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Expert suppliers of group travel shared their top ten tips for travel agents during TravelAge West's group travel webinar, held on Aug. 31. The webinar, titled "Get Your Group On: Targeting Group Travel," featured advice from panelists Mike Schields, managing director of groups for Globus; Frank Corzo, vice president of sales for Gogo Vacations; Elayne Raksnys, director of sales, west for Insight Vacations; Marc Kavanagh, president of the group department and director of product development for Sceptre Tours; and Patty Granger, district sales manager for Trafalgar.
Below is advice that the editors of TravelAge West found particularly helpful:
Current Trends in Group Travel
* Weddings: Group travel can be as personalized as a wedding abroad with 50 or more friends and family as guests. Agents are able to make fairy tale weddings happen with the right tools and suppliers.
* Smaller groups: Clients are able to travel with a close group of eight to be considered a group. These can be friends and family that will guarantee a great time with people you know that share a similar interest.
Selling Group Travel
* You don't need to be a group travel expert in order to sell groups. Tour operators and suppliers are always available for tools, tips and support for agents.
* Keep in mind helpful terms that are vital, crucial and consistent throughout the industry such as: attrition, which is the schedule of room reductions; payment schedule; and comps, which include promotional deals, freebies and more.
How to Market Group Travel
* There is sometimes a misconception about the simplicity of selling groups. The fact is agents need to be much more involved than putting out a few ads or sending emails. Group travel cannot manifest on its own and producenumbers. Agents need to learn the interests of their clients and build on those interests by getting them the best products to fit their needs. In addition, invest time and money in travel shows, postcard teasers presentations and other activities to materialize the group trip.
* Agents should look into local organizations, religious groups, fundraisers and trends to help market their group travels and up their numbers.
What Your Clients Should Know
* The entire tour industry is remaking itself. Group trips are no longer the cookie-cutter vacations they once used to be. Group travel these days is much more personal, flexible and customized. Let the clients know that their needs and expectations are a priority.
* A group tour has an itinerary to follow, but there is always room for flexibility, and there are always opportunities for clients to do things individually as well as fulfill their personal interests.
What You Should Know About Your Clients
* Be genuinely interested in the wants and needs of your clients.
* When seeking groups, be sure to qualify your clients by asking yourself: what is the common interest of the group, the destination they wish to go and the budget that they have in mind? These factors will help the agent match their group with the right product.