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Defining the Value of Travel

How do you define the value of travel in today’s world?

In a normal world, we talk about the value of travel — or anything else — in terms of the price paid and the goods or services received. But the world hasn’t been normal for years now.

For a while, nobody wanted to travel. Now, it seems, everyone wants to travel, and they’re willing to pay a lot of money to do it. This surge in demand, coupled with inflation nearing the 10% mark, has pushed travel prices to staggering heights. At the same time, labor shortages and supply chain issues are forcing travel providers to cut services to the bone.

In other words: Travelers are paying more and more while getting less and less.

This is true across every part of the travel industry. But it seems especially evident in the hotel sector.

According to STR and Tourism Economics, the nationwide average daily rate for hotels is $145 — a 16.5% increase over 2021. But though prices are high, the number of employees in hotels nationwide has shrunk by some 30%, meaning hotels don’t have the staff to offer many services travelers were accustomed to before the pandemic.

And this pricing environment may be here to stay. On a recent episode of “Gather and Go,” Hannah Smith of STR told me her firm expects continuing price increases through 2024. (You can hear the whole conversation at grouptravelleader.com/podcast or in your favorite podcast player).

But enough with the numbers. What does this mean for a travel planner like you?

First, it means you can no longer count on being able to offer low prices for your tours. And second, it means you and your travelers may have to adjust expectations regarding the level of service during a trip.

This poses a unique challenge for the group tour market. For decades, a significant portion of tour companies have sold their products primarily on price, touting the cost savings of traveling in a group instead of traveling alone. Others have taken the opposite tack and sold their products primarily on service, advertising features such as door-to-door luggage handling.

But if group travel is no longer cheap and may not include the frills and services it used to, how should those organizations sell their products today?

The answer is to find a new way to define the value of group travel.

Even when prices are crazy and services are scarce, there are still many great reasons to travel with a group. It gives your customers the opportunity to visit the best places on earth alongside old friends or to bond with new friends over shared experiences on the road. It invites them into expertly curated journeys that promise to surprise and delight them around every turn. 

Group travel makes even the farthest and most exotic destinations feel safe and accessible. And it affords travelers opportunities to connect with local cultures on a meaningful level and make a positive impact on the places they visit.

If you ask me, these have always been the most powerful things about group travel. Maybe it’s time we start promoting these underappreciated values that have been the most important parts of group travel all along.

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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