A Checklist for Conscientious Group Travel Planners
As Australia continues to receive an increasing number of international visitors each year, the demand for high quality group tours matches pace. In the 3 years between March 2013 and March 2016, the number of people visiting Queensland for holiday purposes has increased by approximately 22%, and these numbers are still on the incline. By 2022 (only 6 years away!), visitors from China alone are expected to more than double from 685,000 to 1.4 million.
You can see how those in the position of organising group tours for international travellers have a lot to look forward to. But trip planners also probably know that setting up these tours can be a really stressful juggling act. With so many factors to take into account (group type, size, expectations, budget, time of year – the list goes on), preparing group tours is often considered time consuming, difficult to coordinate, and generally overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be! This little list is a compilation of the practices we’ve found to be absolutely essential when it comes to creating the perfect group tour.
Do Your Cultural Research
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy for group travel organisers to fall into a rut and just stick to what has worked in the past. Remember that it always pays to do some preliminary, in-depth research on each new group of visitors and where they are coming from, well before they arrive.
An excellent example can be demonstrated through China. The many regions of China have variances in their customs and specific cultural quirks. For instance, many southern Chinese people typically prefer rice with their meals, whereas in the north it’s noodles.
Knowing these little differences allows you to provide an often overlooked personal touch for your guests. In this case, the travel groups being treated to some traditional home cuisine as a part of their meals (along with the fact that you actually care about what they like) adds that extra layer of polish to their group travelling experience. If you can leave your travellers with an incredibly positive impression of thoughtfulness and respect, chances are they’ll be back.
Here’s a Bonus: In response to Australia’s ongoing increase in Chinese visitors, Tourism Queensland (TEQ) has a Be China Ready 2016 section on their website that contains insightful and useful fact sheets available for free download.
Double-Check the Finer Details
It’s always the little technicalities that manage to cause a big dilemma. To keep it cut and dry:
- Check your travellers’ VISAs have a minimum of 6 months to expiry.
- Make sure all traveller insurances, medical requirements and safety concerns are covered.
- Commit to memory the precise arrival and departure dates of your group.
On that last one, ensuring your group’s accommodation is booked at least 24 hours before they are set to arrive ensures they’ll be able to check-in immediately upon arrival. Doing so avoids having your travellers waiting around, irritable and exhausted after a long flight. If an early booking or early check-in isn’t possible, make sure the group has something suitable lined up to fill that time gap. A short tour of the local area surrounding the chosen accommodation is a great way to instil some immediate familiarity and security.
Go with the Flow
When planning the activities and stop-offs on the tour group’s itinerary, always have one eye on the map. Maintaining a consistent and sensible flow between destinations cuts back on unnecessary travel time and reduces one thing you want to desperately avoid: boredom.
As the trip planner, it’s largely beneficial to preemptively travel the routes yourself. Doing so ensures any unexpected occurrences, such as new road infrastructure or coach parking availability, don’t become issues later down the track.
How to Tip: Google My Maps is one free and easy way to initially plan and track your group trips (all you need is a Google Account). The incredibly useful web app gives you the ability to create your own maps with digital pins that can be placed across multiple locations, allowing you to visually highlight routes and directions between destinations. Once you have your stops all planned out, you can conveniently save and share the maps digitally.
Unique may be a better word than weird in this case, but the point is to think outside the box. When choosing which activities and destinations your group will experience, the first and foremost priorities are their expectations and budget. It’s extremely important for travel planners to research the travel group’s individual needs and have a firm handle on their preferences.
As can be seen below, when looking at Chinese travellers visiting Australia, solo travellers report a higher travel satisfaction compared to those who were part of travel groups.
With that in mind, while some travellers may be satisfied with the full-fledged tourist experience, trends are showing that more and more people want something special from their overseas adventures; something that stands out from the commonplace tourist clichés that are often part of group tours. Obviously, it’s much harder to please an entire group of people than it is a single person, but your itinerary should include a good mix of the iconic touristy “must-dos and sees”, as well as exceptional experiences that are out of the norm.
Don’t Forget to Write
In business, it’s a well-known adage that keeping an existing customer is many times cheaper and easier than signing a new one. When you’re an itinerary planner, organising study and group tours is no exception. Reinforce that you actually care about how your group felt about their trip, and ask how they’re faring when back home.
Note It Down: Set a dedicated follow-up reminder in your planner for a week after your travellers return home. Continue following up once every couple of months and maintain a positive correspondence.
Communication such as this not only increases the chances of a return visit, but is a great way to obtain detailed feedback and helps to keep you informed about trends in traveller expectations. Commit to playing the long game, and chances are you’ll create some invaluable contacts and connections that’ll prove their worth in your future.
Go Get ‘Em!
There you have it – some of the tip top priorities we always strive to abide by when organising student travel and group tours. Here’s hoping you can find value in them for when you next plan a trip, too. Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to update our Study Tours Brisbane blog. 🙂
What are some of the biggest challenges you frequently face when organising group tours? Let us know in the comments! You can also get a free quote on the complete coordination of your next group tour in and around Brisbane, Australia: enquire today.