Dear Travel Agent,
Let’s talk about GROUP TRAVEL, which is actually one of my favorite topics and activities.
It is definitely very rewarding to book groups. It sounds impressive, and shows confidence and experience which are all very good qualities in a travel agent. But really, how much work does it take to make a group and how do you plan a group trip?
Let’s start by talking about how to plan a group trip and what steps a travel agent should take:
- choose the destination
- decide on the date
- decide on the size of the group
- who will be the tour leader
- is a travel agent accompanying the group (if yes, is she/he able to be the tour leader?)*
- price of the package
- decide if airfare will be included (if yes, from which gateway?)**
- start promoting, advertising and getting deposits***
* Having a tour leader for a group, especially groups with more than 10 people, is very important. It is the person who goes between the tour guide and the group, and who will make sure everyone is comfortable and happy; that all concerns are being addressed and the tour is running smoothly. This person does not need to be an expert on the destination, nor know the people in the group, but as the title suggests, needs to be a leader and respected as that. The travel agent can act as a tour leader. She/he needs to know the basics about leadership, have knowledge about dealing with different personalities, and be very assertive with the group to make sure the tour guide can offer their best. Communication is a great skill.
My suggestion for first timers is to use a tour leader from the tour company, and glue yourself to her/his hip and learn as much as possible.
For those of you who have read my previous blogs on group tours, some people seem to think of vacation as “no need to take my meds time” which can make them not-so-pleasant to deal with. I have shared nightmare stories about roommate problems, and people who like to complain just because they think they can. If you are very assertive and can deal with people with a big smile no matter what, you definitely don’t need a tour leader!
** If using one gateway when people come from different cities and states, the travel agent needs to make sure that all connections are done properly, so everyone will be able to meet at the gateway. Consider bad weather, flight cancellations and delays. Also make sure all participants have travel insurance. Keep in mind that people might blame you for delays and cancellations just because you booked the trip for them or because you suggested one gateway. This doesn’t mean IT IS your fault! If everyone gets their own flights and meets in the destination, the travel agent will only take care of transfers and making sure everyone has travel insurance.
***Deposits, especially for tours that are scheduled in 9 months to 1 year ahead, can be a challenge. Some people give a deposit, and few months later find something else, or change their mind, and want their money back. You are already counting on them for the group and have negotiated the price of the group based on that number of participants. Make sure the deposit is for a good amount, and NON-REFUNDABLE. That way, people will not change their minds.
I know many travel agents who make a life and a living by traveling with their groups and love every minute of it.
Feel free to pick my brain and ask me questions, I have done many group tours through my 23 years of having a tour company, loved every single one, and made many great friendships with participants.