The word is out: In the November/December 2016 Groups Today magazine, we looked at trends emerging in the group travel industry. Embracing these trends, however, is a different story. From customized experiences to adventure tourism, culinary travel and more, industry professionals provide insight and ideas on how to implement top travel trends into group tours.
"All of our tours are built from the ground up," said Jessica Pociask, WANT Expeditions owner and expedition guide. "At times it does make for a higher cost, but it's all built into quality ... We constantly strive for improvement and continue to connect with people on the ground for new and better experiences."
Pociask and her team constantly work to customize their itinerary. "Businesswise, it's about not being complacent. We have a Harp Seals trip that we do in February. In the past, there was only a single hotel that opened on the island with mediocre accommodations, sub-par food and activities that you had to share with all of the hotel's 100 other guests." The solution? Pociask worked with a local to find a beautiful guest that could accommodate her group and brought in a private chef.
"This not only ensures a more exclusive and luxury experience, but we've managed to keep our prices the same."
Adventure tourism pushes travelers outside of their comfort zone, often requiring physical or mental effort.
"On ground, Fathom gives travelers insider access and the opportunity to explore places by experiencing real communities and real people," said Ron Fenska, Fathom vice president of sales. Travelers can participate in activities alongside the locals. To prepare for the experience, Fathom offers workshops on board for all ages to prepare and inform travelers about the communities they're about to visit. There are even programs for personal development, such as storytelling workshops.
Films are infiltrating the tourism industry, and destinations where iconic movies were filmed are taking the spotlight on maps. Circle Michigan is working with the Michigan Film Office to promote destinations by building itineraries around movies filmed in the state. In addition to visiting the sites where scenes were filmed, visitors learn interesting trivia and facts, hear stories and see photos.
"Now you can follow in the steps of the actors, too," said Janet Kasic, Circle Michigan executive director. Circle Michigan's itinerary for the Anatomy of a Murder film, for instance, takes travelers to the Landmark Inn Hotel, where the cast and crew stayed while filming, for dinner and cocktails.
Travels are seeking local culinary experiences, and wine, bourbon and beer tours are forging a bold path in the travel industry. Sam Lacy, director of marketing and communications, Travel South USA, notes that there's a new group of people traveling just to try different beers and tour different breweries—and states are beginning to catch on. For instance, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (go "where the spirit leads you") offers a collection of activities for a three-to-four day tour of nine distilleries for groups to discover the art and science behind the Kentucky Bourbon Industry.
"I took a brewery tour in Portland, Oregon back in the spring," Lacy said. "Really cool experience. Think that these types of tours will just continue to grow."
Multigenerational travel covers a lot of ages—and with those age gaps, a variety of interests and limitations. It's important to take every traveler into consideration for travel, accommodations, food and activities. Grandparents, for instance, might not be able to hike, ski or swim all day, every day. Young children might not tolerate museums for more than a few hours.
"Even with all the information travelers gather from the internet, they need the expertise of a tour operator to link their group's specific interests with reliable partners who can satisfy their wishes," said Pam Inman, NTA president.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.
Photo courtesy of AKA Photography/Andrew Tomk.