Catching Up with Ian Swain of Swain Destinations

This week, the customized tour operator formerly known as Swain Tours rebranded as Swain Destinations, marking a new era in the company’s development. “The reason for the rebrand is to make our name more succinct with what we do,” founder and President Ian Swain told Luxury Travel Advisor. “We don’t do escorted touring. We customize every travel experience we create.” The new name, he said, will make the company’s mission statement more “straightforward” to people in the industry.  

The company also unveiled a new logo and website this week, and Swain says that the website now offers twice as much information as the previous version. “It’s easier to navigate,” he said. “The main reason for a website is to give clients an idea of what they can do in the destination. This is like a starting point.” As for the new logo, Swain said that agents have already contacted him with praise. “They think it looks wealthy, because it’s like a dollar sign,” he laughed.

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Customizing Trends

Swain started out in 1987 as a husband-and-wife operation that focused exclusively on Australia. Today, the company offers tours to New Zealand, the South Pacific, Asia, India, and Africa. 
The company’s new brochure doesn’t have any new destinations, but Ian Swain does not feel that expansion is currently necessary. Instead, he said, he would rather focus on improving the product offering in their current destinations. “We’re continually finding new products in those areas,” he said, adding that the company regularly seeks out new hotels and experiences to add to the portfolio. 

In Australia and New Zealand, he said, indigenous tourism has taken off over the past few years. “People are immersing themselves in the culture of their destination,” he said. Swain has added several new experiences along those lines for their newest brochure. The growing trend of luxury lodges, including the Luxury Lodges of Australia, are also enticing travelers back for repeat visits. “The general public is increasingly aware of what’s available,” Ian Swain added. “People are asking for these, and people who traveled with us 15 years ago are coming back to us when they hear about these lodges.” 

In Africa, Swain is adding more mobile tented camps, which he says is good for existing clients who have traveled there before and want to try something different. The Singita mobile camp in Tanzania is a popular pick, as are excursions to see meerkats in the Kalahari. 

In Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia have seen infrastructure improvements and luxury hotel openings. “There are some great hotels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City,” Swain said. Cambodia’s new Song Saa resort has over-water bungalows and is a popular request. The Hyatt in Siem Reap is a good base for those on their way to Angkor Wat. 

India has seen recent growth in safari tourism, with &Beyond offering an excursion to Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Pench National Parks, and Taj Hotels offering dedicated safari lodges. Swain said that this is an extension of the demand for experiential travel. “It’s just a matter of finding it and linking it with the right customer.”  

To that end, Swain said that his team will regularly qualify travelers on three-way calls with the client, the agent and a Swain Destinations representative. “If they’re unsure about a destination, they can speak with our consultants [and] ask pertinent questions,” he said. If someone is considering an African safari, they can talk with a specialist in Africa. “It all drills down to having the right person talking to the right client,” he added. 

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