If you aren’t already selling group travel, you are potentially leaving thousands and thousands of dollars on the table. Just do the math. When it comes to marketing, the effort to attract a group is often equal to that required to attract a single person. But there is a massive difference in results.
And consider the pandemic-trend of “travel within your bubble.” Now, more than ever, people are apt to travel with those they know, like, and trust rather than complete strangers.
There are two types of groups to consider. There are speculative groups and there are affinity groups.
Speculative groups where a travel advisor creates an itinerary or secures space on a cruise ship or at a resort and then markets those spaces individually, creating a group.
A bunch of people already connected by a common thread, who may or may not realize that they might like to travel together, is an example of an affinity group.
It’s the idea of “I have this trip…now I need to find a group.”
“I have this group…now I need to find a trip.”
Both options work in the world of selling group travel, but for the benefit of this article, I will focus on affinity groups – my personal favourite.
Humans thrive best in communities. This could be a community connected by DNA, geographical location, or shared interest. We all strive for a sense of belonging.
Back in the days when the Paleo diet was a necessity, not a trendy choice. And the only hobby was grafitti-ing crude stick animals into the side of the cave-dwelling, people belonged to tribes out of self-preservation.
If you were ostracized by your tribe, it wasn’t long before you became a pile of bones sucked dry by a venue of vultures out on the savannah. Or…if you were the slowest runner in your cave…you’d suffer the same fate, but that’s another article altogether.
The point is, belonging to groups and tribes and communities is something we all aspire to. We love the idea of wearing team jerseys and painting our faces red and white in solidarity. There is safety in numbers.
As a result, affinity groups are everywhere. Here are the top 5 insider tips to find them.
1. Look within your social circles first.
So many travel advisors never actually think about the groups that they are already a part of. I imagine the reasoning is…they “think” that if there was truly an interest to travel within the group, someone would have raised their hand already.
Knowing that you are a travel professional, everyone’s probably waiting for you to suggest something. So why not step up?
You might be worried about mixing your work and your personal life. I get that. But these days, the lines of personal space and work are often muddied. The buzz phrase “Work-life balance,” famous during the early 2000s, morphed into “Work-life integration.”
The other 2 reasons why personal groups work best are:
- You’ve already established the “know, like and trust” factor within the group.
- You have an interest in whatever binds the group in the first place, so why not build a tour around those common interests. It won’t seem like work.
2. Consider popular hobbies and special events
Let’s say you don’t have a ton of hobbies or the people who belong to your macrame doily group don’t have passports…it’s time to look beyond your own groups but ones that still fit into your travel niche.
Maybe you enjoy yoga and hot stone massages. Why not reach out to your local yoga studio or wellness centre owner? Think about other associations that might be open to travel.
The trick with this approach is to connect with the person in charge. If you don’t know them already, you are going to have to get to know them. You might need to send 20+ cold emails before someone even bothers to respond, but someone will. You’ll want to write an email that outlines all the benefits for the person in charge.
If that person can either travel for free with a plus one or make a referral cut off of every sale, that might be an attractive offer for them to promote a trip.
And not sure of what type of trip to promote, look at annual special events that take place that you could build an itinerary around. World cup soccer, the Comrades ultra-Marathon in South Africa or the International Stamp Fair for avid philatelists are all ideas.
3. Use Facebook groups
I can’t believe I’ve actually going to type this but ‘TGFF” (Thank God for Facebook) If you can dream up a hobby, you can bet that FB has a group already created around that hobby. I might skip the group entitled “Agoraphobics are Us” but chances are, there are a ton of groups already in existence within your travel niche.
While Facebook offers a plethora of options, if it’s a brand new group to you…it will take time for you to build authority and credibility. You can’t just show up and market your wares. AND be sure that the group you choose is open to travel suggestions before you invest too much time. You’ll want to choose groups that are small enough that you can build relationships but large enough that they are worth your effort.
4. Use Meetup groups
Similar to Facebook groups, Meetup groups are another perfect place to look for people with whom to build relationships. Meetups differ from Facebook in that you actually have to get out of your chair and “meet up” which means potentially a larger time investment on your part.
You can even start your own group for a small fee if you want to build members around your travel niche.
Whether you choose Facebook or Meetup or a combination of both, do yourself a favour and concentrate on just a few communities. It’s better to go deep into one or 2 groups than stay shallow in multiple groups.
5. Contact medium-size businesses and professional associations
I like the idea of reaching out to mid-size businesses or organizations to float the idea of group incentive trips. The approach would be similar to that of hobby groups. You’ll want to connect with the person who makes the decisions and make them an offer that will be difficult to refuse.
I say mid-size (around 100 employees) because larger businesses probably have something already in place and smaller businesses just can’t afford too many people out of the office at any one time. Most business owners are looking for ideas to add travel perks for their staff but it’s rarely a top priority. If you can introduce a no-brainer offer that requires little to no headache – lays everything out seamlessly, then you might just get the business.
6. Contact school alumni travel groups
Wait a second…didn’t I say top 5 places to look. Why am I giving you 6? Well, I’m not really. But I wanted to bring up school alumni travel groups because it sounds like a good place to look except that it’s so good, there are travel companies who just specialize in alumni travel. That’s all they do. And they are really good at it. Most schools already have contracts with their favourite travel company.
I’m not saying take it off the table forever, but explore the first 5 before venturing into the pool with the sharks. If you decide to go this route, I recommend attending ETC’s annual conference that connects travel planners with education entities.
According to an income survey conducted by Host Agency Reviews in 2018, 71.2% of travel agents surveyed did not take advantage of booking group travel. That leads me to the conclusion that there are a lot of opportunities out there just waiting to be explored.
The key thing to keep in mind is that most groups are looking for ways to travel together but there are 3 things that prevent them.
- Nobody wants to take the initiative
- Members of the group don’t know where to start putting a trip together
- Members don’t realize all the benefits of group travel
If you can address these main pain points, you are in business. The Group Travel business.
Now that we know where to find these not-so-elusive groups, next up, I’ll uncover all the things you need to keep in mind when planning a group.
Speaking of tribes…be sure to join the Digital Travel Academy tribe, below. I’m looking to put together a trip for 2022 myself. Stay tuned.