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Group Travel Essentials: Where to Go

The first step to planning a great group trip is choosing where to go.

The destinations you select can make or break the success of your travel program. If you pick places that are too familiar or boring, your potential customers might not have much interest in going there with you. If your destinations are too exotic, too far away or too expensive, you risk scaring travelers off. Success requires finding destinations that will inspire your travelers without intimidating them.

If you’re just getting started in tourism or if you’re interested in expanding your group’s travel horizons, here are some essential strategies and business practices to help you select winning destinations.

1. Business Basic: Know Your Customers

There will always be a certain amount of trial-and-error in selecting destinations to promote, but you can mitigate a lot of the risk by knowing your customers well and looking for trips that cater to their tastes. Before you begin selecting destinations for your tours, spend some time getting to know your potential customers and finding out where they want to go. Talk to influencers in your community to ask where they would be interested in traveling, how long they think the trip should last and what would be a reasonable price. If you have access to a larger group of potential customers, consider doing a survey to get a wide range of perspectives.

2. Best Practice: Check the Calendar

As you consider where to go, you should also consider when to go there. Because the right destination at the wrong time is still the wrong destination. In places with distinctive tourist seasons, groups are advised to plan around weather, traffic patterns and other factors. You should work with representatives of state travel offices or local convention and visitors bureaus to identify the best time of year for your trip. They might even be able to help you save on hotel rates by recommending particular days of the week.

3. Innovative Idea: Test New Concepts

If you offer trips only to tried-and-true places, your customers will eventually get bored. So it’s important to keep them interested by testing new travel concepts. The best way is to try one or two a year as part of your overall programming. If you’ve had success with day trips, for example, try offering one overnight trip to a nearby city. You can also experiment with trips for a specific segment of your audience: A girls-only shopping trip to New York or a food-focused weekend in New Orleans may attract fewer people, but they will enjoy themselves more.

4. Pro Tip: Make It a Mystery

As you research travel destinations, you might encounter some that pique your interest but don’t have much name recognition to appeal to everyday travelers. You can package these into mystery tours to surprise and delight your customers. Experienced travel planners often offer at least one mystery tour each year. When you’re building a mystery tour, pick a place that most people wouldn’t think to visit, and plan a series of experiences there that will be both unexpected and memorable. Then, offer your customers a chance to join the trip without telling them where you’re headed.

5. Growth Opportunity: Attend Industry Events

Eventually, even the most creative travel planners run out of ideas. When that happens, they look for new destination inspiration at conferences and other tourism events. There are plenty of good tourism-focused gatherings around the country, from local travel agent shows to large-scale conventions. If you attend one, you’ll get opportunities to meet with dozens of destination representatives who can tell you all about what their cities and states have to offer. These meetings can also open up opportunities for familiarization tours, which give you a firsthand look at destinations you’ve never visited.

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.