The ABCs of ‘EZ’ group travel
Thursday, October 02, 2014
When I first entered the travel-planning business, I was fortunate enough to quickly secure a group of senior citizens interested in taking a cruise. It seemed like an easy trip to plan. They wanted to leave from a local port and to have the same category staterooms and the same dining time. Lather, rinse, repeat — right?
I could not have been more wrong.
Travel agents who have built a prosperous business focusing on group travel know that the benefits are many but also that the work involved in creating a personalized group trip for your clients is not a one-size-fits-all venture. Even though they are traveling with a group, clients still want an individualized experience.
A few of the tips I have learned over the past 10 years planning a multitude of groups may help you plan that next group trip, personalized for each individual traveler.
Prepare for your group's needs — individually and collectively — both before and after travel. I meet with my entire group, either at a breakfast or a get-together I have planned prior to departure, and discuss their travel patterns. Where have they traveled? What do they like to do while away? Land package or cruise? Golf? Spa? Fine dining?
Then, I research activities for them to do both as a group for common interests or individually to satisfy a unique interest or hobby. This not only increases your commission but, more importantly, lets them know that an enjoyable trip for them is a priority for you.
To keep them coming back, I capitalize on the enthusiasm and excitement about their getaway, and I always have a proposal for their next adventure waiting in their mailbox when they return. Group space can often be canceled without penalty if you notify the vendor early enough, so there is nothing to lose and everything to gain if they book again.
This scouting motto is a good one to adapt in group-travel planning. Anything can happen and, as the planning professional, it is your responsibility to expect the unexpected and serve your clients in their hour of need.
Whether a health, death, family or financial emergency arises while your clients are traveling, keep copies of the following documentation at your office to quickly assist them, resolve their situation and solidify yourself as a valued travel professional they want to work with in the future:
- Have your clients identify an ICE (in case of emergency) contact for each of them, so there is no doubt or dispute who should be contacted in case of an emergency.
- If your clients are traveling out of the country, keep copies of their passports in their file and shred upon their return. That way, if their ID is lost or stolen, you can fax the passport copy to the U.S. State Department or overseas embassy to assist with identification and enable return to the U.S.
- All pre-existing medical conditions and prescription drugs for each traveler should be documented in their file in case of a medical emergency overseas that may leave the traveler unable to provide this information. I also provide a laminated, credit card size copy of this document to my clients to put in their wallet so it could be easily located. A value add is that they then have that card with them even when not traveling.
By having these three critical pieces of information available, almost any emergency can be managed remotely.
Customize, Communicate and Close
Treat each traveler in a group as an individual client — know their needs, limitations and expectations. Although they may be travelling with 25 other people, they should feel that their personal positive experience is paramount to you. By doing so, you will also secure their individual trips and gain family and friend referrals.
These are just a few tactics that I have found useful in building a robust group-travel business. I am sure each of you could add some of your own. The reality is the same, however, for all travel agency owners — successful group management can be the foundation of a lucrative business.
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