The only thing better than selling one person on a luxurious escorted guided vacation is selling a group of people on that same trip. The benefits of group travel are two-sided and seemingly endless. While the client gains a well-orchestrated vacation in the company of friends, family, or simply like-minded travelers, the advantages for the travel agent include increased commissions and, more often than not, expanded clientele.
The best kinds of group business are those that lead to lasting relationships that then lead to future sales and additional groups to new destinations. Marie Caprario, a group specialist with Penny Pitou Travel, should know. She started with a group to Ireland for the week surrounding St. Patrick’s Day, five years ago, as part of a promotion with a local radio station and its on-air personality.
Shortly after announcing it, the promotion quickly spread to include a local Irish pub and became a dual initiative. The pub purchased a few spaces on the tour and built an entire promotion around it for their business, culminating in a huge “Take Me to Ireland Sweepstakes” party.
Accompanying your group or sending a pied piper to lead your group is the best way to approach this market. A pied piper is a valuable marketing liaison because they are always cheering you on, even when you are not front-and-center. Their trust in an agent and the company they choose to travel with has a trickle-down effect that raises the confidence level of the travelers, and thus the participation numbers on the trip and, of course, the agents’ commissions.
Despite the best of efforts, traveling can be stressful, which is why one of the advantages of traveling with a group is that it brings the anxiety level down. When more people are involved, travelers feel an added sense of security. Inexperienced travelers know they are in good hands and single travelers have the most to gain, with the ability to pair up with a friend or new acquaintance to walk with, have dinner with, or even save on a single supplement.
Multi-generational families are an excellent source for groups, as are the traditional retirement communities, churches, senior centers and country clubs. But, now is the time to get creative. Have you ever considered pitching a book club that read "The Da Vinci Code" on a trip to Paris to see the Louvre? Or perhaps an Audobon Society that might want to go to Costa Rica to see the exotic birds? One agent we spoke to even worked with a funeral home that offered group travel to widows and widowers!
Whatever you choose to focus on, agents who specialize in groups say that it’s best to start slow, do one group and do it well. “Find a local pub or restaurant and pick a destination that would be good for them (i.e. Italian, French) and then offer them an opportunity for a guided vacation for their clients,” said Caprario. “Don’t take on too much or try to sell too many groups at once if you don’t know how you will fill the space.”
There is power in numbers and the name recognition that is associated with group travel can sometimes make you feel like a superhero. If an organization has 300 members and you address them with a potential group travel idea, that translates to 300 people who now know about the service and support you can provide. Just attracting 40 of those 300 people will earn you a large commission and improve your status with the company you are traveling with, not to mention the value of growing your client database.