One of the best parts of travelling on a small group tour is the luxury of having (almost) everything organised for you. From not having to worry about getting from A to B, to finding secret spots that only the locals know about, it’s all part of the small group experience.
But somewhere in the world, there’s a team of creatives behind it. And one of those clever individuals is Steph Millington, Peregrine’s Regional Product Manager for Europe and Morocco. If you’ve ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into creating our adventures, including our latest range of tours for 2020, read on.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Steph, and I am the Regional Product Manager for Europe and Morocco, based out of our London office. Within my role, I look after everything west of Russia and Turkey, which also includes Morocco. It’s funny, but people query that, and say ‘that’s a weird combination to have Morocco and Europe together. But it’s because many of our customers want to travel to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, so really, it makes sense to include it within my remit.
How did you get into this role and what’s your background?
Before working in the travel industry, I worked in the wine and beer industry. But one day I thought, ‘I’ve got to get this travel bug out of my system.’ So I bought a one-way ticket and decided to go backpacking around the world’s best wine regions, and it was truly life-changing. We spent a lot of time meeting local wine producers, and I realised that this was something I wanted to be involved in beyond my travels.
In 2007 I entered the travel industry, in a customer-facing role before moving into a product role a year later, and I’ve been there ever since. I’ve looked after adventures in South America, Asia, Morocco and the Middle East and even a little bit of North America. I’ve been looking after Europe and Morocco for Peregrine since 2012.
Is it as glamorous as people might think?
Well, it depends. If you like spreadsheets and data, then absolutely it is glamorous. There’s also quite a creative side to the role in terms of writing interesting nuggets for content pieces – that can be anything from top tips for off-the beaten track things to do in Portugal to my recommendations for travel in Italy for wine enthusiasts! Really, we chat about our trips and destinations all day long. Let’s not forget too, that there’s a heck of a lot of problem solving almost daily. No two days are ever the same.
As for the travel involved in the role, the reality is that we can’t spend all day on the road. But I’m lucky to live where I do; which means that travel to Europe and Morocco is pretty accessible, and I’d usually take maybe five trips a year, whether that’s business or personal travel. To supplement my own destination knowledge, our local leaders and local operators who live in region have a wealth of expertise and knowledge, so we do collaborate quite extensively when developing new product and lean on them quite heavily.
How do Peregrine tours come to life?
In May through to July, we release our new range of tours for the following year. With our new tours, there has to be a reason for us to look into introducing a new destination, and there’s an awful lot of background work that we do before the development of a new tour. We look at what’s working well (and what’s not), identify new trends, apply any learnings, and getting some science and data behind it to help inform our decisions.
We reach out all around the company; we look at our customer feedback for inspiration and talk to our operations team and suppliers, and we’re always speaking to our local leaders too; it’s exciting to see new ideas come to the surface.
What are the travel trends in Europe and Morocco for 2020?
An ongoing trend we see is a need for more off-the-beaten-track adventures. There’s our best-selling 18-day Central Europe Unveiled tour which covers the big highlights, but plenty of places you might never have heard before. Or if you want to go even further away, there’s our new 16-day Eastern Europe Experience for 2020 where you won’t see anywhere near as many crowds. We just wanted to continue going to places that were a little different, and outside the norm.
Another standout trend is using travel as a force for good; travellers are increasingly looking for sustainable travel experiences. For example, we took a huge risk by changing one of our most popular tours, the 8-day Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, by changing which islands we visit. We’ve added the inclusion of Lastovo, a remote island. We’re becoming more conscious that Croatia is increasingly becoming a place of overcrowding, so we felt it was essential to spread the love to other areas, so the economic benefit reaches beyond the popular spots.
So, we take our groups here, which firstly benefits hotel providers on the island. Then the next morning, we head out with a local fisher and his wife to haul in their catch of the day and enjoy a barbecue breakfast in the middle of nowhere on a remote cove. What makes this so special is that you feel a world away from Dubrovnik; you’re spending time with locals, hearing their stories, and contributing to new and exciting – and sustainable – tourism opportunities.
What are some of your favourite spots to visit?
There are so many of them, but I always have an amazing time in the Amalfi Coast; I just love that neck of the woods. From visiting a family-run Limoncello factory to enjoying the food and wine or exploring the hiking trails, it’s the best place for an active holiday with a touch of relaxation.
I love Porto too; I suppose my history in wine and spirits heavily influences that. I could spend all day just cellar door hopping, and it’s just a gorgeous place.
But I can’t forget about Marrakech. I’ve been seven times and just can’t get enough. It’s fairly cosmopolitan, has excellent weather and there’s so much you can see within a three-hour drive, as the coastal towns and mountains are not far away.
What do you love most about your role?
It’s the variety that makes every day different to the last. One day I’ll be working on analysing data to help inform decisions about new tours, to chatting to our contracting team; just yesterday I was being interviewed for a podcast in Central London about sustainability in travel.
Then there are days when I’ll be working on customer feedback or industry partners. It might be a data-driven role but it’s also incredibly creative. I might be biased, but it’s easily one of the best (and most fun) positions in the company.
Make 2020 the year you explore Europe or Morocco. To find your next adventure, browse our range of premium small group tours here.