Following his family’s tradition of founding its own student travel companies, Justin Shuler created Group Travel Network in 2004, with a mission to create and grow relationships with the student groups the company helps plan trips for.
Justin’s grandfather Elmer Cook started a student travel company in 1975. Justin’s father, James Shuler Jr., worked for Elmer before starting his own student travel company in 1986. Justin first worked for his father, before starting Group Travel Network.
“We fully believe that education outside the classroom walls provides a better foundation to real-world growth than can be attained in textbooks and lectures,” Justin said. “Every time I get the opportunity to greet a bus full of students arriving in a destination that they have worked so hard to reach, and seeing the excitement on their faces, it makes my job truly enjoyable.”
Justin believes technology increasingly plays a larger part in planning and executing group travel, especially in the student market. He notes that technology helps with tracking buses and students, mapping routes and daily activities, planning itineraries, and educating group leaders and students about options and experiences.
“In the student group travel business, it is very common for a client to contact us with full knowledge of where they wish to travel, what attractions they want to visit, and what restaurants they want to eat in, et cetera” Justin said. “It then becomes our job to create a smooth-flowing itinerary to go along with a knowledgeable service host that can escort them and ensure a positively memorable experience.”
Because technology is important for Justin and his team to do their jobs, they also have fun with it and use it to help increase marketing efforts. Some of their chosen methods of seeking unique marketing opportunities include sponsorship of events attended by key decision makers, providing video production services, FAM tours for key decision makers, and social media marketing.
“There’s no real secret to attracting student groups,” Justin said. “We believe that simply being ourselves, creating/growing REAL relationships with our clientele and being truthful has helped us grow year over year since our first day in 2004.”
Visit https://www.youtube.com/user/GroupTravelNetworkFL/videos to see some of Group Travel Network’s videos.
Justin Shuler was nominated as one of the Top Ten Next Gens in the January 2014 issue of Groups Today magazine. Click here to learn more about the Top Ten, and stay tuned to our website for more in-depth profiles on these innovative people in the group travel industry.
Know a group travel professional making an impact on the industry with a fresh, progressive perspective? Nominate him or her for 2017's Top 10 Next Gen here.