Tourism

Insight Vacations CEO Ulla Hefel Böhler: “We’ve always been ahead of the game”

Lauren Croft

Last week, Insight Vacations launched its 2019 Europe and Britain Collection – and boy, are we excited.

They’ve also just launched a brand new flight deal! Between now and October 31, guests who book an Insight Vacations or Luxury Gold trip can fly return to Europe from only $899. And that’s a hell of a deal.

The new collection features three brand new tours – Easy Pace Malta, Greek Island Hopper and Northern Lights of Scandinavia.

The latter is an itinerary Ulla Hefel Böhler, CEO of Insight Vacations, is especially excited for.

“In terms of new itineraries the Northern Lights Scandinavia is such an exceptional itinerary, it’s unique, it’s special, it’s got those ‘wow’ inclusions, it’s something very different,” she said, speaking to Travel Weekly at the launch of the new Collection.

“In general, I think our collection has never been better, we’ve made lots of small refinements and improvements. Also what is really exciting as well is that everyone seems to have an appetite for Europe these days.”

The tour starts in Helsinki, with its beautiful seaside architecture, before guests board a scenic flight to the charming village of Ivalo to check out the aurora borealis through their hotel room’s glass ceiling at the Aurora Village, near Urho Kekkonen National Park. The tour then continues on to Norway, where guests travel to Nordcapp to witness the Northern Lights dancing across the night sky – then go on an unforgettable drive from North Cape to Alta to admire the majestic fjords and enjoy the local ice bar.

On this trip, guests also get a one-of-a-kind Insight Experience: visiting a working husky farm and visiting a champion dog sledder and her Alaskan huskies.

And, Böhler said those unique experiences are exactly what makes Insight Vacations different from the rest.

“It’s our very varied dining options, it’s our fantastic customised coaches, it’s staying in the right hotels in the right location, it’s all brought together seamlessly by our exceptional travel directors. It’s really the combination of all those fantastic things,” she said.

“On our Jordan itinerary, we’re visiting a local women’s co-operative through TreadRight. It’s about local empowerment, and for our guests to experience the local traditions and partake in them.

“It’s those unique experiences that, as an independent traveller, you couldn’t really arrange on your own, and you wouldn’t know how to find them.”

Böhler is visiting from her hometown of Zurich and is also the CEO of The Travel Corporation’s luxury touring brand, Luxury Gold. Luxury hotspots on her radar right now include Japan, South Africa and Russia – but Böhler stressed that luxury is not what it used to be.

“Luxury has become a lot more accessible in the past few years. In luxury nowadays, it’s no longer about the marble bathroom or the golden taps. Luxury is very personalised, individual experience – and what is luxury to one person might be different from what luxury is to another person,” she said.

Now, the best hotels, service, transport and food are a given on luxury trips. But on Luxury Gold trips, guests get those inclusions and more.

“What comes into it a lot more nowadays is choice and personalisation and having a personalised experience. And getting your individual travel dreams fulfilled.

“And travelling with a purpose is also, especially in the luxury segment, becoming more and more important. And people make responsible choices and want to travel with a company that cares, a company that gives back, and that comes hand in hand with travelling with a purpose,” Böhler said.

Travelling with a purpose is something the whole of The Travel Corporation is passionate about – on July 1, the company banned single-use plastics in their offices all over the world. And instead of printing their customers travel documents, Insight Vacations is offering them digitally and planting trees instead.

“Last year, we introduced a new system called MyInsight – it’s an electronic portal, and you can get your documents electronically. By not printing the documents, you’re saving trees, but we also wanted to go to the next level and plant trees in return.

“So over the past year, we’ve forested more than 30 acres already,” Böhler said.

And in 2019, the company will plant one tree in Australia for every customer who chooses to receive their travel info electronically.

“We’re also working on a five-year plan to remove all single-use plastics throughout all of our operations. So not just in our offices, but also on the trips,” Böhler added.

Over the course of the past 40 years, Insight has evolved tenfold.

“We were founded in 1978, and back then it was called a coach tour, and it was a very different experience. Over the years, we kept innovating, with taking meals out of the hotels, introducing local restaurants, reconfiguring our coaches and taking seat rows out, introducing new dining concepts and really evolving our category into what the 21st-century traveller is looking for,” Böhler said.

“We launched Croatia in 2014, and people probably thought ‘Why are they going to Croatia’, and now everybody wants to go to Croatia. So we’ve really always been a little bit ahead of the game.

“We have to listen to our guests – that’s at the heart of what we do,” she added.

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