Is FIT tourism for you?

September 13, 2021 - 1:26 pm
Is FIT tourism for you?
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Understand what FIT tourism is and why you should try this route.

When people travel, there are many ways to see and experience a world of possible destinations. One common term common within the tourism industry is FIT.

Originally, the acronym "FIT" stood for foreign independent tour. Now it is most commonly used to describe a fully independent traveller. It could also be used to mean free independent traveller, frequent independent traveller, or foreign independent traveller.

All of these terms, however, share a keyword and concept: independent. These travellers almost always design their itineraries and arrange their travel plans. In FIT, the traveller is self-guided and independent of the guidance, scheduling, or membership of an outside business for such travels.

Who are the FITs?

1. FITs plan their trips.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

The huge rise in availability of all aspects of travel planning online, including websites devoted to helping plan travel, has made it easier for independent travellers to work their specialized itineraries and book their transportation and accommodations. First-hand travel information about destinations, transportation arrangements, and hotel reservations worldwide are available at one click/tap for independent travellers. This diminishes their need for traditional travel agents, making packaged trips less appealing. 

As a result, FITs are a quickly growing segment of the tourist market. Europeans tend to travel extensively as FITs, although to what extent varies by destination. Destinations that are safe and where infrastructure is better, tend to be popular among FITs. Nonetheless, in absolute numbers, Asia is the most popular among FITs from Europe, followed by South America and Africa. According to a study profiling 263 backpackers in Bangkok’s Khao San Road area, most of them (63%) were from Europe.

2. FITs keep away from group travel.

Tourists who fit the definition of FITs usually travel solo; in couples; or in small, intimate groups of friends or family. They range anywhere in age from millennials to retirees. But generally, they have above-average incomes that allow for independent travel, which can be more expensive than travelling with an organised group.

But what all FITs share is a desire to avoid mass tourism in favour of an individualized, independent approach. They tend to want to explore their chosen destinations on their own and at their own pace with an emphasis on enjoying the local food, architecture, history, and culture.

Busy night in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash.

3. FITs sometimes use travel agents.

Although the "I" in FITs means independent, it sometimes could be advantageous to consult with travel professionals who are experienced in providing services to those who want to plan their trips, especially for more exotic destinations. Doing so does not necessarily mean that independent tourists have to relinquish their, well, independence.

Meanwhile, as a result of the rise in popularity of independent and solo travel, travel professionals are adjusting their services accordingly. There are now agencies that specialize in customised trips for individuals and small groups who want to choose their destinations and plan their itineraries.

The travelling is still independent, but the planning benefits from professional expertise and inside knowledge. And of course, it takes much less time than searching for all the information you need on your own. 

An agent who specializes in FIT travel can help you plan custom sightseeing with a private tour guide, arrange a private cooking class or a wine-tasting tour, and even hook you up with knowledgeable local representatives. The agent will help you plan a personalised travel experience based on the input you provide. If you wish, an agent can often arrange to have someone meet you at your destination and take you to your hotel. Travel professionals are especially helpful in finding non-traditional or out-of-the-way accommodations that do not advertise on the internet, such as villas, farmhouses, inns, and family-run ​bed-and-breakfasts.

Why FIT?

FIT provides travellers with the benefit of customisation. It allows for a pace of travel that matches your travel preferences. If you're knowledgeable about the destination you want to visit (even if you've never travelled there), you may well be able to plan and execute the whole trip yourself. If you want the flexibility to change your plans each day or have a lot of time in which to travel (weeks or months), FIT may be the way to go.

FIT is a chance to go with less direction, scheduling, and group limitations. In everyday life, we all experience the measures of guidance and strict scheduling regularly. A trip away is a chance to get away from this adherence to schedule and group intention. The break from this that FIT provides is why it is so popular today.

However, choosing FIT requires you to have an active role in the planning and experience of your trip. It can be harder to budget a FIT since it will not include meals, in-destination transportation, or sightseeing costs. Creating a custom itinerary usually means more time planning on the travel agent’s part. However, many agents enjoy planning FIT because they can work closely with clients to craft a tailor-made trip specifically for them. In some cases, travel agents can add excursions, sightseeing tours, and in-destination transportation if their clients request it.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

FIT is the way by which our forefathers travelled many years ago – independently. Today, we can do the same, but with a world of informational resources and planning tools that were unavailable to those of the past.

This is the world of FIT, or free independent travel.

Featured image: Kristin Wilson on Unsplash

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