No one ever told Andrae Marable it was impossible to get Gen X travelers on group tours. Maybe that’s why he was successful in doing so.
Marable is the founder of the Pack Roadtrip Travel Club, an up-and-coming tour company based in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. He has built a loyal following of travelers in his area and beyond. And most of them range in age from 35 to 50.
This success bucks all the conventional wisdom: that group travel is only for students and seniors, that people in their prime working years don’t have time for travel, that millennials and Gen Xers are too independent to put their vacation plans in someone else’s hands. But Marable didn’t come up in the traditional tour industry — his professional background is in IT — so he never got the memo.
I met Marable on one of our OnSite familiarization tours in Louisiana this past fall and was fascinated to hear the story of how he grew a single trip with a group of coworkers into a thriving Gen X group tour company. I loved his story so much, in fact, that I invited him to be a featured guest on a recent episode of our podcast, Gather and Go. If you listen, you’ll hear all about the Pack, how he builds trips to appeal to younger travelers, how he uses low-cost ideas for effective marketing and how he makes travelers feel like family. You can find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts or at grouptravelleader.com/podcast.
For those of us who have been involved in tourism for some time, it can be surprising to hear about someone succeeding in tours with an untapped demographic. But it shouldn’t. The fundamental value proposition of group travel is rock solid, and it doesn’t change with time or cultural fads.
In the early 2000s, a lot of doomsday prophets warned that baby boomers would never take motorcoach tours. Of course, those people turned out to be wrong, and today the boomer generation makes up the bedrock of the group travel customer base. I expect that within the next decade, we’ll hear some pessimistic people say the same things about Gen X. And I expect they’ll turn out to be wrong, too.
In every generation, there will be people who love the idea of travel but hate the hassle that comes with planning and executing it. There will be socially inclined people who want to share their travel experiences with friends. And there will be people who enjoy the VIP experiences they can get in a group but can’t get on their own.
That doesn’t mean that tourism will never change. Marable does things on his tours that you may not do on yours. But generational changes don’t have to be extinction events.
As you think about the future of your tour company, travel group or tourism attraction, it’s worth keeping people like Marable and his customers in mind. They may not come from the same generation you do, but they share your same passion for travel. They’re open to going in groups. And after having a group travel experience, many of them crave more.
Could you succeed in leading travel for people like them in your community? Or could you reach people your own age who have never traveled with a group before?
There’s only one way to find out.