We live in such a brand-obsessed world nowadays that it’s all too easy to restrict our search when we’re online to names that we’re familiar but in doing so, we are often inadvertently shortchanging ourselves as the best on offer may not necessarily be the most familiar or famous. This applies to all consumer services and products. It also applies to travel! If you were stopped on the street tomorrow by some pollster and asked to list as many travel brands as possible that immediately came to mind, you’d struggle to think of any after names like Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Thomas Cook, Falcon, Topflight etc. The fact is though that there are literally thousands of small, niche agents and tour operators that do an outstanding job in specialising in either specific geographical areas or specific types of activity.
In order to best illustrate the point I’m trying to make here, just consider the area of food production as that is usually an area where most consumers will have hands-on experience of the advantages of choosing an artisan producer over a mass-market ‘branded’ competitor. Most would probably agree that Clonakilty black pudding wins out over the competition from much larger food producers; or Ardsallagh in the case of goats cheese. The fact is that the travel industry is no different to the food industry when it comes to the old adage of ‘horses for courses’. If you’re thinking of holidaying somewhere in Italy next summer but are not exactly sure where, doesn’t it make a lot more sense to speak to someone who is perhaps Italian and comes from Italy and who specialises only in Italian-based holidays rather than putting your trust in a company that features Italy — along with 10 or 15 or 20 other competing destinations as well?
So, as part of your New Year’s resolution for 2014, why not check out small artisan-type travel companies such as www.caminoways.com (Northern Spain); www.wonderful-cracow.com (Poland); www.discoverypuglia.com (Puglia); www.travelfocus.ie (South Africa, Mauritius); www.discovertravel.ie (Thailand, Vietman, Laos); www.pioneertravel.travel (Kerala); www.git-ireland.com (group travel worldwide); www.ifonly.ie (Indian Ocean, Maldives).