Taking group trips can be amazing. But organizing, marketing, selling and collecting payments? Not so much.
If you’re like most tourism professionals, you got into the business because you love travel and you love people. Days on the road with a group of your friends can be among the highlights of your year. And your work as a travel planner or a leader might be the perfect job if you didn’t have to handle all the minutia and financial details of every trip you take.
For those of you who find yourself in this position — loving group travel but hating the details — I have some good news for you. Though there’s no magic secret for taking the legwork out of planning group trips, there are some powerful new technology tools that can help you streamline and automate your trip planning, promotion and payment, giving you more time to enjoy the parts of the job that you love.
The world of high-tech startups seems to have discovered the group travel industry lately, and four recently launched companies now offer services to help group leaders and small tour companies advertise their trips, drive sales, register guests, accept payments online and automate communications with travelers. These companies are Group Bookd (www.groupbookd.com), GroupTools (www.grouptools.com), Tripsi (www.mytripsi.com) and WeTravel (www.wetravel.com).
Each of these websites works in a slightly different way and comes with its own pricing model, but their core services are similar. They allow you to create online profiles for each trip or departure you operate and then use those profiles to market the trips. You can integrate the profiles with your social media accounts to promote trips on Facebook, create email flyers to send to your members or even embed the trip profiles on your own website.
Once you have spread the word about your upcoming trips, these services allow you to automate the registration. Instead of customers calling you to book directly or filling out a registration form and sending you a deposit check, they can go to the trip’s profile online and register there. You have full control of the contact information and details you require for registration, and you can set the deposit amount to hold space.
Travelers pay the deposit on the site, and you can configure the system to send them automatic reminders about when their balances are due. And you don’t have to worry about credit card processing; these service providers process all the payments and deposit the funds automatically into your account or, in some cases, make payments directly to your travel suppliers.
Once the trip is full, you can use the services’ communication tools to email all guests with important details. You can download spreadsheets with your travelers’ information, giving you a handy contact list to take on the road.
If you aren’t technology savvy, managing your travel group via an online service instead of ink and paper can sound intimidating. But I encourage you to try it anyway. The benefits far outweigh the potential risks, and if you don’t like it, you can always go back to your old way of doing things.
Technology is fundamentally changing the travel industry in a host of ways. From where I sit, this change is a welcome one.