As a young business, we are always excited to hear what our guests and fans have to say. That feedback helps us shape Sojourner Tours so that our offerings reflect the interests and values of our supporters.
One thing we’ve heard a lot is people dreaming of taking one our sojourns “when they can afford it”.
So, as a business, we set a big goal this year: reduce the prices of our tours for our guests while maintaining the same high standards of quality you already associate with Sojourner Tours trips. WE COULDN’T DO IT!
THE CHALLENGE: How can we offer the same opportunities to experience the exceptional things we love most about France (luxurious meals, visits to artisans, days in the lost villages considered among the most beautiful in France) while making the price accessible to a wider range of people?
We crunched the numbers, we investigated other hotels and restaurants, we even considered different means of transportation… it looked like the only way to bring the costs down was to lower our standards of quality and that is NOT an option. We refuse to compromise on quality. On the bright side, we were happy to see that we really do offer our guests the most for their money.
At that point, it looked like there was no way to offer our sojourns at a lower price.
So, I focused my energy on two other requests we’ve gotten for opportunities to practice French in France and child-friendly sojourns.
First I developed an extended-stay one month Language Immersion Sojourn for those who want to take intensive French classes. Then I worked creating a Family Sojourn in Paris based on the 30 outings I’d developed when I initially started researching Paris. I also wanted to offer a week-long Language Immersion Sojourn in the French-Spanish Borderland without intensive classes that would be a vacation during which our guests could practice their French.
That was when I stumbled upon the idea that revolutionized our thinking. I wanted to create an experience similar to a “home-stay” for Language Immersion Sojourn guests so they could experience the local culture by living in the local rhythm, eating family-style meals, and speaking French throughout the day with their hosts. This was the birth of the “Live-Like-a-Local” concept.
We’d rent a cottage for our guests to stay in together.
Francis and I had been making research trips to Provence for four years and were planning to create a “Best-Kept-Secrets Sojourn” but Francis enthusiastically agreed to make this itinerary into our first real Live-Like-a-Local Sojourn and plunged eagerly into the work of seeing if there were rentals that would make it possible.
He was so excited by what he found: not only were there large rentals at reasonable prices, he found charming homes for small groups and majestic manors for large groups!
We held our breath as we ran the numbers. There was a big difference in lodging and board costs! We’d be able to pass a substantial savings on to our guests on a budget.
We were as excited as little children on Christmas morning.
We had found the way to offer a cost-conscious tour that includes the same marvelous excursions and opportunities to eat in lavish Michelin-Star restaurants. Not everyone wants to stay in a charming boutique hotel with an elaborate breakfast: some of our guests would probably love the experience of staying in a real French home where they could have simple laid-back dinners and breakfasts.
It only got better when Francis discovered we could rent castles in another region! As Francis searched the rental data bases, the expression on his face reminded me of seeing my children watching fireworks on Bastille Day.
This blog is going to chronicle our entire summer in France, but the main focus is our project of developing our first two Live-Like-a-Local Sojourns. We’ll be making our final visit to Provence to finalize that Itinerary. And, we’ll be headed to the region of castles for the first time to get a preliminary idea for a potential sojourn based there.