The group travel industry is a fast moving industry. One day you are planning for a tour that departs in a year, and the next day it seems like you are seeing your travelers off for that same exact tour. If you are running a strong affinity program, or you have a strong travel club, there is always something to do and it always seems like you are falling behind.
So when you are finally done planning your tours for 2016, you welcome the downtime that comes with knowing you have your schedule finalized. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but once your planning for 2016 ends, your planning for 2017 should start.
As you run your group travel program it can get overwhelming. We have seen it before, and we can tell you that the proper plan, and the proper partners, can make all the difference. When the proper plan is not in place, and you wait until the last minute to start planning your tours, your overall success will suffer.
Your plan for 2017 should start today and here is why.
1. Your Competition is Already Planning
There are groups and group leaders all over the country. Your group is not the only group in your city, and it might not even be the most successful group in your city. If you are looking to grow your group, you need to be the first one in your area with a plan for the first quarter of 2017. When your tours are the first tours that your community is looking at you become top of mind when they start planning their first quarter trips.
Also, if you are second to market, you run the risk of another group planning the same destinations as you and then needing to either convince travelers that your tour is superior, or you will need to pivot and offer a different tour that you are not prepared to promote. You need to prepare and launch your tours so that you are leading the market rather than reacting to it.
2. Your Travelers are already thinking about it
Believe it or not, your travelers have already started thinking about what they are looking to do in 2017. Your avid travelers fall into two main categories. They either travel every other year, or they travel every year. Those that travel every other year have already planned their tour for this year and are skipping next year, or they are eager to see what 2017 has to offer. If you are the first to show them your offerings you will be their main source of inspiration for 2017, and inspiration is the first step in any travel purchase.
Those that travel every year have already taken a look at what everyone is offering for 2016 and have already made 90% of their traveling decisions by now. They know where they want to go and they are just finalizing all of their traveling plans. The sooner that you are able to show them where they might be able to travel to next year the sooner they will start getting excited about where they will be going in 2017. Much of the enjoyment of travel comes from the planning and build-up to the trip. Allowing them to get even more excited as they see what the future holds with 2017 will be a big catalyst to your success.
3. The tours are already available
Whether you know it or not, a lot of tour operators have pricing and departure dates through the first quarter of 2017 already, and they are already working on future dates and pricing. This means that while all of your local competitors are basking in the success of their amazing 2016 tours, you can get a head start on some of the best tours that are available for 2017. With your choice of pricing and dates you can once again ensure that you have an advantage by being able to pick the most sought after itineraries on the most popular and affordable dates.
A lot of time this information is not available unless you ask for it. More often than not tour operators want to sell the tours for the current year before they start focusing on the following year, but for those group leaders that are eager enough and willing, they will be more than happy to start talking about 2017 as well. The information is there, it is just a matter of asking for it.
4. You have more time to promote
Most of you need a lot of time to promote a tour. Our own experience has shown that when we have more time to promote a tour we often times have more success. This usually starts with a tour, a date, and a price to start peaking interest as quickly as possible. Once we have a good group of people interested in the tour we will release the itinerary and allow people to start signing up. The only reason that we are able to do this is because we start planning with our groups early in the year so that people have enough time to get excited about what they will be doing in 2017.
5. Give them time to save
Money, or lack thereof, is the number one reason why most people are unable to travel on your tours. Even if it is a tour that they have been dreaming about, a lack of money will keep them from traveling, and perhaps even lead to resentment because you did not give them the information sooner and allowed them to save. By getting your tours and pricing out to your travelers as early as possible you will allow them the chance to decide on which tours and then create a budget to be able to afford the tours that they want to travel on. The average cost for a 4 star tour, including airfare, is now close to $4,000, and the majority of travelers need time to save and budget. By giving them a chance to do that you will start see your travel group grow.
Well there you have it. The 5 reasons why you need to start planning for 2017 today. We know that you are overwhelmed and that you don’t have the time, and we know that you deserve a break… running a travel group is a heck of a lot more than just traveling the world. With all of the itineraries and the constant changing of the travel industry it is often hard to keep up, but that is what separates the great travel groups from the good ones.
Once you have decided that you are ready to take your group to the next level you need the right partners to get you there. The right tour operator and the right broker can make a world of difference in your success and growth. Traveling the world is a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work! Planning ahead can make your life a lot easier!