Insights from the National Tour Associations Travel Exchange (Part Three), with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 310

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I’m sharing more insights from the group travel industry in the third episode of a special three-part series of Destination on the Left episodes from the National Tour Associations Travel Exchange in Reno. I’m excited to share their thoughts on key trends and challenges as we move into 2023.

In this episode, you’ll hear from:

Group Travel Wisdom The National Tour Associations Travel Exchange

I have loved talking with all the amazing, experienced group tour specialists at the NTA about how they envision the future of their sector. During our short interviews, I also asked them about current trends they are seeing in the industry, where their challenges lie, and the one word they would use to describe their experience of the National Tour Associations Travel Exchange. You’ll be fascinated by their answers!

Jim Warren, US Group Specialist at Anderson Vacations

Jim reflects on trends that Anderson Vacations has been seeing in the group travel industry, including the customer desire for smaller groups. He describes how they have leveraged that trend and started to develop smaller group experiences of between 12 and 20 people and why they are keen to move that trend forward.

Lorna Davis, Global Sales Manager at Travel Oregon

In her mini-interview, Lorna talked to me about the number one issue that Travel Oregon is facing right now and how they are moving through that challenge. She describes some of the ways they endeavor to meet the demands of group travel customers despite often struggling with adequate staffing. Lorna also shares the need to be genuinely hospitable and greet guests with a smile no matter what’s going on behind the scenes.
Mark Brodeur, International Tourism & Group Sales Director at Visit Rhode Island

Mark’s word to describe the NTA Travel Exchange is ‘opportunity’. He shares why he loves participating in the knowledge exchange that the event allows and how it helps Visit Rhode Island stay abreast of current trends in the group travel industry. He also digs into some of the trends his destination is seeing right now, including creating personalized experiences within the group travel niche.

Nick Calderazzo, President at Twin Travel Concepts

In our conversation, Nick reveals that his organization is seeing later bookings and reflects on why people are waiting longer to make decisions. He also shares the changes he has seen in the senior group travel market, particularly their growing comfort with looking for and booking their travel online and the need to build unique, off-the-beaten-track experiences.

Peter Pantuso, President & CEO at ABA

According to Peter Pantuso, expectations in the group travel niche are changing. He discusses how they are creating individualized experiences for guests within a group tour and likens the experience to a cruise where people are traveling together but also have the opportunity to split into smaller groups to satisfy different interests. Peter firmly believes that understanding the need to provide something for everyone will be a key theme in 2023.

Ryan Robutka, Senior Manager for Market Development at Via Rail Canada

One of the challenges Ryan Robutka of Via Rail Canada has faced over the past couple of years is doing more with less. He describes how despite their staff being extremely stretched, they have been able to come through and offer the experience that travelers are looking for. They have committed to protecting the core experience their travelers are looking for in addition to catering to some of the more recent trends in the group travel industry.

Todd Read, Trade & Consumer Sales Manager at SoIN Tourism

Todd and I discuss the future of group travel, including the greater need for flexibility. He shares what SoIN Tourism can do as a DMO to help group travel organizations set up fantastic experiences for guests and how their intimate knowledge of their destination can help. As he says, ‘you can’t just sit back and do what you’ve always done.’

2023 and Beyond in the Group Travel Sector

My guests make it clear that the future outlook for the group tour industry is bright, and its evolution is opening up new opportunities for all stakeholders. They highlight the small group trend that started before the pandemic and continues today, and how that trend opens up new destinations in group travel. We also discuss the importance of remaining flexible and continuing to change with the industry, and move through challenges with grace.

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