Ashley Woodring, national sales director for USA and Latin America at Contiki // © 2017 Contiki
Feature image (above): Contiki trips have an age restriction of 18 to 35 years old. // © 2017 Contiki
Myriad studies point to millennials and, more recently, Generation Z (born between 1995-2010) as the roaming cohorts who prioritize travel more than any other generation. Enter Contiki, whose fun-packed trips around the globe are specially designed for such individuals — specifically, those 18 to 35 years old. However, though its tourgoers might err on the younger side, Contiki is not a new company. Since launching its first tour in 1962, Contiki has perfected how to attract and retain the business of young travelers.
And there may be few people who know Contiki as well as Ashley Woodring. Woodring was introduced to the brand when she signed up for a 31-day European trip after her college graduation. More than 10 years later, she currently holds the title of Contiki’s national sales director for USA and Latin America, and has worn many hats along the way in reservations, marketing, sales and operations.
Below, Woodring shares her insight into what makes the travel company tick, its role in the launch of U by Uniworld and tips on how agents can better sell Contiki to their clients.
Can you describe the typical Contiki traveler?
The Contiki traveler is someone looking to experience the world with like-minded people, creating unforgettable experiences. The average age of a Contiki traveler is 26, and more than 60 percent are female. Also, more than half of our travelers go solo, which is perfect since we offer free roommate matching. It’s a great way to meet people and allow you to travel even if your friends can’t go.
What about the Contiki trip managers who lead the way for these clients?
Contiki trip managers are the special ingredient that makes our trips different. We look for candidates who have enthusiasm, organizational skills and a passion for people, travel and history. Of course, they must be wonderful storytellers; they are the people making travel dreams come alive.
To become trip managers, they go through an extensive training process with more than 67 days on the road. The goal is to educate and prepare them for providing incredible experiences.
What sets Contiki apart from other tour operators?
You get the “Contiki Know-How” when you travel with us: a complete social travel experience guaranteed to leave you with new friends ages 18 to 35 across the globe. We give our travelers the choice from eight completely unique ways to travel and a mix of accommodation styles that put budget, time frame and personal interests center stage.
We are the original and largest company to design trips for this demographic. Our trips change our travelers through the people they meet, the strangers who become family and experiences that might change the course of their entire lives — much like my own.
As I mentioned, our trip managers also go through the most extensive training in the industry, which helps us provide a high standard of service to our travelers. We are always evolving to ensure that our trips and teams are meeting and exceeding the expectations of those traveling with us.
Travelers who fall under Contiki’s target age demographic often prefer to travel independently versus with a tour group. How does Contiki bridge this gap?
More than half of our travelers go solo, and it’s been that way for a while. We know that solo travelers who travel with Contiki are independent at heart but still looking for a social travel experience, and we’re the best at delivering that.
Solo travel is on the rise, particularly within the youth market as travelers become more independent and don’t necessarily want to rely on their friends desiring the same experiences that they do. Travel can be an extremely personal experience, but Contiki can covey this while at the same time offering the option to make lifelong friends and be part of a group — even though travelers may have started out as solo.
Our new travel style called “Independent Insider” — which replaced the “Easy Pace” style — especially speaks to these trends and allows our travelers to create their own experiences using three-night segments in destinations all around Europe.
What are some of Contiki’s most popular trips?
European Discovery is the most popular trip for U.S. travelers. It is a 13-day trip that visits eight countries, discovering some of the most iconic cities in western Europe. It is a great trip for first-time travelers or those wanting to see and do as much as possible in a two-week time frame.
Ireland/Italy are two top destinations in Europe that are always popular for Contiki. Asia has continued to see massive growth over the last several years. In addition to our trips through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, we have added Japan Unrivalled, Eternal India and Bali Island Hopping in the last couple years. All are in high demand.
Can you explain Contiki’s role in regards to the new U by Uniworld brand?
Contiki is a sister brand to Uniworld, and, with the launch of U by Uniworld, we are partnering to offer an incredible new river cruise travel style for 21 to 45 year olds. It takes the beautiful ships and impeccable service of Uniworld and adds in the fun and social elements of Contiki, which results in an amazing experience on the rivers of Europe.
Contiki and Uniworld are both selling U by Uniworld, which gives excellent exposure to the new brand. In the Contiki brochure, we have some trips that sync up perfectly with cruising departures, allowing people to mix and match their travels through Europe. It is also fantastic for past Contiki clients who are now 36 to 45 years old; they can still travel with us and meet new people and places.
Are there resources available for agents to better sell Contiki?
We have spent a lot of time talking to travel agents and our consortia partners to better understand what agents need to grow their Contiki business.
First and foremost, we have a superb sales team. We recently expanded to seven sales representatives across the U.S., plus three team members in our head office and, of course, me on a national level.
In addition to the team, our agent website offers everything from customizable flyers, promotional flyers and images to toolkits with materials to talk to couples and honeymooners as well as the “gifters” (parents and grandparents) of Contiki travelers. The tools include flyers, social media posts, images and email copy.
We also recently launched our online learning platform, ContikiU, with courses that focus on our travel destinations, how to sell to a millennial and more. Agent can use the educational tools on their own time. Plus, once the four core courses are completed, then agents are eligible for Contiki Rewards and can earn gifts for their sales.
Do you have any other tips for agents?
Agents can better sell Contiki by qualifying their clients. If a client is sitting in front of them and is 18 to 35 years old, more than likely we have the perfect trip for them. Understanding and knowing our travel styles will help advisors choose the right trip for that client.
Clients who are over 35 years old may have a loved one in their lives who could benefit from travel. Suggest that he or she consider offering Contiki for a graduation trip or a birthday/holiday present.