Who would have dreamed a year ago that a future headline would be “Selling Sanitation” thanks to a virus. Or that United Airlines would be partnering with the Cleveland Clinic regarding cleaning protocols?

Or, how about a recent article titled “Reinventing A Travel Business Without Travel.” And yet, that’s what some group tour operators are doing today: selling group travel programs to tightly-formed mini-groups of eight to 12 travel participants who may know each other and are willing to social distance together throughout an itinerary.

2021 may be the year for mini-group travel. If you’ve always done groups in the past but are leery of doing so now in the present locked-down, stay-at-home climate, mini groups may be the answer. They could see you through to future days of longer trips and larger groups we hope will be awaiting us in the near future.

The question now is are you prepared to operate short itineraries for mini-size groups of eight to 12 participants? And, if you are prepared to do this, can you operate them safely to comply with social distancing and other regulations? Will the itineraries be attractive enough to sell and can you make suffcient profit to serve as a bridge to longer trips and higher profits in the future when we hope life returns to normal, even if it is a new normal.

If mini-trips can work for you, let’s look at a few themes you might wish to develop. Certainly, programs that are wrapped around food in one way or another are always popular. Whether it’s visits to markets, growers, bakers or celebrity chefs of all culinary specialties, “deliciousness” will appeal as a theme.

Nostalgia can be another attraction – tour features can o‹er local history, trends and happenings in certain cities or er as. Often, museums create special shows recreating an entire era complete with mannequins, costumes and scenery of the historic era in question. Another theme can be sporting activities: surfing, hang-gliding, hiking, rock climbing or surfing. A long weekend in New York City could include winter ice skating at Rockefeller Center and a few days at a Mexican beach resort might offer a day’s fishing expedition.

Certainly, great music and theater offerings can be an integral part of interesting itineraries – particularly summer outdoor productions. Note that small groups can be family-focused by you, the trip designer, to reflect interests and possibilities of the proposed group. One departure might feature yoga classes, a spa and meditation whereas another for wine lovers might want to visit several of the leading growers in California’s wine industry.

All in all, it’s important to understand that regardless of the length or theme of these mini-trips, they will need to be carefully tailored with health priorities first, such as wearing masks, social distancing and adequate ventilation. Those clients coming to you as a pre-formed family unit that has been living together makes it easier to plan their itinerary while remaining in compliance with current social distancing requirements. Those coming to you in two or threes (not living together as a pre-formed group) may not always be feasible until the Covid-19 pandemic has passed.


by Marty Sarbey de Souto, CTC