The long-haul, single-destination group tour — from the inside

By Randy Keck

Previously I have written on the subject of one of the rarest categories of all touring offerings in the U.S. outbound travel marketplace: the long-haul, single-destination group tour (LHSDGT), in this article to be referred to as LT. The LT was defined at that time as a group tour of three weeks or longer that focused on a single overseas destination.

Over the many months since the original article appeared (Sept. ’04, pg. 106), I have received a surprising amount of reader comment on the subject, most lamenting that there are not more such offerings available.

Chile bound

In April 2005 I had the opportunity to travel, at a discounted rate, with a small group on the very first departure of the “Chile In-Depth Tour” — a 21-day exploration of Chile as a sole destination — with Chilean Special Journeys’ (based in Santiago, Chile; in the U.S., call toll-free 888/345-6077 or visit This provided me the opportunity to examine a prime example of an LT from the inside through the eyes of tour members.

The “Chile In-Depth Tour” itinerary focused on unveiling the sweeping geographic and economic diversity of this rather amazing and very safe country. In my opinion, diversity of attractions and personal safety issues are the two most essential ingredients in providing a worthy LT offering.

Most tour members reported this destination’s diversity as a primary element in deciding to go on the tour. And at the tour farewell dinner, tour members reported feeling as safe as or safer than being at home in the USA.

Also, Chilean Special Journeys in their marketing made quite a deal of the rather unknown (outside of Chile) Chilean cuisine, especially the seafood and wine. Our particular group of travelers all seemed to be seafood and wine aficionados and were clearly impressed with their experience of Chilean gastronomy.

More LT advantages

Other benefits of long-haul tours include being able to explore a country in some depth without having to speak the local language. This was the case with Chile, although we learned en route that the Chilean government intends for the nation to become bilingual in Spanish and English within 10 years.

Also, longer tours allow time to overcome problems on a tour that might on a shorter program mean missing an attraction or a destination.

Additional benefits include more efficient use of touring time, usually more free time and fewer one-night stops than on shorter itineraries. Our Chile tour had only a single one-night stop, and I have since been advised by the company that the revised itinerary for future departures has none.

Journeying with special travelers

In general, one of the added-value benefits of an LT is traveling with the types of travelers that are attracted to such tours. They tend to be more patient, flexible and well traveled and therefore more travel savvy than the general run of travelers found on shorter, highlights-focused group tours. The LT also opens the group tour experience to a wider demographic: those who usually are not interested in traveling with groups but who are choosing to do so because of the unique, in-depth itinerary.

I do not make these observations lightly, as they are derived from 20 years as a tour operator operating both types of tours. Guess which types of groups are more fun to travel with?

Since we can all agree that the LT as a product does not appear with great frequency in the American travel marketplace, I invite readers to send me notifications of such tour discoveries so I can pass the information along in a future column. Again, to qualify, the tour must offer a minimum of 21 days in a single destination.

The LAN experience

I traveled to Chile as a guest of the LAN Airline Alliance, flying business class going down and economy on return. I found the service in both classes easily superior to those of United, American and Delta, with whom I have flown on previous trips to Chile.

The LAN network is expanding very rapidly throughout Central and South America, including Ecuador, Peru and Argentina, offering many options from its North American gateways in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Connecting routes are available to those gateways through their partner carrier American Airlines. Call LAN Airlines at 866/435-9526 or visit

Keck's Beyond the Garden Wall

❝The experience of travel is akin to the experience of the sea.
We can remain on the surface
Or dive beneath into the depths
Where mysteries and treasures are revealed.❞
— Randy musing on the subject of this column