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Bookings of specialist tours and excursions are hitting record levels as consumers look beyond the traditional package holiday, Travel Counsellors claims.

The home-based agents company reports record bookings for tours in the first quarter of the year, up 27%.

People are also spending more, with the company saying the year-on-year value of sales is up by more than 70% in the period for tours which cover activities across the globe, including escorted tours, rail journeys, safaris, theme parks and museum tours.

The company believes that more consumers are viewing tours and excursions as more than a simple 'add on' to their holiday. Instead they are making them the central part of the holiday.

Managing director Steve Byrne said: “Our latest statistics show that gone are the days where consumers are satisfied with the stereotypical ‘Brit abroad’ holiday.

“Instead consumers are seeking more specialised holidays, with an emphasis on exploring new places and trying something different.

“Interestingly, contrary to popular belief, it is not just about offering the cheapest holiday – consumers want more for their money and they are prepared to pay for it.”

He added: “We recognise while the traditional package holiday will always be popular, there is now a polarisation in the market where consumers are pushing the boundaries on what they’d like.

“As our business model allows us to tailor-make holidays for our customers, we are able to continue to evolve and meet whatever demands are made of us by