Travel advisors are seeing a slow-but-steady return of their group travel bookings as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey of nearly 200 agents, part of TravelAge West’s Need to Know research series.
Many respondents (44%) say they are still struggling with their group travel bookings. However, another 31% say that the number is up from the previous two years.
“I work on destination wedding groups, and this year, business is off the charts,” said Donna Alkarmi, president of Lone Star Travel in McKinney, Texas. “I’m just trying to keep up with the high demand.”
Group travel is a significant part of advisors’ revenue, with 84% of respondents calling it either very or somewhat important to their current business mix. While three-fourths of agents (76%) say that they are seeing fewer groups than before the pandemic, and 80% also report that the groups are smaller than pre-pandemic, a slight majority (51%) say that clients are spending more on group travel than they did previously.
“My groups are definitely bigger than pre-COVID-19 — before, the average size was 35 to 45 passengers, and this year, it’s more like 60 to 80 guests,” Alkarmi said. “Plus, they are spending a lot more. One of my independent contractors had a MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) group in Mexico with more than 100 passengers. She planned tours, private dinners, meetings and more. It was very profitable.”
With the demand right now, the business can also be overwhelming. I’m working a lot more hours due to this recent uptick in requests.
When it comes to family travel, most respondents (50%) have booked a group trip based on a milestone event; however, 51% report that their multigenerational or multi-family bookings are about the same as before the pandemic.
While the current state of group travel is mixed, there is less doubt about the importance of group travel in the future. More than half of respondents (53%) feel that group bookings will be more important to their business going forward.
“In general, groups are great, and they will continue to be important to me,” Alkarmi said. “But with the demand right now, the business can also be overwhelming. I’m working a lot more hours due to this recent uptick in requests.”
Need to Know Survey Series
“Need to Know” is a research series from TravelAge West that tracks the responses of advisors as they relate to various travel trends and topics. This survey recorded the responses of 171 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.