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Buyer Breakout Reveals Group Travel Trends

I just finished my favorite “quick read” on travel trends for the year ahead. Nothing tells me more about what groups are doing and not doing than the comments we get from our buyer breakout sessions held at the annual Select Traveler Conference each February.

So here are seven travel trends or ideas I gleaned from this year’s session that I’d like to share with you:

One bank has opened a “mini-branch” in its local retirement community and is offering trips to the residents there whether they bank with them or not — that’s smart. Watch for other banks to do the same.

All-inclusive tours are the rage for a lot of groups that like the amenities of an upscale resort and book it as a group so they can enjoy each other’s company.

Winter is the new summer. We asked if groups were enjoying cold-weather destinations and learned they are doing winter eagle watches and visiting places like Yellowstone, Calgary, Whistler, Snowshoe, and the Arctic Circle, and taking flights to Winnipeg for train trips up into Canada’s frozen tundra. And the Iditarod is on a lot of  to-do lists.

The strong dollar isn’t what’s driving group travel overseas. Group after group said that the strong value of the dollar doesn’t really drive travel decisions to other countries. They say traveling with a smaller group and enjoying luxury services are much more influential to their outbound customers than the exchange rate.

Nowhere is too far to go for these groups. By a two-to-one margin, these planners answered that their groups are going to long-haul destinations including Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand. Sounds like the world really is getting smaller.

Meal plans for groups are in transition. Everyone agrees: Younger travelers want meals on their own, and older travelers want meals as a group. More than one planner said their younger travelers often pay for included meals they have no intention of enjoying.

Travel is going deeper. More and more groups are opting for trips to a single city where they can immerse themselves in the culture for a week or so instead of packing up and heading to the next stop.


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Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.