by Karen Rubin
The hottest trend in travel today is “experiential” – activities that get the traveler out from gazing through a window and from tourist hotels and restaurants and engaged. You come home with more than mental images but new skills, understanding and self-awareness that you can implement in your life well beyond the trip.
That is the point behind a brand new tour operator, brite spokes – actually the scion of one of the oldest, largest and most respected travel companies in the business, Kuoni.
brite spokes isn’t the only tour operator that is offerings its guests local, off-the-beaten track, “authentic,” exclusive, personal enrichment and active engagement experiences within its itineraries (see related story).And there are special interest operators that focus on everything from archaeology to zoology, biking to Shakespeare, from explorations of chocolate to scientific exploration. But what is new is that the trips are being designed around a string of experiences, and tapping into the connections and relationships and knowledge of its parent company and sister companies of this size and global scale to offer entree to experiences that might not be available otherwise.
brite spokes is all about creating experiences and opportunities for enrichment that last well beyond the end of the trip. The company has put together itineraries built around experiences that you might have wished for yourself, created for yourself, if you had the time, know-how and access to such unique opportunities as learning the techniques of road racing, fulfilling the dream of taking your child to visiting sports halls of fame (and meeting some of the athletes), and priced in a way that puts the experience within reach.
“We are excited and energized to launch brite spokes – a brand that will truly stand out in today’s evolving travel industry,” said brite spokes CEO Mark C. Morello. “After a soft launch of the branded product in 2013, we’ve spent the past year developing itineraries that even the most seasoned travelers will find unique and packed with ‘remember forever’ experiences.”
“brite spokes experiential vacation packages have been created with current and developing travel trends in-mind as well as on-going feedback from our frontline researchers who test-run all of our itineraries to ensure seamless and exciting vacations.
“From start to finish we take every portion of the itinerary into consideration and go above and beyond to make every moment of each once-in-a-lifetime vacation unforgettable,” he noted.
It may seem counter-intuitive to offer notoriously independent Americans group tours, especially of their own country (though the tours are also expected to draw international visitors), but Jordana Waxman, head of marketing, emphasizes that even if you had the time to research all the elements, you wouldn’t know where to start, and some of the elements are exclusive – meaning that they are not otherwise available to the public. You may be able to search out a Comedy Club, but would you know to even try to find the restaurant where you dine in a bank vault? And packaged this way, it is actually less costly than if you put all the elements together for yourself.
“Exclusive” access is the essence, for example, of an itinerary called “The Right Lot” – a curated art experience designed to not only enhance appreciation and knowledge of some of the city’s most exceptional works of art, but give you the foundation upon which to build your own collection. “The Right Lot” features private tours of galleries and museum exhibitions, artist studio and auction house visits, as well as dinners with premier art dealers and collectors.
brite spokes itineraries – presently focused in the USA though international destinations are being added – are divided into eight categories: Adrenaline; All in the Family; Sports Enthusiast; Health & Fitness; Teen; Eat, Drink & Be Merry, For the Fun of It and Knowledge. Here are some examples:
Adventure lovers: Travelers in search of a heart-pumping, smile stretching experience will get the rush they crave with one of the brite spokes rally car racing or in-depth drifting adrenaline adventures where they will have the chance to work one-on-one with the pros. For example:
Get the Drift: Drifting is the hottest thing in motorsports today and during this exclusive program, some of the best drift drivers in the world will teach travelers to over steer with complete precision and control. This high-adrenaline adventure starts in the Los Angeles area and consists of a comprehensive orientation, between four and eight hours of seat time with private instruction, tours of prominent racecar shops, private demos and fantastic meals with pro drivers.
Sports enthusiasts: For the ultimate fan looking to pay homage to their heroes or watch their favorite sports stars in action, brite spokes offers a series of sports itineraries that provide tickets to major matchups, private tours of various stadiums and museums, and even “question and answer” sessions with the sports Legends themselves.
For example: Cover Your Bases is the ultimate baseball enthusiast experience – two major league baseball games, stadium and museum tours and a quality time with a baseball pro. Leave from NYC and head to Baltimore for an Orioles game and stadium tour, followed by a visit to the Babe Ruth Museum and the legendary player’s birthplace. Then head to Philadelphia for a Phillies game and up to Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Ommegang brewery for a savory tour and lunch. Before going back to NYC, get pumped for a private Q&A with an MLB pro.
Fitness fanatics: brite spokes has partnered with a variety of fitness companies to present a new take on everyday healthy eating and ordinary work-out routines with its fitness programs that brings travelers to a variety of scenic locations, including the beaches of Miami, the canyons of the southwest or the farmlands in the northeast. For example:
Southwest Road Trip is lifestyle road trip sponsored by Crunch Fitness. Fitness fanatics take out-of-the-box fitness classes in a once-in-a-life-time atmosphere – all with Crunch’s ‘No Judgments’ philosophy. You do yoga at the bottom of the Grand Canyon via helicopter, African dance with live drummers and pole dancing or boxing in Las Vegas, and learn the art of healthy eating at a gourmet cooking class.
