They offer a completely different dimension of relaxation. This is an alternative for tourists who are getting bored of lying on the beach every day.
Every year, the largest Polish tour operators transport millions of tourists craving sun and colorful drinks. What about those who imagine their “dream journey” in a completely different way? Young Polish companies offer an alternative. Trips prepared based on individual preferences may soon become a real sensation on the Polish tourist market. There are more and more travelers who prefer to wear a backpack and trekking shoes instead of an all-inclusive hotel wristband.
Tourists with a traveler’s soul choose niche agencies
Carried by buses, they watch the surrounding world from behind the glass. While others sail across the Baltic Sea by kayak, they are confined to hotel enclaves, hunting for the best delicacies in the buffet. The image of an all-inclusive tourist is not that of a traveler, and the walks between the room and the hotel swimming pool are far from mountain trips. Those who are more interested in getting to know a new culture than in the morning wars for deckchairs in European resorts will be interested in the offer of alternative Polish travel agencies.
Sebastian Wieczorek, co-owner of Zorientonych, is staying with the group in Japan. Together with twelve participants, he plans to go to the Izu Peninsula. A place that standard travel agencies tend to avoid is a volcanic area with hot onsens located in wild nature, surrounded by majestic waterfalls. Then he plans to take the guests to Mount Koya, where they will stay in houses for monks called Shukubo. – I think that our guests are closer to the traveler type, although they also have something of a tourist. Our client is a demanding person in many respects. It demands a lot from us, the organizers, and expects just as much from our stay in a given place. I must admit that we try to stand out on the market in many ways, and one of them is a large offer of active trips. These are not expeditions to an eight-thousander, but components that we weave into our expeditions and they constitute their important element – he says in an interview with Wprost.pl during a short break between subsequent adventures.
For the Zorientowani travel agency, educating the next generations of tourists is extremely important. – We focus on the quality of information and content that we provide during our trips. This is particularly important for me because I am a trained geographer and I have a wide range of interests related to ornithology, history and archeology. In a way, traveling today has become very trivial. It’s a matter of a few clicks to book a plane ticket or hotel, check out recommended restaurants nearby. We want to stand out by providing information and knowledge that a typical tourist will not find in a guide. In the case of exotic destinations, we often rely on people who live locally and are connected to the local community. All this makes many customers come back to us, he adds. In his opinion, the offer of large tour operators is not very rich in this respect. – With large groups, it is usually impossible to sit down with several people for a meal, exchange views with the guide, or simply talk. It’s not just about book knowledge, but knowledge of life in a given place.
Adventure Club soloists organize about three hundred expeditions a year and are undoubtedly a giant in their niche. – Our slogan is travel off the beaten track. Does this mean that we will not go with travelers to the Taj Mahal or the Mayan pyramid in Mexico just because many tourists come there? Of course not. We want everyone to experience as much as possible in the country they are traveling to, with all their senses. We don’t want to lie on the beach for two weeks, but to see many regions of the country. We sleep in hotels and guesthouses run by local communities. This is what is most often missing in mass tourism, says Łukasz Nowak, CEO of the travelers club. – We want to know what people’s everyday lives are like and how we interact, which allows us to compare our Polish life to that in other places in the world. Thanks to this, we learn about the world without the media filter. They say that traveling makes you richer, and although such sayings seem trite, it really is true. We think that as Europeans we know everything, but when we land in a small village in India, it turns out that this knowledge is useless. Such a clash of extremely different ways of life can completely change our worldview. What is the point of taking people to Africa, taking them to luxurious five-star hotels, where someone prepares drinks and a fancy dinner for us? This is not authentic Africa and this is not travel, just plastic tourism. We drive 4×4 cars, sometimes we sleep in tents, we go to villages, we go to local fairs, we also explore unknown or hard-to-reach places – he adds.
Piotr Molicki, owner of Planet Escape, also specializes in non-standard travel. – We offer a definitely different form of tourism. Tour operators buy charter places and take people to Greece, Turkey, Egypt and other exotic places, where the visitors stay in one hotel for a week. The vast majority of tourists do not leave this hotel so as to take full advantage of the all-inclusive offer. Such a hotel is identical, regardless of whether it is located in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Egypt or near Poznań. We pay much more attention to ensuring that someone traveling to Thailand, the Dominican Republic or anywhere else gets to know the place, gets to know the culture, and gets to know the real local cuisine – he explains.
His office can prepare a trip for even one person. – The programs on the website are only sample tour plans. In fact, we tailor each trip to a specific person. If someone calls and says, “I have two weeks from April 1st to April 15th and I would like to go to Papua New Guinea. I want to train in Balien, and I would like to lie on the beach for a week. “I would like to sleep in houses on the water” – we plan an individual trip for him based on these specific requirements. We look for plane tickets, choose hotels, ask whether there are bars and restaurants on the beach, and whether anyone wants to hide in a pristine part of the coast. We completely tailor the trip to the client’s expectations and budget, he adds.
