As group travel planners, so often we come across a trip that sounds interesting and we assume our usual tour members will find it interesting also. We commit to a departure date and then embark on a marketing/sales plan – only to be disappointed at the turnout.
What if we were to operate the other way around? What if we analyzed our present clientele – their likes, dislikes, budget, physical limitations – even their travel wish list and dreams and then committed to a trip that might match their profile?
And then what if we used our present group of past travelers as our “core” but then tried to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out to other kinds of travelers as well to round out our group and bring new blood into our nest of old-timers? If not, we may end up with all seniors who are dropping out due to disability, inability to keep up or even due to illness or death. We may suddenly find we have no new, perhaps younger clients to fill the void and grow with us into the future.
In the business world, we refer to “analyzing the market” – hopefully planning ahead, not waiting for a hole to appear in our client base. In other words we need to decide where our market is, how we can continue to serve this particular market, or whether we may need to change to appeal to new markets. Let’s take a look at some different market segments that we may already be serving or might like to serve:
- The elderly extreme of the senior market. Both men and women but in actuality predominantly women – many with serious mobility issues, many taking trips with you primarily for the camaraderie enjoyed.
- Retired, but still very active. Often recently-retired couples who may have worked very hard all their lives and now see retirement as their opportunity to catch up and see the world, hoping to make travel a priority now that they are retired.
- Young and middle-aged women who enjoy reunion long weekends. Particularly interested in beauty, fashion, spa vacations and nostalgia coupled with plenty of time to catch up with each other and share their life stories.
- The inter-generational family. Couples raising children with grandparents along too. Activities needed for a variety of ages and interests. One of grandparents’ great satisfactions comes from seeing their grandchildren enjoying themselves. Often grandparents are footing the bill. Cruises or resorts with youth programs or inter-generational specialty companies are often your best bet.
- Guy getaways. Long weekends, often wrapped around a specific sport such as deep sea fishing, golf, etc. Florida, Baja California and similar spots make an attractive site for this type of program.
- Intellectual, learning vacations built around a certain subject or well-known lecturer. Great for retired teachers or moderate-income couples wanting to combine travel with education for a more indepth travel experience than the standard trip.
- Programs that allow one to follow a passion – be it food and wine, theater, art and architecture, history, gardens, etc. Often they may be trips for those following a specific novelist to a destination she has portrayed in her latest book.
The above are simply some samples – you may have your own special market segments and products to bring to these markets and often you’ll find that they overlap one another. Now’s the time to investigate travel products available in the marketplace that you can buy into or to consider custom-made trips you may wish to undertake, designing and operating them yourself. For starters, here are a few operators you may wish to contact:
Backroads – hiking, biking and other outdoor trips, 800-462-2848; backroads.com
Road Scholar – a division of Elderhostel, 800-454-5768; roadscholar.org
Thomson Family Adventures, 800-262-6255; familyadventures.com