Inflation is driving the cost of travel to dizzying heights.
Affinity group coordinators planning trips for 2023 and beyond are seeing the effects of inflation in everything from airfares to motorcoach rental rates, hotel prices and attraction admissions. And with the price of fuel continuing to rise, travel could be even more expensive next year than it is today.
There’s no way to eliminate inflation’s sting entirely, but savvy planners can take steps to minimize its impact on their trip prices and their travelers. Here are some ideas and alternatives that can help you keep your group going even when rising prices threaten to make travel impractical.
Lock In Prices
Many tour companies publish pricing for their most popular tour products a year or more in advance of departure, which means they work with hotels, transportation companies and other vendors to lock rates well before you start booking trips with them. That means there’s a good chance your favorite tour operator set rates for 2023 before inflation became an issue earlier this year. If you’re planning trips for next year, now is the time to reach out to those providers and begin making arrangements. You may be able to lock in the company’s current rates for your customers so they don’t have to pay higher, inflation-adjusted prices later on.
Try Different Destinations
The cost of travel is being pushed up by high fuel prices and expensive hotel rates, both of which are rising faster than the rate of inflation. Some of this is due to pent-up demand, as people who delayed travel during the pandemic are determined to make up for lost time. To mitigate this price pressure, you can look for less expensive destinations. This might mean places closer to home, where you can bus instead of flying. Or it could entail finding off-the-beaten-path destinations that are less crowded — and have less expensive hotel rooms — while still offering great visitor experiences.
Maximize Exchange Rates
While inflation has been difficult at home, there is some good news for travelers: The dollar is particularly strong right now, trading well against foreign currencies. This creates opportunities for groups that travel internationally to find affordable trips to countries where Americans enjoy favorable exchange rates. Some exotic destinations, particularly places in Central America and South America, may offer an attractive alternative to higher-priced destinations in Europe or Asia because American travelers can get more for their money there. Shorter flights will also help keep prices down.
Consider a Cruise
Cruises are popular vacations in their own right — some people love nothing more than a vacation at sea or a weeklong ramble down a European River. In addition to their inherent appeal, though, cruises pack additional economic value. Since cruise lines provide accommodations, transportation, meals and sightseeing, they are often able to employ economies of scale to provide a more attractive price for a vacation than a land-based package of similar duration. Planning a cruise for next year may help you offer a desirable group travel product at a relatively affordable price point.
Adjust Your Inclusions
If your travelers are sensitive to the sticker price of the tours you offer, it may be advantageous for you to look for ways to keep those prices steady by making changes to the product you offer. There are numerous ways to do this: You could shave a day or two off your typical itinerary; downgrade hotels to use more affordable properties with fewer amenities or in less desirable locations; or pare back the number or quality of included meals or attractions during the trip. This gives cost-conscious travelers an opportunity to save money while still allowing big spenders to pay for premium meals and experiences during free time.