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Q: How do China Advocates’ tours differ from those of other travel companies?
A: Our tours differ in three important ways. First, our tours are created exclusively for the client, whether an institution or small group. This means we do not have a “product line” or prepackaged tours.
Second, our tours are designed around a specific theme, including such themes as traditional or modern Chinese art, Chinese spirituality, the natural environment and wildlife, Chinese minorities, Chinese architecture, the Silk Road, and many more. The theme creates a focus that allows us to introduce the tour group to Chinese experts in the field. To meet Chinese scholars, artists, cultural specialists, spiritual masters, and other such educated Chinese is an unforgettable experience.
Finally, since we only operate in China, we are constantly refining our tour experience. We have the long view, which most other travel companies cannot match. Focusing on a single destination enables us to continually build on our tour expertise.
Q: But aren’t all tours really the same, just a series of sightseeing stops, meals, and hotels?
A: Absolutely not. That would be like saying all food is the same.
The key for travel is the daily schedule. A well-designed daily schedule is crafted with a view to cultural experience, while a routine schedule merely moves the group from stop to stop without regard to experience at all. Importantly, the skill in scheduling daily activities depends on cultural sophistication. It is one thing to drop a tour group off at the Forbidden City and let tour members wander on their own, and quite another to arrange for a private viewing of royal artifacts where the Palace Museum curator presents a short talk on “the personal taste of the emperors.”
In our view, tour success depends on a series of insightful experiences unfolding throughout the day such as reveal the spirit of China. This must be the focus or the tour descends into mass tourism.
So expertise in Chinese culture and tradition is paramount. Since we have been working in China for nearly two decades, we have acquired a deep understanding of the Chinese cultural domain. This is the reason we always come back to the subject of Chinese culture. Something of great importance occurred in China thousands of years ago and is reemerging in the country today. That thing—the Chinese spiritual vision—is the focus of our tours.
Q: What about cost? Won’t I pay a lot more for your tour than a competitor’s?
A: If you compare our tour costs with competitors in the high-end China travel market, we come in about midrange. But that figure is well worth it.
Q: Why do you say it is well worth it?
A: China today remains a poor country, though one that is rapidly modernizing. Rapid change results in great competition for resources, which plays out dramatically in the travel world.
In a word, maintaining quality standards for a China tour is very difficult unless one pays for it. This requires paying the numerous travel, hotel, and restaurant staffs throughout the country very well. Money speaks in China and to guarantee service remuneration is the key.
Discount tours to China are offered at such low prices they defy belief. But these tours squeeze profits to the point that when the group arrives, the Chinese staff has little interest in them (alas, the law of self-interest).
In contrast, a China Advocates’ tour dedicates all its tour income to guaranteeing service, until the group boards its flight for return to the United States. Only then can we consider our profit.
China travel is not for the faint-of-heart. It remains a difficult destination (as many travelers who opt for the discount tour discover). China Advocates’ tour members seem to glide through the country, as if nothing were easier than China travel. Our tour leaders earn a great deal of credit for this well-taken-care-of feeling, for they show such boundless joy and optimism in introducing Americans to China.
But an additional reason for the feeling of quality and care is that many people both in America and China are dedicated to the tour’s success. And this attention to detail produces a sense of ease that embodies our idea of ‘fine touring.’
In our view, China travel cannot be done any other way.