A recent webinar with renowned travel industry publisher and the author of Traveling Tribes, Jeff Gayduk, gave us an opportunity to talk about cultivating new direct group travel business coming out of the pandemic.
A starting point for the conversation was to understand what the post-pandemic group market might look like.
While tour operators work toward recovery, they need a fresh approach to creating phenomenal group travel experiences for clients. Going forward, trip planning and formats will require an update.
Jeff had some expert points to share with us on why private group travel makes sense now more than ever as travel recovers.
He also shared some insights on the characteristics of a good group leader. These people are mission-critical for ensuring the trip goes smoothly, and clients have an amazing time.
You can watch the webinar replay by clicking on the link below. Otherwise, keep reading as we cover some critical points to help you learn about recruiting new groups and travel leaders to your business.
Group Travel As The Industry Looks Towards Recovery
Many people are yearning for their next adventure. There’s been this long hiatus from exploring the world and our local areas, and we’ve missed out on many special occasions with friends and family.
With that, Jeff predicts a “great reconnecting” in the months to come, where we’ll find our way back to travel again.
Instead of solo packages, many travelers will opt for group ones to rekindle our human interactions and enjoy the humanity of meaningful connections through travel.
The Great Reconnecting
Understandably, people will be wary of travel coming out of the pandemic.
The rules have changed in terms of what to expect. Things that travelers would have relied on previously to gauge safety, suitability, and overall experience quality might no longer apply.
For example, activity or accommodation reviews from 2019 won’t be as relevant as the pandemic has prompted providers to implement new safety protocols and ways of doing things.
To get better peace of mind, travelers may increasingly look to the professionals to do their trip planning and coordination instead of tackling it themselves.
Travelers may also be venturing into unknown territories of travel and need expert guidance. In the past year, people have had the time to cultivate new hobbies, like outdoor sports, mindful meditation/yoga, or gardening.
Whatever the pursuit may be, you may find these individuals want to expand their hobbies from home to real-life experiences through travel and adventure with like-minded communities.
With all this energy being directed at group travel, group travel leaders have a role to play in your business’s successful reentry into the market.
Who Is A Travel (or Tour) Leader – How Do They Benefit Your Operation?
These particular individuals are the women and men on the ground who are in charge and make things happen during your trip.
They decide what the group will do, coordinate with everyone, and make the experience happen.
They have to be a leader, think under pressure, and keep things fun for a group of people who may not always share the same vision; it’s all in the name.
Past and present travel group leaders all say the same thing. They’re the explorers of the group, the ones whose passion shines through and filters to the rest of the participants. They manage the group with confidence and empathy while playing roles like confidant and go-getter.
So, what can this person do for your tour business?
A group travel leader is a world citizen at heart. They love seeing new places, meeting different people, and tackling unexpected adventures. These individuals bring their passion for travel and ability to seek out those “wow moments” to your tours.
They’re social people, perhaps even overly extroverted, which means they’ll have the energy for the work that needs to be done and the attention the group requires.
What To Look For In A Tour Leader
While every group leader brings something unique to the table, Jeff highlights four main characteristics that you can look for in consistently successful leaders.
The first is entrepreneurship. Your group tour leader needs to be someone with the innovative ability to create magical experiences for the group out of the smallest things.
The second feature to look for is natural salesmanship. You want to find someone who knows how to sell themselves to the group, so they want to spend their time with this leader.
The third feature is simple – being organized. Your company will want to have someone who is organized and well researched: someone who can handle a group and get through the tour without major hiccups.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you want a leader who is a natural adventurer. Many seasoned group travel leaders call themselves nomads. Your travel operation can do nothing wrong if you have a leader with passion, not only for travel but also for people from all walks of life.
How To Develop New Direct Group Travel Business
This part of the process may not be as complex as it sounds.
If we go back to the idea that people have been restricted from traveling and they’re ready to get together with friends and family, then constructing a group has never been easier.
Approaching your existing customers is a great place to start. They’re interested in pursuing new hobbies, celebrating milestones, and even getting involved in community projects. You’ve already established relationships with these people and know that they can form groups from their familiar circles – why not plan a customized experience for them?
Jeff also makes a great point that what qualifies as a group is subjective. So, the group minimum can be flexible.
And once you have the group leader interested, tell them what they can expect. Lay out the benefits of leading groups and get them excited.
We’ve only brushed the surface on what private group travel business can mean for your tour operation as the market begins to reopen. For the complete low down from Jeff, watch the replay.