June 16, 2024

Adventure Awaits Journeyers

Discovering the World Anew

How to Level Up Group Sales in 2024

7 min read

Selling travel to groups has always been a rewarding niche for travel advisors, and this market segment has gained even more momentum post-pandemic, as more travelers want to embark on meaningful journeys together with their friends and family.

Facilitating these types of satisfying travel adventures for clients also helps advisors cost-effectively build their businesses. Sarah Kline, president, Time For Travel, Ltd., says: “We specialize in groups because we feel it’s the most profitable segment of the travel industry. You sell your services, group management, and expertise to one couple or group leader, and all their friends and family follow. It’s a great way to introduce new clients to your services, and gain repeat business.”

James Berglie, president, Be All Inclusive, explains the benefits of selling groups, both for his agency and its clients: “From the agency side, groups are the most efficient way to run an agency, but of course, not without higher liability risk. For our clients, our team all comes from a destination wedding background: former destination wedding couples (including some of our prior clients), former wedding DJ, and myself (I am a former wedding photographer).

“Sticking to our specialty of destination weddings is second nature because we all know weddings very personally – not just the ‘idea’ of having a destination wedding, but all the logistics, challenges, and variables that need to be kept in mind for our couples throughout every stage of the process, from resort selection, location selection, decor selection, wedding day timeline, right up until the last song of the evening. Our clients benefit from our expertise in weddings.”  

Leggra Colon, of Global Travelers LLC dba Global Travelers and Company, specializes in affinity groups. She summarizes the advantages of groups for clients as cost-savings, shared experiences, stress-free planning, and tailored experiences. And for the agency, increased revenue, efficiency, client loyalty, and marketing and networking.

For travel advisors who want to level up their group sales in 2024, here are seven strategies to consider implementing, straight from fellow travel advisors who have proven success with groups.

1. Establish clear communications
Every successful journey starts with clear communication, and as Colon says, “communication is key. Managing groups effectively hinges on clear and consistent communication. We keep everyone informed throughout the planning process, address concerns promptly, and ensure everyone feels heard and valued.”

2. Streamline those communications
Kline also streamlines communications for group travel, staying in consistent touch with clients: “We set up a series of email blasts throughout the year. Starting with a welcome letter telling them about our services. The communications get more frequent closer to travel, with reminders about passports, what to wear, using WhatsApp, and so much more.”

Berglie explains his method: “All of our group reservations are serviced via email. All groups receive a custom-built website where guests can easily not only get all the info they need for the wedding but also make a reservation within the group allotment. We find the website is best for communicating pre-travel with clients, in addition to a series of emails we send out to every group leader, as well as helping guide them every step of the way. We have also found great success with custom videos, in addition to the emails, as we know people love watching a video over reading an email!”

3. Utilize technology
There is a host of tech tools available today to support travel advisors and their agencies. Helpful apps and systems for managing groups can be accessed through some of the larger suppliers, as well as marketing groups for advisors.

Kline uses a “VCRM to create a group booking page. Wedding couples can embed this site on their wedding website.”

Berglie opted to develop his own system: “… for our groups, we have implemented our own proprietary tech solutions. I knew ‘being a nerd’ would help pay off eventually when I was spending time learning coding and all in high school and college. Our clients appreciate the full customization we can do for their specific group, and their guests; and our team appreciates this, too … we believe a customized solution is required for the best customer service, so we will continue to develop our own technology, to use in coordination with our partners.”  

Furthermore, Berglie’s top tip for other advisors selling groups is “organization and standard processes. The increased liability in handling a group can be daunting, so it is so very important to stick to standardized procedures and stay organized.” Technology goes a long way in assisting advisors and their staff with this critical objective. 

4. Offer customizable group packages
Simply put, groups and travel packages fit together like a hand in a glove, especially when they are customized.

“Group packages are a winning formula,” says Colon. “Pre-designed packages offer a starting point, however we truly shine in customization. We tailor each group experience to their unique needs and desires. This might involve incorporating special interests, or budget considerations. By going the extra mile, we create unforgettable journeys that leave a lasting impression.

“Group travel isn’t just about filling seats – it’s about fostering connections, creating memories, and exceeding expectations. By prioritizing clear communication, customization, and exceptional service, we transform group travel into a rewarding experience for everyone involved.”

5. Promote early-bird incentives
Another strategy is to promote early-bird incentives to encourage early bookings, beyond what a resort or other supplier might offer. Kline advises: “We set a booking deadline to be included in the group rates. We’ll offer perks to the group leader for getting all the guests booked by the deadline.” And it reportedly works very well for Time For Travel, Ltd.

6. Learn from post-trip surveys
While travel industry studies are always interesting to peruse and can be enlightening, travel advisors also have an incredible research opportunity at their fingertips: their own client base of travelers. Advisors who consistently take the time to poll their customers about their trips can glean valuable information that can help shape their travel business and recommendations going forward.

Here is how Berglie uses post-trip client surveys to this end: “Gathering this information is extremely useful for us to see what is working and what is not. For us to find those areas of opportunity for resorts, or DMCs, to improve and then bring it to their attention so that we can all improve the next round of service. It really is a huge team effort to put these trips together, and everyone is our partners – not the enemy! No resort wants a guest to have a bad time, despite how a disgruntled guest can make it sound. It’s part of our normal routine, and job, to ask questions of our guests, and relay that feedback to our partners, to ensure we are constantly improving.”  

7. Set expectations upfront
And one more secret for successfully managing groups, which Kline suggests as her No.1 tip: “I find setting expectations and boundaries upfront helps avoid issues or confusion down the road. Being very responsive and personable. Creating a relationship with not only the group leader, but the guests.”

Where to send groups?
As for the most popular destinations for groups, Colon suggests, “A few of our most enjoyable destinations include Jamaica, for its vibrant island and air-infused reggae melodies. Punta Cana, where tropical rhythm meets the lively beat of salsa. And Mexico, with its Mariachi bands and lively spirit, is unmatched.”

For Berglie, “the big three are over 80% of our business – Cancun, Punta Cana, and Jamaica. It’s all about air lift, and these three have the bulk of it. As a result, they also have the most resorts to choose from, and more competitive pricing, as well. But the biggest determinant for group leaders is ease of access.”  

Along the same lines, at Kline’s agency, “Most of our groups travel to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Costa Rica.”

Wherever travel advisors decide to send their clients, group travel is, as Colon says, “a boom for business and bonding. As travel advisors specializing in affinity groups, group travel isn’t just a niche market for us – it is a cornerstone of our business. It’s not just about the numbers. Groups offer unique advantages for both our agency and our clients, making them a win-win proposition.”

Managing group bookings more efficiently also means choosing the right partner – ideally a brand that is invested in and has longtime experience with group bookings, such as those under the ALG Vacations® umbrella. Between their six travel advisor brands (Apple Vacations, Travel Impressions, Funjet Vacations, United Vacations, Blue Sky Tours, Southwest VacationsI), they have over 100 years of collective experience in coordinating big groups and putting together special offers, which are constantly refreshed for each brand.

Plus, united under ALGV, they came together to share best practices and develop new ones. For instance, the ALGV Education team has created an entire recurring series of webinars focusing specifically on this category of business, allowing ALVPros to become experts in this niche. Another example: new technology is always in development based on the feedback of their customers. The Groups Dashboard has been a game-changer for advisors, and soon-to-come custom event pages will make it even easier to manage gatherings. Learn more at www.algvacations.com/groups.


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