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As 2022 begins with yet another COVID surge, group tour planners are trying to strike a balance between business and client needs. It’s become an elaborate game of risk – and not the “world domination” kind! However, there are ways to protect your business and keep your customers happy. Using technology to reduce travel risks and keep your company moving forward is key!
During a recent American Bus Association Marketplace event, conversations focused heavily on travel trends. Here’s what we know about group travel in 2022:
For many group tour planners, meeting these expectations can be daunting.
Additionally, there are significant changes in the travel and hospitality industry. The challenges we faced in 2021 will continue into 2022:
Like it or not, technology now plays a very important role in the way we deliver travel services. It’s a game-changer when it comes to mitigating risks associated with planning group travel.
New software and web-based services give travel planners the support they need to meet customer expectations.
Most importantly, these programs keep you connected to your clients and the lines of communication open.
If something doesn’t go as planned, it’s incredibly reassuring to know that all the information you need is easily accessible in one place. Data, current contract info, lists, and more are readily available, and important information is communicated to travelers with the click of a button.
There’s no need to panic digging out permission forms or searching for emergency contacts and procedures. Clients will know what’s happening and what to expect immediately.
Technology allows you to manage your entire planning process in one place. The days of spreadsheets, Excel docs, and file drawers filled with outdated supplier information are ancient history.
Now you can collect traveler information, important health documents, rooming lists, and even current health and safety mandates in one place.
You can also access the latest supplier products, pricing, and those new staff contacts!
Technology saves your team precious time on operations– leaving more time for sales and customer relations.
We can all agree that building trust is key as you build your group business. As noted above, travelers want to book online but with someone that they trust. They don’t want to risk their hard-earned dollars with an unknown company.
Technology gives you the tools to build your brand and confidence in your brand. Post reviews and testimonials from happy clients when you post a new trip. Give new travelers a chance to connect with you during an online Q&A or in a community forum. Write a travel blog with “advice from an expert.”
If you are new to the group travel planning community, a platform like Group Experience might be a great fit. It gives you increased visibility in the group market and a direct connection to travelers to foster a more personal relationship.
Let’s think back to March of 2020 (just for a minute- I promise!). When the world literally began to shut down and your phones started ringing off the hook, wouldn’t it have been great to have been able to communicate directly with your travelers at one time?
If you had been able to give them information regarding vendor refunds, travel protection, your company policies, etc. in one place, your ops team would have kissed the ground you walked on!
Using technology helps keep your messaging consistent and ensures everyone has the same information and the same customer experience.
When clients are traveling for the first time, it’s up to you to set expectations. Technology gives you a platform through which you can communicate those expectations.
Think about the student market. Student group trips often have lots of first-time travelers. Giving them resources to understand how to handle themselves at the hotel, what to do in an emergency, what to pack, or why certain safety protocols are in place makes the travel experience better for everyone.
You can also communicate expectations to parents upfront about payment schedules, cancellation and refund policies, or why trip protection is important.
Technology lets parents and group leaders sign off on these expectations electronically and gives you a time-stamped record of their signatures. This eliminates future confusion and the risk of potential lawsuits. It also saves you both a lot of time and stress!
Using technology to reduce group travel risks is a smart move for your travel planning business. It keeps you connected to your clients, streamlines your operations, increases visibility, keeps your expectations and messaging consistent.
Technology is how you meet the needs of your travelers in 2022 and keep your business moving forward into the future. Let the games begin!
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