Industry Q&A: Casper Urhammer, Global CEO of Contiki

Industry Q&A: Casper Urhammer, Global CEO of Contiki

Contiki’s CEO gives us the scoop on what’s new with the millennial tour operator By: Emma Weissmann
<p>Casper Urhammer, Global CEO of Contiki // © 2017 Contiki</p><p>Feature image (above): Contiki’s new Limited Edition Munch tour allows clients...

Casper Urhammer, Global CEO of Contiki // © 2017 Contiki

Feature image (above): Contiki’s new Limited Edition Munch tour allows clients between the ages of 18 and 35 to take a culinary journey through Italy, Spain and France in 2017. // © 2017 Contiki 

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Shortly after his appointment as Global CEO of Contiki, Casper Urhammer took his first Contiki trip. Despite the baggy pants he donned for the occasion, Urhammer, who is 41, says he stuck out like a sore thumb among his younger travel companions.

“We’re a product for young people, and we want to deliver on that and stay true to that,” Urhammer said. “These young guys, they didn’t want a guy like me traveling with them. They wanted like-minded people.”

Indeed, the company has had a decades-long and unwavering tradition of servicing a specialized group of travelers: 18 to 35 year olds, who, according to Urhammer, are in “a similar walk of life and a similar state in their maturation process.”

Now, as Urhammer enters his third year with the company, he explains how that niche has evolved, how to best cater to a younger clientele and what travel advisors can expect in 2017 and beyond.

Contiki commanded a niche before targeting an audience was something that everyone wanted to do. What is it that you think Contiki does differently?
In recent days, everyone is talking about millennials. It is the single-largest cohort in the world. In the U.S. alone, about 40 percent of all purchasing power across all platforms comes from people between the ages of 18 and 35. But we’ve been in the space way before this came on people’s radar. We have incredible relationships around the world, which means we can give experiences that are hard to find. We’re established, and we have the best product for it. And we’re really good at talking to these customers, generating leads, sending people through the door to the trade and, most importantly, we’re good at delivering. 

Your marketing strategy revolves around a strong social media presence. Can you share more about that?
Millennials are digital natives. They live and breathe social media, so we use it a lot. We have a content-led marketing strategy, which means we produce a lot of videos and we work with influencers and celebrities. When people Google our company or talk to a travel agent about it, they realize that we are a responsible company that delivers on our promises. The age demographic that travels with us from of the U.S. are young professionals. They have great jobs, they have income and maybe they even have a family or they’re married. They’re also, on average, about 26 or 27 years old. And they find us through our marketing.

Tell us about the recent launch of “Limited Edition” summer tours for 2017.
There are three tours. We have Snap, a photography tour; Munch, where you eat your way through Europe; and Boutique Local, which uses slightly more high-end hotels. The group sizes are slightly smaller, as well. Right now, we’re seeing what people think of them and testing these trends to see how they resonate. 

Group sizes can reach up to 50 travelers, depending on the tour and destination. Do some clients or travel agents have the perception that Contiki provides nothing more than a “party bus tour?”
That certainly happens. But we have a total of eight travel styles and 330 itineraries. And between those travel styles, there’s something to fit everyone. We have “high-energy” trips, which are more of a “see-it-all, do-it-all” itinerary where you have some early mornings and some late evenings. But then we have the polar opposite, which is called the “Easy Pace,” which caters to the FIT market. They can sleep in, spend more time in a destination, have shorter drives and have more time to customize their trips. 

I would encourage all agents to grab a brochure and see what the differences are between the travel styles, because understanding them will help agents find the best fit for the person sitting in front of them. 

Have world events in the past year affected your business?
It’s been a challenging year in so many ways. We were coming off a strong 2015. So, comparing 2016 against such a good year has been interesting. There were terror attacks. There were elections and referendums. There’s been fluctuating exchange rates. It’s been a grumpy world. And we’ve certainly seen an impact. 

But in the travel industry, when things happen, it’s our duty and our obligation as travel professionals not to bend. We need to talk about it in the right way and not scare away from it. Our 2016, given the circumstances in the world, was incredibly good. And 2017 is looking even stronger. 

Millennials can sometimes be an elusive group for travel agents — although that is quickly changing. How can advisors best market your product to this group?  
We have a good double-page spread in our brochure that we call “Contiki Know-How.” If you have the understanding of the price point and the value that comes with the company, along with an understanding of the travel styles, you are well-positioned to sit down and have a chat with any millennial. 

We also have a 40-page Travel Agent Toolkit that really talks about how to market to the millennial, how to manage them when they’re in your store and how to qualify them. I would encourage any agent interested in learning more about millennials to get in contact with our sales teams or download the Agent Toolkit from our website. 

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