February 15, 2022
As the world settles into a new normal in the aftermath of COVID-19, tour operators are facing changing trends in the travel industry. From hand sanitizer to social distancing, travelers are looking for new ways to travel safely.
With this shift comes a change in the way people travel. Instead of larger group tours, many tourists are instead turning to small group travel. More and more travelers are traveling solo or with tight-knit groups of family and friends.
To keep up with this emerging trend, you need to know how to tailor your offerings to small groups. Let’s explore how to structure your small group tour packages to appeal to your ideal market.
COVID-19 has radically changed the face of the travel industry. In order to avoid being left behind, tour owners and operators must keep up with the new expectations that come with post-pandemic travel. One of the many trends that tour operators are faced with is the rise of small groups.
A 2020 travel report found that 63% of respondents were most likely to travel solo, while 23% wanted to travel in small groups. Only 12% were comfortable traveling in groups with more than 35 people.
One of the primary reasons for this is obvious — standards for safety have changed since 2020. Small group travel is a great way to create a bubble with a more intimate group of people, allowing more consideration for health and safety.
Whether it’s a gathering of family and friends or solo travelers looking for a tight-knit group to travel with, smaller group tours have other benefits as well. Travelers can enjoy their destination in privacy and safety, while also getting the unique chance to bond with their group. With fewer travelers, groups can also get up close and personal with the attractions on their tour. Unlike tours with 30 people, 50 people, or even more, a small group tour offers a more flexible, personalized, and authentic experience.
Not all small groups are traveling for the same reasons. Some are seeking safety within a bubble of family and friends. Others want the safety and convenience of joining a small group tour as a solo traveler, where they can meet new people. Some groups may be more local, like school trips, church retreats, work outings, or other club gatherings.
Regardless of why travelers seek out group travel, you need to be offering everything they’re looking for. Here are some of the top tips for structuring your small group tour packages.
One of the main reasons people seek out small group travel — particularly guided tours — is that it takes a lot of the work out of the equation. Instead of the stress and guesswork that comes with planning your own outings, travelers can rely on a thorough itinerary to support their experience.
To appeal to these small group travelers, your tour packages should be all-inclusive. Think about all the little things that a traveler might not want to worry about, like finding the right accommodations, traveling from one place to the next, or finding a local guide to give them more authentic insight. The more your package has to offer, the more likely you are to attract those looking for the small group experience.
A detailed itinerary can go a long way towards offering the best possible experience. But don’t fall into the trap of over-scheduling your tour packages. Small group travelers aren’t looking for the run-of-the-mill tourism experience where they spend their days shuttled around by a guide. While they may appreciate some structure, many of them will also want more time to explore on their own.
Each destination should offer plenty of free time. You can even add on “optional” tours and activities for those who want to keep their schedule packed. In this way, you can keep things flexible to appease all kinds of travelers.
Another great benefit of small group tours is the level of engagement with the local culture. A trip with a small group can afford to be more personal than a larger one. You can spend more time at destinations, get closer to the culture, and have more one-on-one time with the attractions.
Make sure your tour packages are aimed at crafting an authentic experience. This can mean looking for more hands-on, off-the-beaten-path experiences, but it can also come through in smaller details, like lodging and cuisine.
Instead of a standard hotel, look for lodgings hand-picked for their style and location — not just a necessity, but something that can enhance your authentic experience at any given destination. The same goes for cuisine. Look for dining that complements the theme of your trip and the overall itinerary, offering a closer look at the culture. For example, explore some small, local restaurants or check out the local markets.
However you decide to do it, it’s important to structure your tour packages around authentic experiences, not production-line tourism.
A lot of your tour marketing might be focused on the standard “tourist.” People coming from out of town — or even out of the country — to explore an experience far outside their comfort zone.
However, if you focus too much on this market, you could be missing out on an untapped opportunity right in front of you. Small group tour packages make a great option for local groups, from corporate retreats to school field trips. Consider seeking out local organizations, like schools, churches, non-profits, companies, and more to tap into a new side of the small group tour market.
While global disasters like COVID-19 will come and go, many of these new travel trends are here to stay. More and more people are seeking out smaller groups for their travel experiences, whether they’re seeking out connections with strangers or they’re traveling with a group of loved ones. And when they do head out in small groups, they’re demanding more from their travel plans — a more personal itinerary, flexibility in their schedule, and more authentic local experiences.
As the market continues to adapt to new expectations from travelers, you need a booking experience that can keep up. Our booking software can help you provide the most seamless booking experience, streamlining your booking process and getting more travelers through the door. Learn more about what we offer or get started today.