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Are You Selling What They’re Buying?

The things you’re selling may not be the same things your customers are buying.

On its face, the group tour business is pretty simple. You sell trips — packages of hotel accommodations, meals, activities and transportation — to people who want to travel with others. If they have a good time on your trip, they’re more likely to take another one.

But humans are complex creatures, and their motivations, thought processes and buying decisions are often much less rational than we’d like them to be. To reach customers effectively, it helps to identify what they’re really looking for when they choose to take a trip with you.

You may think you’re in the business of selling packaged travel. But your customers aren’t buying hotel rooms or attraction tickets from you — they can get those on their own.

Instead, here are five things your customers might really be shopping for:

The Thrill of Anticipation

Psychological research has consistently found that the pleasure people derive from anticipating a special event is equal to — or even greater than — the pleasure they derive from the event itself. The thrill of anticipation is often what makes special occasions so special. If you’re booking trips six months or more in advance, you can help travelers enjoy that sense of anticipation by sending photos, itineraries and other trip details in the weeks leading up to departure.

A Dream Fulfilled

Some people spend their whole lives dreaming of a certain travel experience but never take steps to realize those dreams. Your potential customers aren’t dreaming about the logistics of motorcoach tours, so you shouldn’t focus your marketing message on mundane details. Instead, inspire people with opportunities to see their dreams come true, and they’ll be much more likely to act.

Peace of Mind

Some people would love to travel, but fear and anxiety hold them back. Perhaps they’re afraid of missing a flight, getting lost in an unfamiliar city or spending a lot of money on a trip that turns out to be unsatisfying. That’s why many people like the idea of traveling with groups. They’re trusting you to guide their vacation, provide a quality product and escort them through the difficult parts of travel. Don’t underestimate the value of that trust, and make sure you never violate it.

Surprise and Delight

Recent psychological research has confirmed that decision fatigue is real: Making decisions about even fun things like travel is taxing on the brain. And many of your travelers come on your trips so they can enjoy destinations without having to make a bunch of decisions about what to do. Instead, they want you to make the decisions for them, and they want to be surprised and delighted by the experiences you deliver.

A Sense of Belonging

One aspect of group travel that we often take for granted is its power to create community. Some people take group trips because it gives them a chance to be with others. They get to feel like part of the in-crowd. They share in an exclusive experience and become part of a travel family, if only for a few days. The sense of belonging is a powerful motivator. And if you make each of your travelers feel like they belong to something special, they’ll want to do it again.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.

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