THE Back-Roads Touring Co is true to its name – it’s all about avoiding the motorways of the UK and Europe and delving into the quiet lanes off the beaten track. Established in London 28 years ago, the company has had a presence in Australia for the past five years, and has seen sales here boom.
Brisbane-based brand manager, Hugh Houston, said the company began initially selling trips to the Chelsea Flower Show and the World War II battlefields of Western Europe, but has expanded in recent years to cover much of Europe, including the Balkans and Russia. In each place, Back-Roads relies on its small group sizes (a maximum of 18 in some countries, but frequently a maximum of 15) and the maneuverability of its small Mercedes coaches to provide a unique experience.
“The back roads are very much what we are about,” Houston said. “Because of the size of our Mercedes coaches we can go anywhere a car can. Wherever we can get off a freeway, we get off.” The focus is on regional touring, with plenty of flexibility – not attempting to tackle too much in too short a time. “We really explore and delve deeply into the areas we visit, with authentic local experiences and eating in local restaurants.”
Accommodation is generally in smaller hotels, not chain properties or high-rise hotels, and mostly right in the heart of small towns and villages. “We call our touring an immersion,” Houston said.
The most popular tours with Australians are in the UK, Ireland and France, with the company’s two tours in Spain also emerging as strong sellers. Another strong performer is Italian Indulgence, a 12-day trip that covers large cities such as Florence and Venice as well as remote Tuscan villages, the Cinque Terre and Lake Maggiore’s Borromean Islands.
The best-selling trips are the seven-day Corners of Cornwall, priced from $2745 pp; the nine-day Heart of England, priced from $1925 pp; nine-day Highlights of Britain, starting at $3265 pp; and La Belle France, a nine-day trip focused on the northwest of the country and priced from $3535.