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Emerging groups highlight new readership

A group learns new culinary techniques at Petra Kitchen’s cooking class in Jordan

Many in the travel industry took notice in 2012 when The Group Travel Leader was recast as an upscale magazine. What many of those same readers did not recognize was that a comprehensive re-imagining of the magazine’s focus was completed as well.

During the development of the magazine’s new graphic format, an exhaustive review of its readership also took place. The net result of months of work was a new circulation that includes, but is not limited to:

•    Group Travel Family travel planners

•    NTA, ABA, UMA, USTOA and OMCA member travel companies

•    Smaller, special interest groups

•    Outdoor adventure groups

•    Automobile clubs

•    Motorcycle groups

•    Boomer-aged travel groups

•    Alumni travel programs

•    Youth and student groups

•    Golf travel groups

•    Culinary travel groups

“Group travel is evolving and most have embraced it,” said publisher Mac Lacy. “Some of the most obvious aspects of that are smaller groups, younger groups, and more independent travelers within these groups. It’s all out there to be recognized by those who choose to see it.

“There may have been some pushback a few years ago by those most invested in traditional touring,” said Lacy, “but for the most part, it’s full speed ahead now with this new line of thinking.”

“There are still many active retirement-aged travel groups,” said executive editor Brian Jewell. “We still produce The Group Travel Leader for thousands of those very active groups. But the next generation of group travelers is upon us and we have created an editorial focus that includes them, too. We’re writing much less about passive travel experiences and much more about active travel experiences because travelers of all ages are moving in that direction.”

Retirement in the traditional sense won’t be an option for millions of baby boomers, says Lacy. But he says they will still travel.

“I’m a boomer and lots of us have spent our entire lives traveling. Many of us will continue to pay for it as we go instead of using interest income our parents might have had.

“The creation of travel groups is still an organic process that happens without much fanfare,” added Lacy. “A group of guys who start traveling together to play golf 2-3 times a year don’t think of themselves as a travel group. A group of women who start doing spa or theater trips don’t recognize that they are a travel group. But both are.”

“I’m 31 years old and I am an ardent believer in traveling with a group,” said Jewell. “I like the interaction, the group dynamics, different meals that groups can share and talk about, everything about it. What’s new to the industry now is the spontaneity and flexibility that travelers expect — and the tour companies I’m familiar with are adapting to those needs very well. It’s just as easy to let a few travelers find a neat restaurant on their mobile devices as it is to plan a big meal for 25-30 people. Maybe easier.”

For more information about this changing market, email Stacey Bowman or Kelly Tyner.