Select Traveler

JUL-AUG 2016

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48 J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 F or decades, the group tour industry took its demographics for granted: Everyone knew that tours were for retirees. But in today's changing economy, successful affi nity travel coordinators are rethinking those assumptions. The concept of retirement has shifted from what it was even a generation ago. Many baby boomers, who don't have the cushy pensions their parents did, are even after they reach retirement age to bolster their lagging 401(k) ac- counts or to supplement their investment earnings. Today's seniors also are much healthier than previous generations, and many choose to work into their late 60s and beyond simply because they still enjoy their careers and feel like they have more to contribute. As a result, many group tour planners are fi nding the pool of traditional retiree travelers shrinking. In order to keep affi nity travel programs alive and well, it's important to offer products that are attractive to working professionals. In addition to bringing more baby boomers into the fold, these types of trips might also be more attractive to Generation X and millennial travelers, bringing the potential for loyalty programs to reach a broader audience and build a sustainable future. IT'S ABOUT TIME In order to attract working travelers on group trips, planners need to understand what kind of experiences these people want and what kind of resources they have available to pursue them. "Everyone these days is so time poor," said An- britt Stengele, the young founder of tour company Sports Traveler. "What we have been noticing is that the trips that working folks are looking for are shorter C A R E E R C O R N E R be working M A Y S T I L L — usually two nights. Our events are all on the weekends, because they revolve around sports, and every major sporting event encom- passes the weekend." Stengele said that her company's average traveler is 44 years old and male — a demographic that is the polar opposite of the 70-something female population that has driven the group travel market for years. Trips to football games skew younger, while pack- ages for the Masters and other golf events tend to attract a 50+ crowd. And some high-profi le sports tours have a multigeneration- al appeal. "We have events like the Tournament of Roses Parade or the Kentucky Derby which are becoming more family-oriented," Sten- gele said. "We're seeing people want to bring their children along. When that happens, the type of hotel you use becomes very im- portant. Families gravitate more toward an Embassy Suites-style hotel, where you can have more space and close the door between a living room and a bedroom and get more fam- ily members into the room." In addition to fi tting into short timeframes and off ering appropri- ate hotel amenities, Sports Traveler has found that off ering the right kind of experiences is key to suc- ceeding with their target demo- graphic. "Sports travel is actually really popular with working folks," Stengele said. "We have made our trips shorter and more inclusive, so they don't require a rental car. All the transportation is includ- ed, and we usually have a hospitality party at the event. People want to be able to drink, have fun, meet an NFL player and get autographs, all in a short period of time." Keeping trips short helps keep prices low and allows the company to focus its resources on pro- viding great experiences that travelers wouldn't be Top: Beach in Indonesia, courtesy G Adventures Bottom: Travelers by cathedral in Columbia, courtesy G Adventures BY BRIAN JEWELL your new travelers growing your group g row i n g y our group WORKING PROS

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