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The Time is Right to Offer an International Trip

You have taken your group all over the U.S., and now you’re considering expanding your travel club’s offerings to include international tours. Some of your customers have traveled overseas, but many haven’t, and now they are asking for guidance. Where do you begin?

A lot of planning goes into creating a tour for your group, and there are even more things to consider when traveling internationally. If you haven’t done much international travel, taking a group abroad can seem intimidating. Visiting some countries may require certain vaccinations, visas or other special measures. So how do you navigate the process and make your customers feel confident about joining your journey?

Here are the basic steps involved in planning your group’s first international trip.

Identify Your Ideal Destination

Selecting a manageable destination can help ease your group’s entry into international touring. Travel planners often choose Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Europe for their first international tours. It helps to survey your travelers to find the destinations on their bucket lists. For your first few international trips, choose countries that get the most votes. Surveying your travelers will also generate interest in possible upcoming international trips. It’s a good idea to keep your survey results to refer back to when planning the following year.

You might also consider tours that offer more than one country to visit, such as a London, Paris and Rome tour or a river cruise. Whatever the destination is, make sure it has a lot of interest.

Choose Your Travel Style

Once you select the destination, it’s time to decide if you’ll be taking a land tour or a cruise. I wrote about cruising, and finding the right cruise for your group, in the spring issue of this magazine, and I suggest going back and reading about it if you are leaning toward a cruise. But, what if you are interested in a land tour?

Land tours can help your travelers feel more immersed in the culture of the country you are visiting. Each day, you wake up on land around the culture you are visiting, and you walk out of your hotel to meet local people and dine locally. Land tours leave you feeling immersed in the culture.

While land tours might cover as much territory as cruises, there is still a lot that you can see and do. You can visit more than one country by taking a train or flying. A notable difference between land tours and cruising is that people often feel cruising is more relaxing. At the same time, land tours provide more education/immersion.

Pick the Right Partner

After selecting your travel style, it’s time to choose a vendor. Unless you are experienced with international group travel and have extensive knowledge of the places you’ll be visiting, you shouldn’t try to organize the entire trip by yourself.

No matter where you’re headed, there are multiple vendors offering trip packages there. However, not all travel companies have group departments. You’ll save yourself some headache if you limit  your search to companies that have a long track record of working well with groups. There are many vendors that might say they can create something for a group but do not necessarily specialize in groups.

There are many benefits to working with a company that specializes in groups. These vendors have encountered just about every group travel challenge imaginable and know how to solve them. They work with hotels, venues, restaurants and guides that know how to serve groups well. Some operators even have group air departments that can assist you in arranging your international flights.

Relax and Enjoy

Don’t let the idea of planning international travel overwhelm you. There’s no need to be intimidated. Offering international tours can be a great way to grow your travel club and keep your frequent travelers who have seen it all engaged. International trips can be very educational and give travelers insights into other cultures. Travelers can create amazing memories through their experiences and understanding of how others outside our country live.

Choose a destination you think will be a good fit for your group and has a large amount of interest. Determine if you want a relaxing cruise or if you want to get more immersive and stay on land. Find a vendor that works for you and your group. If they show hesitation in providing a tour for a large group, move on and find someone who specializes in groups.

Once you decide on these things, you will find that the hard part is over. Your vendor will help you with the rest, and all you will need to do is promote and enjoy your tour.

Ashley Runyon

Ashley Taylor is a longtime bank and travel club planner. She lives in Ashland, Kentucky, with her family of six.