One on One with Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO of smarTours

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  1. [​IMG]This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO, smarTours (www.smarTours.com), a discount group tour provider specializing in high quality packages to some of the world’s most fascinating countries. We’ll learn how SmarTours has carved a niche in a crowded and competitive travel tour market for more than 20 years.

    “We’re seeing all of South America really shine in 2015, and one of the most pleasant surprises is Colombia. It’s a wonderful, diverse destination, and it’s a wonderful turnaround story for a country that has certainly had its challenges.”

    Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO, smarTours

    You say that the persistent labeling of international travel as outrageously expensive is now a misnomer. Why?

    There is a real misconception about the cost of international travel that the travel industry has perpetuated for far too long. Our peers have successfully tricked the American consumer into thinking that international travel must be extremely expensive, and the consequences are tragic, in my opinion. Many Americans simply assume that places like Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America are out of reach, and just as problematic, when travelers come across affordable prices, they are trained to ask what the catch is or look for what’s wrong with the offer. The opposite should be true – the American traveler should expect affordability and ask why all the outrageously expensive travel offers cost so much. You have talked quite a bit about the ebb and flow of international currency as a windfall for US travelers. Talk about the opportunities in 2015?

    Everyone is talking about Europe and how now is the time to go because of the dollar’s strength versus the Euro, but what about South Africa? And Japan? Europe is just a small part of the picture, and the movements of the Rand and Yen have been even more substantial. South Africa and Japan are two amazing destinations that are now much more affordable and should not be missed.

    Cuba continues to generate buzz among travelers who want a unique experience. What do intrepid travelers need to know and understand about this formerly forbidden destination?

    Cuba is now more open thanks to the progress ignited by the Obama administration, but you can’t simply go online and book your spring break trip. In fact, you can’t even go to Cuba for leisurely/touristy pursuits; you have to go for one of permitted reasons as outlined by the U.S. Treasury. One of the main ways that Americans can get to Cuba, which we provide here at smarTours, is through a People-to-People program. This mode of travel requires you to follow a full-time schedule filled with interactions with the Cuban people. Although it may seem rigid on the surface, we believe that it creates a more enriching, eye-opening experience.

    What are you doing differently and how have you continued to successfully compete for more than 20 years in the group tour business?

    We are relentlessly committed to providing affordable, high-quality international travel packages. That’s what we’ve done from the beginning, and we haven’t lost focus. Many other companies claim to be focused on providing affordability and value, but for all but a few other companies, it’s simply hot air.

    What are people searching and booking through smarTours these days. Any surprises?

    We’re seeing all of South America really shine in 2015, and one of the most pleasant surprises is Colombia. It’s a wonderful, diverse destination, and it’s a wonderful turnaround story for a country that has certainly had its challenges. Not only are travelers booking in much greater numbers than anticipated, but more importantly, people absolutely love the experience.

    Many people shy away from group tours and some swear by them. Are packaged tours more suitable for some over others?

    If you want to see a lot without the stress of planning, then a packaged tour is for you. If you want to see your dollar go as far as possible, then a value-oriented tour is for you. Group tours also have the underestimated benefit of meeting new people with a shared passion for travel. However, if you like to plan everything yourself and you don’t mind not getting the best pricing possible, then you might not be a great fit for a tour.

    What are your best deals right now?

    How many can I list? All of our tours include international airfare, 4-star hotels, selected meals, tour guides, sightseeing and more, and I love them all. But if I had to choose two, I would say: (1) our Amazing Thailand trip (14 days, including airfare, from as low as $1699) and (2) our Cape Town & Safari Express (9 days, including airfare, from as low as $1899).

    Our readers want to know the latest tips on securing cheap air travel. Any advice?

    There are several ways to secure low-priced airfare. You can certainly follow all the great resources online, but you can also look towards tour operators. Tour operators often get airfare that’s lower than what airlines are willing to show publicly because a package tour conceals the exact price of the airfare.

    What’s your personal favorite destination and why?

    I’m going to upset all but one of our teams around the world, but if I have to offer one, I’d say Croatia. The country offers much of the same beauty and charm as Italy, but by and large, it can be accessed at a much more affordable price. Croatia is growing in popularity among Americans, which is completely deserved, but it’s still somewhat under the radar.

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