Andy Swann Voyage is a British/American luxury French travel specialist based in Antibes, France. The company designs and delivers luxury travel itineraries, à la carte experiences, and exclusive events for private and business clients on the French Riviera and Italian Riviera and in Provence, Burgundy, Normandy and Paris. Ninety percent of its business is from the United States, with the remaining 10 percent hailing from the U.K., Canada, Australia and Russia.
We caught up with Andy Swann recently, to get a look at how U.S. travel advisors prepare itineraries that take them across all regions of France so they can experience it up close.
Before the pandemic, what types of services were travel advisors asking you for?
Typically, we had requests from luxury advisors asking us to plan a two-week, three-destination itinerary for their clients or clients staying for a week in a specific destination and looking for a range of curated touring days and special and unique activities.
In 2019, we had many requests for market tours and cooking experiences in Provence/Paris and the Riviera. We also had many requests for biking with picnics or biking in the lavender.
What types of experiences do you provide, so the client gets to experience your destination like a local?
All our guides are French and we invest an enormous amount of time in choosing the best guides, so our clients have the most immersive experiences. Examples include a half-day with a master glass blower in Biot, a day with a wine maker in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, spending time with a cheese maker in Vence, dinner with an archivist from the museum of Nice, a visit to the largest private perfume garden in Grasse and lunch with the owner and head gardener.
Do your clients look for city/countryside experiences that mix the two options?
Typically, yes. If in Paris, clients want to have days in the Loire Valley, Normandy or Champagne. Clients in Provence want a mix of the countryside and the historic cities of Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.
Are clients interested in exploring the history of your destination and their ancestry?
Very much so and, indeed, I am impressed by the research many clients do before they even approach us via their travel advisors. We also work with a couple of excellent Normandy guides specializing in D-Day and World War II. We have a very special program where we can follow in the footsteps of soldiers who landed in Normandy in 1944. Clients can see the areas where these soldiers traveled and fought and in some case where they sadly lost their lives, and their actual resting places.
Are you starting to get requests in for 2021 and beyond?
Yes it’s a 50/50 split of requests for July onwards with a real focus on fall 2021. September and October are some of the best months of the year weather-wise in Provence and the French Riviera and also for the wine regions.
France holds the Rugby World Cup in September 2023, which is the fourth largest sporting event in the world and then 2024 is, of course, the Paris Olympics, which will be spectacular. The planning for this is already moving forwards. So, there are some very exciting years ahead for France.
Are you following COVID protocols?
In regard to our touring days with drivers and guides and also our transfer services, hand gels and masks are provided on board. Our guides are all required to wear masks at all times with clients. We have also made our terms and conditions more flexible with regard to changes and cancellations. We continually review these changes in light of guidelines from the French health and tourism ministries.
What are your thoughts for the future?
Even though 2020 was a write-off for so many of us, we have kept positive as a team and continued to review our business and client offerings. We have tried to be proactive through social media and virtual presentations and to find the right balance in communicating to advisors through travel inspiration/marketing. We are hopeful for an end to this long tunnel soon and will be rolling out to the travel advisor community a whole series of 12 one-week upscale-themed experiences for small groups from D-Day and the Liberation of Paris to Loire Valley Private Gardens and Chateaux to Artisans of the Riviera. We will also release a whole new series of wine and food curated experiences in June 2021.
The global message currently on the opening up of travel is confusing and we look for Europe to make a decision shortly on a rollout program to welcome back our American friends.
Note: From June 9, France will open its borders to non-E.U. tourists and visitors with a pass sanitaire (health passport).