot forward when aligning to your brand promise.
  • Understand what luxury means and don’t insult people’s intelligence – it’s important to go beyond the basics. If you take Uganda for example, talk beyond the gorilla trekking experience and focus on something that we don’t know.
  • Also have a healthy budget, if you spend peanuts, you will get peanuts.
  • Be aware that North Americans seek authenticity. As you enter the North American Market, it’s important to enter with a fresh approach, just as Colombia did, focusing on breaking a stereotype that encompassed the destination. In the last 48 months, Colombia has become one of the fastest growing destinations in South America.


Q: Which industry conferences/trade shows have you found most productive to reach your target clients; where are DMOs most likely to engage with you?

A: Virtuoso Travel Week – it’s amazing. The people that you reach there are great. The other one that is very good is USTOA. If you’re attending Virtuoso Travel Week it’s because you are getting traction. If you are going to USTOA, it’s because you want to learn market demographics and spending trends in general. I like the ILTM’s and PURE’s as well, but you have to go in with a clear goal of what you want to achieve at those shows.


About Big Five Tours & Expeditions:

Founded in 1973, Big Five Tours & Expeditions is an award-winning global tour operator offering customized, luxury travel to more than 45 destinations in Africa, Asia, Orient, Latin America, Polar Regions and South Pacific. Their reputation for distinctive tours and personalized service is owed to more than 37 years of success in fulfilling dream vacations to the exotic corners of our world.

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