On Location: Andrew Stevens of Luxury Vacations UK

 

Andrew Stevens
Andrew Stevens at England’s Hidcote Manor Garden.

 

If you are in the market for a bespoke tour of England, Scotland or Wales, look no further than Luxury Vacations UK, whose services, we hear, are perfect for seniors, families, private groups and VIPs. Here, Andrew Stevens, director of Luxury Vacations UK, shares more about his company, including the travel trends of U.S. vacationers.

Can you describe some of the “over-the-top” programs you have customized for clients?

We arranged a special day for a very well-known film star and his family in London. We provided a traditional red Routemaster bus; they toured the city with a true cockney Londoner; and visited all of London’s major sights. The tour also included a private prior-to-opening tour of the English Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. We also arranged lunch at the top of the famous Gherkin building. We finished the day with a private tour of the British Museum with one of the museum’s very own archaeologists.

Picnicking at Wardour Castle
Picnicking at Wardour Castle is one activity Luxury Vacations UK can arrange.

In the evening, we arranged seats in the Royal Box at a West End show and reserved a chauffeur and Rolls-Royce Phantom to meet the family after the show and drive across London’s bridges. The evening was rounded off with cocktails at the London Hilton Windows restaurant. 

What are some of the “insider/privileged access” experiences you are able to provide to your clients?

We provide behind-the-scenes private tours of the historic Royal Drury Lane Theatre. The actors actually take our clients around, showing them the Royal Boxes, going backstage and even under the stage to see the Victorian trap doors and machinery.

Art admirers love touring with one of our art historian guides. In addition, we can also gain access to prints and paintings not normally seen by the general public. White gloves are worn when touching and seeing some of Turner’s infamous sketches in private rooms at the Tate Britain. We’ve also arranged overnight castle stays, complete with dinner in the great hall.

Are you seeing a trend in requests for multigenerational family programs?

Yes, we have tailored many tours for clients who want their grandchildren to learn, enjoy and understand a different culture. Usually, grandparents tend to want to show places that they have seen on a previous visit to Britain, sometimes many years before.

How is your weddings business?

We have planned tours for honeymoon couples, which entails building in some unusual places to stay. We use one particular place in the Peak District National Park, surrounded by windswept hills. This ancient home has Elizabethan origins and is in the middle of the hills, reminiscent of a majestic tower. The house even has a huge oak door with old locks. Log fires and large oak four-poster beds make the experience very special. We also provide cars for the special day and can also engage the services of a country house hotel or suggest an unusual historical site. 

Do you find yourselves doing “celebration” experiences these days (i.e. I just turned 32; I must take all my friends to Italy and have a party)?

We just had a tour going out for a couple, one of which was celebrating his 70th birthday. We tend to attract families with parents celebrating their 60th, 70th or 80th birthdays.

Do you provide customized shore excursions for cruise passengers?

Yes, we have been able to provide shore excursions from many British ports. We have a network of people we work with across the UK, therefore we have provided services for people arriving in Greenock (Glasgow), South Queensferry (Edinburgh), Southampton and many more.

What are some trends you are seeing in terms of U.S. travelers?

Stokesay Castle in Shropshire
Stokesay Castle in Shropshire is the oldest fortified manor house in England.

Visitors from the U.S. are wishing to see more of the UK, instead of focusing on royalty, London and Windsor Castle. We specialize in helping people see the hidden Britain. Did you know there is an ancient village pub in Devon that still has its 15th-century flag and stone floors, and beer is still served straight from the barrel? The bar is only three-feet wide and crowded with farmers! The road into the village is incredibly narrow and only just wide enough to accommodate a seven-foot vehicle. This is where we come in and show people there is another side of England, Scotland and Wales. This is what Americans are waiting to discover.

Why has no one done this before?

Well, it is difficult, you need to have an office-based team that knows their stuff and, more importantly, you need a team of guides that knows all the little gems that make a tour special—that takes time and training. You also need someone who has spent the time to discover these off-the-beaten-path places. That’s what I have been doing for the last 15 years, touring the country and finding places to stay that can make a visit truly unique.

Can you name some of the top travel agencies you have worked with?

Pisa Brothers Travel
Custom Travel
Quinwell Travel Service
Frosch Travel

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