Guided Day Tours // China Trip

Most people go to the beach or skiing during the winter holidays. Not me. Always up for an adventure, my wife and I traveled to China where we visited friends and family, saw the sites, ate, shopped and got lost. As always, my eyes were open for insights on culture, consumers, branding and marketing - you'll find them in this set of posts - most starting with a bit of business, followed by some fun (and strange) trip stories. (7th in a series)

Insights - We took four day-tours in China and I think I learned a little about the travel agency/tour business. In short, it’s not totally useless, but it is outdated.

1. The whole thing is a bit old school. They arrange every detail so you don’t have to think about anything, except how much to spend in the overpriced gift shops. You eat in special tourist restaurants and have no control over the menu

That kind of experience is too passive for me. I’m up for adventure, and willing to take a little risk that we end up somewhere not so great.

2. But, you have a guide, and someone who speaks the language and knows the city on my side is definitely valuable and worth spending for.

3. The travel agencies presented package prices that were not transparent as to cost breakdowns. On the road, I learned that there were some elements of the tours I would have paid extra to upgrade, and probably some others that didn’t matter. They should have shown me exactly what I was paying for, and I would have spent more money with them.

A service that provides a guide who is more of a facilitator — who will help you do what you want to do, or help you figure out what you want to do — would be very attractive to people like me.

I checked out Travel and Leisure’s A List, but decided to go web and use tripology where you give them your details and they shop them around to several agencies. After some back and forth on pricing - resulting in me organizing the flights and hotel on my own - I used their connection, Pacific Holidays for drivers and tour guides. They did OK. But just OK - a little drama with a communication and timing issue on their part. Of course I sent an email to our rep, but am not holding my breath on hearing back.

Trip Notes - We went to Vue Bar at Hyatt on the Bund for drinks. It was kinda dead for a Thursday night, but the view of the Bund and the city from the 32nd floor was first rate. We met a couple Americans from Apple who were out here visiting suppliers. Make no mistake, your favorite products from Cupertino are definitely made in China.

It was too cold to make use of the 33rd floor outdoor hot tub, but you can bet we’ll be in that bad boy next time we go back.