Carol Haslam is the director and tour guide at Slow Tours.
Carol Haslam is the director and tour guide at Slow Tours.

Carol has over 30 years’ experience in business mentoring, coaching and entrepreneurship. Director and Executive Director of Enterprise Development Inc. over a 25-year period, she managed this entrepreneurs’ program over several years. Her experience includes consulting on business improvement in addition to being a professional presenter and group facilitator in team-building, innovation, critical thinking and strategy.

Carol lived in France from 1996-2002 and it was there she developed a love for this country and all things French. She is bi-lingual English/ French and speaks (to a reasonable degree) Italian, Spanish and German.

Taking a turn to something different in 2007, and practicing what she had been teaching in the entrepreneurs’ program, Carol established a business, Slow Tours,  hosting small group tours to all the regions of France  sharing the unique culture, food & wine, language, natural and historic beauty this country has to offer.

Leading a new trend in tourism, Carol’s philosophy and interest in taking time to learn about a country’s culture, experience the gastronomical delights, enjoy all the natural and man-made beauty of any place, and generally for clients to have an unforgettable experience, has been the focus of Slow Tours development.

Initially a small business, Slow Tours took a large step in 2015 to take the lead in the now growing trend of ‘the art of slow travel’ by developing partnerships with other tour operators who run tours in the same way, and working as an online booking agent.

How do the experiences you offer give guests a unique perspective on history, people or culture of the regions where you travel?

One of the comments we hear often is “I am tired of being a tourist. I want to feel like a local.” That is what a Slow Tours provides – small groups with a bi-lingual guide (English and the local language) who knows their region, its culture, cuisine, history and landmarks. Travelling is more on scenic back roads than motorways and guests stay in accommodation typical of the region long enough to unpack their suitcases. Hosts/guides are there to ensure guests have an enjoyable, relaxing, friendly holiday experience. A true holiday.

A Slow Tour is a chance to breathe. It’s staying in one place long enough, and looking deep enough, to genuinely experience its culture. (Provence - lavemder fields)
A Slow Tour is a chance to breathe. It’s staying in one place long enough, and looking deep enough, to genuinely experience its culture. (Provence – lavender fields)

How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?

Initially Slow Tours France was a wholesaler offering tours in France’s many beautiful regions. This grew into running a few tours in Italy and Spain, near the French borders. Many clients asked if we knew of similar tours in other countries, and in a broader spectrum such as cycling tours, barge cruises, small ship island cruises, golf, also cooking and language schools where they are mixed with holiday excursions for both them and their non-participating partners.  We are now partnered with many other wholesale tour companies who offer tours that fit the criteria we follow, and now have over 100 different holiday experiences in Europe, many of which run over 20 times a year.

What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?

Guests don’t always acknowledge that in a Slow Tour the host/guide is with them, staying at the same accommodation or nearby, and is on call 24/7 throughout their stay (except for cycling tours). This is important because it gives guests a feeling that they are secure and well looked after.

What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences that you offer?

I wish every guest knew about the level of behind-the-scenes work required in order to make everything look smooth and easy with a good degree of flexibility, where nothing is too much trouble to ensure that guests can relax and really enjoy their holiday experience.

What is one travel trend that really excites you?

The increasing trend of ‘the art of slow travel’ is really exciting, as much as the growth in internet as a way of purchasing holiday tours. When Slow Tours was founded in 2007, the slow travel trend was just starting with more mature age experienced travelers. This trend now has a large following in middle-aged and younger age groups. The younger people who have grown up with the internet as their friend are much more interested in being able to easily search for the slow travel holiday experience they want. As we have now developed from a small tour operator into an online booking agent for slow travel tour operators, our new website has been developed for tech-savvy people who want to search for the tour that gets them dreaming, select it, then book and pay online.

Brittany La Trinite
On a Slow Tour guests see and do many wonderful things, but at a relaxed, easy pace that invites conversation and reflection. (Brittany – La Trinite)

What sets Slow Tours apart from other tour companies?

Our absolute commitment to the slow travel movement in an online booking environment.

What is one insider’s tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?

Step outside your comfort zone and be ready to absorb a different culture, a different place, a different way of living, a different lifestyle. Leave your normal life behind you and enjoy the beauty of all that you see; switch on all your senses, because it is a mixture of all your senses that will be in your memory, long after your holiday has finished.

What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?

Clients enjoyed the style of holiday we delivered and wanted to travel in a similar slow fashion through other European countries. We developed into an online booking agency, not because there were no other people offering slow travel in other countries, but because many were so difficult to find. We have now created partnerships with many of these tour operators.

What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?

Absolute attention to detail with the ability to make things just seem to happen. I would (and still do) study maps to make sure of distances, which corner to stop at for the best view, which little restaurant off the beaten track would be a good one to stop at etc. – and mostly with the view that “that was a lucky find!”

Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them?

One particular couple joined our tours for over a month as one of them was in remission from cancer. As practicing Catholics, they wanted to go to a small local village church on a Sunday morning, which we did as a group. When the priest invited his congregation (and seeing us translated into English) to move around and shake hands with someone they didn’t know and someone they felt deeply for, we all did the same and ended up holding hands in tears; indeed a very emotional moment for us all, but for the couple in particular.

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