It is question that we often get asked – how do you decide which rowing tours to run? It is timely, since we are already turning our attention to planning trips in 2021, even before we have run our first trip of 2020. Our list of rowing destinations has grown steadily over our seven years of business. So much so, that we have reached the point of a new question – which of our many rowing tours will we offer next year?
There are several ways that we identify possible new tours. Most fall into one of these categories:
- Request by a past guest or a club
- Opportunity presents itself
- Call for ideas
- New trips to a popular country
- Something I want
- Just trying new ideas
Rower Interest & Request
With 25 years of experience of operating rowing, cycling and hiking adventure trips around the world, we have a maxim:
What we want to offer is merely interesting. What matters is where people want to go and what they want to experience.
There are many ways to figure out what rowers want to buy, recognizing that there can be a significant difference between what people say and whether they actually book a trip. Pretty normal, and we take that into account when gauging interest, in particular for more exotic destinations.
Some of our most popular trips have begun from a request – for example Classic River Thames. It might seem an obvious destination, but it took a club’s request to make it happen. The club had tried to organize the tour themselves, but it was taking too much time and effort. We were happy to help, and the rest is history as they say.
This year, the Thames is our location for our annual Women’s Only Tour – a concept suggested by a past guest, and which is in its third year now with great success. Similarly, we were asked to consider creating a LGBTQ trip, which for 2020 will be on Lago Maggiore in Italy.
We have a great number of repeat guests, so we especially listen to their requests. For example, some of the rowers who were instrumental in bringing the Thames trip to fruition then wanted to go to St. Petersburg, Russia. Eh voilà, a test trip took place and we continue to offer this fascinating destination.
I had the good fortune of being a participant on the 2016 World Rowing Tour in Austria to the Salzkammergut lakes. I was very impressed by the beauty of the landscape and the rowing, but especially the planning and concept of the tour. The organizers gave me permission to replicate the trip as our Austrian Lakes tour. Knowing local rowers and having confidence in our partnership is a key factor in selecting a destination to include as a tour.
Another great example would be Greece. Guin Batten, chair of the FISA Rowing For All Commission and who lead our first Maldives Development Tour, recommended that I connect with Nikos Gkountoulas, based in Thessaloniki – she felt that we would work well together. She was right! In 2019 we ran two trips on the stunningly beautiful Aegean Sea. There will be more trips in Greece!
Call for Ideas
When considering launching trips in Australia, we reached out to Australians and asked them for ideas. We explored several possibilities, and ultimately developed the Charming Clarence River in NSW. What an unexpected delight that trip and river was! It goes to prove that lesser known destinations are often the best. If we had not asked, we would likely never have known of it.
For 2021 we are considering expanding to rowing trips in the USA. Please watch for an upcoming call for ideas. And be sure to suggest off the beaten track destinations – I am very open to ideas.
New Trips to a Popular Country
The very first trip we ever ran was called Italian & Swiss Lakes, which was a bit of a sampler tour, with rows at several locations on both Lago Maggiore and Lago di Como. The tour evolved to our wonderful circumnavigation of Lago Maggiore (another example of responding to an opportunity). Since we love Italy, we added Vogalonga, a must do event for rowers. This year, we are again expanding our selection of wonderful Italian rowing choices, with Lago di Como and Lago di Garda. And we have our sights on some more locations in the future.
In Canada, we started with Prince Edward Island in 2018, added BC Wilderness in 2019, and are thrilled offer Montreal & Eastern Townships in 2020. Canada is a big, beautiful country and the rowing is amazing. There will be more.
Something I Want
Remember that maxim, that what I want is merely interesting? Well, sometimes what I want is where other rowers also want to go. Some of our trips have a special meaning for me. Our trips in South Africa have a special place in my heart, since it is the country of my birth. And I love running the stunningly beautiful Périgord trip on the Dordogne River, France since it is where I first started running cycling and walking tours many years ago with my previous adventure travel company. And our new trip to Martinique in the Caribbean? I thought that it would be fun to go somewhere warm to row during the winter – turns out others feel the same.
I love creating new things and testing concepts. For example, we tried out an Oar Board rowing tour in Belize a few years ago. We rowed where no one had rowed before!
We have been experimenting a lot of coastal rowing and love the possibilities that it presents. We think it is the wave of the future and want to encourage all rowers to try it, with trips such as our Cork & Carbery Islands trip in Ireland. Which, by the way, was also in response to a request from a club.
And completely new for us in 2020 is our Coastal & Traditional Rowing Camp in Cornwall England. This is the first ever event that allows rowers of all skill levels to try FISA class sliding seat rowing and fixed seat rowing in Cornish Pilot Gigs and a St. Ayles skiff. We take the boats for short tours along the scenic coastline, naturally stopping for lunch at pubs!
Initial 2021 Plans
Not surprisingly, the planning cycle for trips can be quite lengthy. Although we have pulled together some rowing tours in short order! Here are a few of the ideas that we are working on for next year:
- Spain and/or Portugal – we have both request and interest, plus opportunity for good partners. Just need to get there and do some research!
- Japan – ditto. The Olympics will help focus attention on this fascinating country.
- USA – this will be a major initiative, especially to decide where to go in such a big country with so many rowing clubs, some iconic locations.
- More France – we had hoped to add a trip on the Seine this year, so this could be an option in the future or perhaps other locations.
We are in the happy position of having more trips available than we can run in a year. We will begin to circulate our offerings on a repertory basis, meaning that trips will not always be offered every year. If you are considering a destination and can’t decide about booking or not, we suggest that you check with us about our future plans.
Where do you want to go? Comment on this post or use the website contact form to let us know. Or send an email, we are always happy to hear from you. If you are a club or might want a private tour for your group, please get in touch soon, since extra time is needed for the planning.
Past surveys have helped our planning immensely, so we invite you to participate in our 2021 Trip Survey. This is how the ideas start. It is so much fun to think about beautiful places to travel and row!
P.S. Have you seen our Rowing Chats interview? Rebecca Caroe asked me the question about planning tours when she interviewed me. You can watch my answer beginning at 23:15 minutes.