The travelers are mainly women, but also seniors
– I always say that “travel is women” and they are the ones who mainly go on our expeditions. According to data from the National Traveler Survey, the average female traveler travels solo because she either does not have a travel companion or her partner or friends are not willing to do so. She wants to develop and see something new, but lying on the hotel beach bores her. The second group are couples and the third are men. The age range varies, but the main group are people between 25 and 40 years old. There are also elderly people or family members. At the age of 80, my grandfather still went with me on trips to Morocco, and the absolute record holder was an 88-year-old participant who traveled on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing through Mongolia and, despite the lack of comfort, was delighted. Such stories are moving – I hear from Łukasz from “Soloists”.
Tourists don’t have to worry
– There is no place that would be difficult for us in any way. We travel all over the world, we travel to very unconventional and extraordinary places. Some places, because they are less developed in terms of tourism, may not necessarily suit sophisticated tastes. In the case of accommodation in Central Africa or the Amazon, most hotels available are two or three stars at most. If we are dealing with less touristy places, there is not much choice when it comes to the standard of accommodation and people have to accept it. The hit of our recent trips are the Saint Islands. Tomasz i Książęca, one of the last ecosystems on Earth where we can see truly pristine, paradise beaches. Two or three years ago, one plane per week flew there from Lisbon. Now there are a little more flights, but it is still a place untouched by mass tourism, of which there are few left in the world. Customers who have already been with us, after arriving with wide open eyes, ask how is this possible? – says the owner of Planet Escape. – People who are fed up with trips being canceled by large tour operators, because they bought, for example, Ecuador, but a group of 20 people did not gather and the office informs them a month before the trip that there will be no trip. Holidays purchased from us are irrevocable. If something is dedicated and organized for one person, the trip cannot be canceled. Of course, in the event of force majeure, such as war or a volcanic eruption, we are responsible for the client and propose a different departure date – he adds.
Although unexpected situations may occur during travel, small travel agencies are perfectly prepared for them. – Last summer, we had problems with flights. One of the two largest low-cost airlines canceled connections en masse, especially to Iceland. This was a big problem because it is an extremely important market for us. We had to look for alternative connections through Copenhagen or other ports at night to ensure we could reach our destination. It worked, but it took a lot of work and a lot of stress,” says Sebastian Wieczorek from Zorientonych.
Although tourists ask about safety, necessary vaccinations and preparation for trips, they often lose sleep over whether it is really worth going on holiday alone. – It’s very interesting because it seems that we are in an era of independence, but the prospect of going alone is still terrifying. In many offices in Poland, a solo trip meant that you had to pay extra and feel lonely throughout the trip. Of course, you can go alone with us, because on our trips we are a family on the road, not a group of random people who don’t know each other. Our leader doesn’t disappear at 4 p.m., saying, “See you at the meeting at eight.” We are together all the time. This is extremely energy-demanding for our leaders, but this is the way we conduct trips – says Łukasz Nowak.
The best destinations for your first adventure trip
Planet Escape especially recommends Southeast Asia for your first expeditions. – It is very developed for tourism, it offers many beautiful places and small, boutique hotels. The people are incredibly friendly, there are great flight connections, good cuisine. To start my traveling adventure, I would choose Indonesia, Vietnam or Thailand, says Piotr Molicki. – Everyone knows that there is a large tour operator available and you can go to Egypt with him, but they do not know that Egypt does not necessarily have to be all-inclusive. You don’t have to go to one hotel for the whole week, but you can sail down the Nile in a felucca, sleep where Winston Churchill went on vacation, and discover beautiful oases in the middle of nowhere – he adds.
Biuro Zorientowani definitely recommends Iceland and Madeira. – We have been going to Iceland for many years and we have excellent relationships with local hotels and restaurants. This is also a good direction to start with. I recommend it especially in the off-season, which is July and August. It is associated with coolness and cold, but when you get to know it more closely, it is not like that at all. The beauty of this place and the wonders that nature has created there guarantee beautiful holiday memories. It is also worth going to Madeira. The island that some may associate only with hotels offers much more. Its interior is full of rich vegetation, around which there are scenic walking routes. This is a very good direction to get to know Europe in a more active way – sums up Wieczorek.
This year, “Soloists” are preparing new products for travelers. – Opening new directions is one of the things that excite us the most in this industry. I love creating new programs, and about five new destinations are offered every year. I can reveal that Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Brazil will soon appear here. We have a huge number of ready-made programs and specialist knowledge, but the key is not to constantly propose new destinations, but to choose the best ones – they add.