Each month Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Vanessa McGovern leads a Sales IQ coaching call with Gifted Travel Network members. Each month it seems like more and more members come to the discussion with some variation of this question:

I put together a group trip, and although there was a lot of interest when I started planning it, I can’t get people to commit when the time comes to put a deposit down. What strategies should I use to fill my group?

A travel advisor’s most famous last words are, “I took out group space, and now I have to go and fill it.” This means efforting, pounding the pavement, stressing, and doing it all the hard way.

These may sound harsh, and they may be hard to hear, but here are some hard truths about booking group trips:

1. You are not the draw. 

GTN is celebrating ten incredible years in business in 2023, and for the past few years, we have always taught our members that they should not go about filling their groups this way. Then COVID-19 happened.

We changed our tune during the pandemic because of the environment everyone was in. Many people appreciated the concept of traveling with their advisor in this new landscape, and if their advisor was willing to go, people were more likely to travel with them.

We saw this “come-with-me” strategy happen and work very successfully during the pandemic, and a few of our members have maintained it since. There’s no question that it can work for more seasoned advisors, and there are certainly exceptions, but we don’t recommend this strategy for newer advisors. If you don’t have years of experience and a dedicated group of clients with whom you have built strong relationships, you can’t expect them to just want to go because you planned a trip.

2. Professional women are not reliable.

We have seen the same scenario happen for ten years – an advisor goes to a networking meet-up and comes back excited to plan a trip because many women said they’d love to go. Then, when the time comes to put down a deposit, it’s just crickets. 

Professional women are the worst at committing to these trips and then not following through because, ultimately, we will always put ourselves last.

We think it’s a good idea in theory, but it’s time to put money down to go on our own trip with professional, like-minded women, we don’t do it. The money always has to go towards family trips with the kids, multigenerational trips with the aging parents, the couples’ trip… those will all take priority ahead of traveling with the professional women’s group.  

3. You need a Pied Piper before you plan anything.

Before you start talking to partners and booking anything, you need to identify your Pied Piper. That person who is a center of influence in their group and that others naturally gravitate towards. 

It sounds strange, but the destination is not the draw for these group trips. People don’t want to go because of where it is. They want to go because of who is going. They will sign up when that certain person says, “I just booked a trip, it’s going to be amazing. Who wants to join me?”

If you have a Pied Piper in mind, plan your group trip around where THEY want to go, ensure they are 100% sold, and then build the trip around them. The magic in booking groups comes when you just have to send one email, and then all the spots are filled.

In conclusion, mastering the art of booking successful group trips requires a candid understanding of the hard truths involved. While the allure of personal appeal and destination may seem compelling, seasoned travel advisors know that relying solely on these factors may lead to disappointingly low commitments. By focusing on building strong relationships with dedicated clients and planning the trip around the Pied Piper's preferences, advisors can create an irresistible draw for potential travelers. Embracing these hard truths and employing effective strategies will not only streamline the booking process but also lead to fulfilling and well-attended group adventures for both advisors and their clients.