SALEM, Ohio — Readers of this publication are well aware of the impact COVID-19 has had on the travel industry. And most everyone has a personal story of struggle, from group leaders keeping their followings together to DMOs making difficult decisions in staffing and marketing. However, there will be a single deciding factor in who emerges intact and maybe even grows stronger.
Those organizations that open their doors, welcome groups and operate trips sooner rather than later will be the first to rebound.
Group leaders: You have built a following of loyal travelers who look to you not only for travel, but also for human interaction. Those travelers are now missing that in their lives, and they have a pent-up demand for you to take them on trips.
It might take a little courage, but have faith in yourself as their leader. After all, you earned their respect as the leader. Getting your travel program back on track may take a few new ideas, so make the effort to attend a travel conference soon to meet travel industry representatives and network with fellow group travel planners.
DMOs: Figure out how to continue marketing your destination out of this mess. You must invite groups to visit you, or someone else will invite them to their destination.
Group leaders will operate trips, and they will visit the destinations that invited them. Be one of those destinations.
Today more than ever, groups are open to new destinations and seeking hospitality. To survive, you need groups to return. So, touch them in-person at a travel conference, invite them via online communication, and even pick up a phone and call.
Hotels, attractions, museums and other travel suppliers: Begin work today seeking any and all group bookings possible. Throw out the rule book on group size, deposits and all other barriers standing in the way of a group crossing your threshold. In short, welcome any group leader that can put a head in your bed.
Why be so lenient with the established rules? Because these group leaders are storming the beachhead of tourism on your behalf. They are the ones convincing their group members to join the tour, even in light of social opposition, and the travel industry must do everything possible for them to succeed.
The importance of your participation at travel gatherings such as the American Bus Association, the Select Traveler Conference, the African American Travel Conference, Boomers in Groups and the Going On Faith Conference goes without saying. Yes, it takes effort and even a little bit of faith, but your attendance at these key group travel conferences builds the relationships that will lead to your successful rebound.
Group travel leaders, DMOs, receptives, hotels, attractions, restaurants and museums: Make the decision today to attend a group travel conference and begin rebuilding your future.