I’ve been trying to figure out how two findings from our breakout session during the Select Traveler Conference in Branson, Missouri, in March relate to one another. At first glance, they seem contradictory.
• 82% of buyers in the room said that managing a travel group is harder today than it was five years ago.
• 63% said they enjoy managing a travel group more today than they did five years ago.
How often do people enjoy something more when it has become harder to accomplish? There’s no doubt the first finding was driven by the pandemic and its aftermath. Everything about travel became more difficult during and after COVID because of delays of various kinds, social distancing, border closings and travelers’ general fear of the unknown. Aspects of travel, like hotel stays and restaurant experiences can be negatively affected by reduced staffing and new standards of service.
So, given all that, why would a significant percentage of planners say they enjoy managing travel groups more than they did five years ago?
First, I think most of the buyers in that room in March were ecstatic to be traveling again. They repeatedly talked about pent-up demand. It’s been a huge relief to be able to manage travel for groups again after two to three frustrating years for them and their travelers.
Second, it’s likely they are working with the most enthusiastic travelers from their groups. Some of their previous group members have opted out. Others aged out. My guess is that these planners are left with their most gung-ho travelers.
And third, I think they may be taking smaller, more manageable groups to bucket list destinations right now. Managing a trip to Iceland or Australia isn’t as daunting after you’ve been told for two years that those destinations are off the table.
Hats off to all of you who are enjoying your roles more despite the work. Somehow, travel is always worth it.