After dining on Spanish tapas and wine while gazing at pictures of the Spanish countryside during a promotional event, a group trip to Spain can seem like an irresistible opportunity. Add in some lighthearted conversation with old friends, and you’ll find yourself signing up on the spot.
Loyalty group travel planners use events to entice anyone on the fence about traveling to an unfamiliar destination with themed entertainment and a chance to socialize. After managing the endless details related to group travel, many travel planners use the same skills to craft an event that impresses. Some group leaders even piggyback on events unrelated to travel to grab new members who might not have considered group travel before.
Instead of relying on another flyer, orchestrate captivating events that will lead with fun and end with a growing group membership.
Though potential travelers can toss aside a flyer for a trip to Switzerland without much of a glance, the opportunity to dine on chocolate and cheese fondue while chatting with friends can prove much harder to ignore. Travel planners frequently plan pretrip or preview parties for upcoming tours to build excitement and convince reluctant travelers.
Longer trips especially benefit from pretrip events, since members are often more reluctant about both the distance and the idea of spending more money. The face-to-face time with an enthusiastic travel planner promoting a tour, plus the themed details, make the tour seem more feasible.
To set the mood, plan your pretrip event with destination-related appetizers, decorations, a preplanned travel presentation and awe-inspiring photos. Try not revealing the cost of the trip before the event to prevent people from automatically staying away because of the price tag.
For some loyalty travel planners, frequent pretrip events aren’t practical because members might come from all corners of the globe. If this is the case, plan a conference call a few weeks before the trip so each of the members can virtually meet and talk through all the questions about the tour. Though you can’t use these calls to recruit new travelers, the time together will build anticipation and relieve any lingering concerns.
Other travel planners find that one big event each year showcasing all upcoming destinations generates more interest and takes less time. Dan Stypa, associate director of alumni programs for Rice University, plans a destination debut event in the summer, during which he unveils future travel opportunities with food and drink from around the world. Past faculty members, travelers and potential future travelers come to chat, eat and sign up for tours on the spot.
Loyalty group travel programs, such as alumni associations, don’t always revolve only around travel. Many also plan educational or social events. Many chambers of commerce plan networking events. Bank clubs frequently host guest speakers who discuss financial tips. Members attending these events might not have considered group travel.
Consider taking advantage of these types of events to add some promotional time talking about upcoming tours. Though the attendees may have come for nontravel content, a short presentation given with enthusiasm and confidence can often attract the attention of those who may not have previously given travel much thought.
You can also take advantage of other events being held in your area. Representatives from chambers of commerce that sell trips to the wider community can attend any event in the area where potential travelers might frequent. For example, a church conference could prove an ideal place to sell a trip to Jordan to conference attendees who may not be aware of your organization or travel program.
If your organization doesn’t host any events and no outside events make sense, try creating your own event. Social gatherings or events with a topic you know will interest your members often gain the most attendees.
Gail Day, event coordinator and tour leader for the United Community Bank in Blairsville, Georgia, once tried this tactic. She started with a Valentine’s Day party talent show made up of staff that turned into a professionally produced event that reached 6,000 attendees at its peak. This extreme example not only increased interest in the travel club but also gained the bank a vast amount of new business.
Since event planning and group travel planning call upon skills, many travel planners craft memorable events during tours to foster a feeling of loyalty to the organization. For example, Northwestern University’s alumni association hosts special receptions at destinations with local alumni. The university even welcomed local alumni to a cocktail party in South America. Travelers came back raving about this intimate outing.
Whether your group is an alumni association or a different organization, consider making loyalty events part of your travel itineraries. For example, chamber groups with a trip full of members sometimes plan social events with local business owners with whom their members might wish to collaborate.
All types of groups can plan an elaborate farewell dinner that reminds travelers of the organization that made the tour possible in the first place. Use the merriment of the moment to your advantage.