MMA Knockout: Have what it takes to get into the ring? Find out with this opportunity to train like a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter and get an inside look at the week leading up to a UFC fight. You get to train with a pro coach in Las Vegas to learn the strategy behind the GO GO Plata, OMA plata, Triangle Choke and Head Kick Knockout. Sporting a custom walk out T-shirt and Tap Out shorts, you get to spar in a legendary Vegas ring while standing in punching distance from an MMA fighter for weigh-in; finally, you get to attend the winner’s after-party.
Love. Fitness. Happiness takes travelers back to their workout roots for a detox weekend around the farmlands of Connecticut. Crunch Fitness, will jump start the adult body and childlike spirit through a variety of summer camp type activities including fitness circuits, hiking, horseback riding, drum pounding, yoga and a blowout dance party. There may be a camp-like feeling, but instead of rustic camping accommodations, this experience offers an imaginative luxury cottage dreamed up by Winvian Resort & Spa, a Relais & Chateaux property, world-class wine and gourmet meals prepared by resident chef Chris Eddy and luxury spa services. Burn calories by playing capture-the-flag, and dance parties – more play than workout.
Culinary and culture connoisseurs offers the tastes and sounds of iconic cities throughout the U.S. Between exclusive cooking classes and tastings, historical site and museum tours and local music performances, these programs offer travelers hands-on activities and an up-close look at lifestyles across America. For example:
Bringing Tuscany to Sonoma: Tuscany comes to Sonoma for this immersive culinary and wine experience, hosted by Doubletree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, California, a classic vineyard-inspired property. Using the finest local ingredients, beloved Tuscan chefs of II Vicario, Katia and Fulvio educate travelers to expertly cook authentic Italian dishes that capture their philosophy of gastronomy – fresh ingredients and simple preparations produce the most memorable flavors. To complement the flavors of Italy, travelers enjoy California’s spectacular wine, bike ride around the vineyards and hike through the Armstrong Woods.
Let’s Geaux Series: New Orleans, a town filled with phenomenal food, cocktails, music and people, is a recipe for a good a time. Experience the very best of New Orleans with unforgettable meals, a stroll in a historic paddlewheeler, a cemetery and voodoo tour and a Creole cooking lesson, seasoned with private jazz shows.
Pleasing the Palate: In addition to indulging in custom tasting menus, wines and cocktails, travelers take a hands-on, imaginative cooking class and get a delicious peek into the lives of New York City chefs. The top taste-makers in New York introduce some of their favorite purveyors and food spots in and around the city including: the greenmarket, “The Spice King” of New York, the best dock for seafood and the go-to kitchen supply shops for chefs in-the-know. The trip also includes a visit to top North Fork wineries for tours and tastings and a behind-the-scenes look at Eataly, Mario Batali’s gourmet store and restaurant.
The Fashionable Life: Step into the high heels of the fashion editors who work, play, live and breathe fashion during this exclusive New York City experience. Fasionistas will tour personal showrooms, visit a leading publishing house, meet with designers and vintage collectors, get a behind-the-scenes look at Fashion Week planning and experience a professional photo shoot at one of the most renowned studios in the city. A makeover, fabulous new clothes, a custom scent and nightly tables at the hottest restaurants will get travelers into character as they begin to strut their stuff like the editors themselves.
Knowledge seekers: Whether it’s visiting different college universities, discovering new eco-friendly initiatives or strengthening one’s photography skills, each educational tour adds a level of excitement to the learning experience. For example:
Green is the New Black: San Francisco is one of the most environmentally responsible places in the world and this eco-experience will show travelers how the Bay City makes it look so easy and so good. This sustainable journey includes behind-the-scenes tours of San Francisco’s most environmentally advanced buildings, “meet and greets” with the city’s greenest visionaries and farm-to-table organic food and wine tastings. In addition to exploring the city, travelers will also bike the surrounding area of Sausalito, volunteer at Golden Gate Bridge National Park, take a gourmet foodie walk and picnic at a sustainable oyster farm nearby.
Through the Lens is an artistic immersion throughout New York City Under the tutelage of highly respected conceptual and technological professionals, travelers will explore still, fashion, landscape, boudoir, action and aerial photography as they learn to establish their point-of-view. Also, since mastering the gear is half the challenge and fun, travelers will be outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment provided by one of the world’s most renowned electronic retail partners.
Corporate team builders: Special experiences and access pretty much define corporate team-building and incentive travel program. brite spokes can create corporate and incentive travel parties of any size and will customize an existing program or create an entirely new itinerary to fit the needs of a group.
You also can expand your travel experience by inserting personalized “spokes” to the already exclusive brite spokes itineraries by working with an experienced agent to gain access to the inaccessible, including private planes, expert coaching and training, celebrity hangouts, custom massages and an assortment of other extraordinary additions. And the itineraries are offered in two pricing categories, “brite” and “briter”.
brite spokes is the millennial offspring of Kuoni and its U.S. subsidiary AlliedTPro, both global leaders in the travel industry. Since 1906, Kuoni Group has grown from a small travel agency in Switzerland to one of the leading global travel-related service providers with more than 13,000 employees in 100 countries on five continents and global sales of $6 billion. Kuoni has won over 170 awards, including Best Large Luxury Tour Operator at the Telegraph’s Ultratravel Awards 2013 and Best Honeymoon Company at the Perfect Wedding Awards 2013.
© 2014 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/eclectic-traveler-in-long-island/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-national/karen-rubin and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.