In the first part of this article, NTA members shared their ideas about adapting to new travel trends, technologies, and consumer preferences, as well as their tolerance for risk.
In Part 2, we see what members imagine when they look into the future—and anticipate how they will deal with it:
What changes do you see in store for the travel industry?
And how are you adapting to that change?
The Amish Experience | Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania
More groups will want that flexible “I-pick-what-I-want” model. Very few people have been willing to accommodate smaller group numbers, and whoever figures out how to do this well is going to find themselves very popular. That is one reason why the cruise sector has grown so rapidly: A cruise is like one massive group tour that gives everyone immense flexibility.
We are willing to do group rates for smaller numbers, at least for the tour elements we own entirely. And we continue trying to bring our local partners on board and understand the importance of this change in the industry.
Mayflower Cruises and Tours | Lisle, Illinois
It is all about choices. Our travelers are getting savvier, and they do research before they sign up. Make sure that your product is available in the web searches and that the content is good. This means we need to spend more on the internet and are able to track and follow up on leads that we get.
We have increased our budget for web searches and have hired experts who can give us maximum return for the money we spend.
Terra Lu Travel | Homberg, Germany
We’re seeing a trend which I would call “pampered individual adventures.” People want to have adventures and authentic experiences … but in a safe and clean environment. We once had a client tour operator who wanted his group to see a real cheese farm, and we took them to a farm. But afterwards, the tour operator was very upset and complained because the shoes of some travelers got dirty.
We arrange most group tours differently than 20 years ago and provide more options for individual experiences during the day. A group may go on an orientation walk together, but afterwards guests can choose to sightsee by bike, meet a local chef, or tour at a local museum. And then the group meets again in the evening.
Twin Travel Concepts | Kinderhook, New York
Travel has become more necessary and tourism will grow. Therefore, as baby boomers take center stage, they will look towards travel professionals (online or in person) to navigate through the myriad options.
Our travel programs will become more flexible with additional options for each traveler. We will become more online friendly. And we will take care to adjust quickly to economic changes.
Mark Hoffmann, CTP
Sports Leisure Vacations | Sacramento, California
The changing climate is going to create huge transportation challenges and change the way some people perceive travel. (Flight-shaming in Europe is an example). Overtourism is hurting some destinations, and the recent national park issues are based, in part, on the size of crowds at some parks.
Keeping on top of issues that impact us is really important, and NTA gives me those opportunities. The Owner’s Network lets me sit down twice a year and compare problems and new ideas with my peers. For smaller companies, this is particularly important.
Heritage Park Historical Village | Calgary, Alberta
Working primarily with group tourism, I am seeing smaller group sizes becoming the norm. We have adjusted to this trend and, with all the hands-on activities that we offer, we are actually better able to customize and provide great customer service to smaller groups.
Sometimes you have to absorb the costs. We have introduced a minor charge—a flat fee to cover labor expenses—if the group is smaller than 15 paid guests. Otherwise, we have set inclusive tour rates for 15 or more guests so that all activities and value-added activities are included in one price.
Jerry Varner, CTP
Making Memories Tours | Washburn, Missouri
Travelers have a continuing desire for cultural authenticity, uniqueness, and variety in their experiences. To keep things fresh, we must always be looking for those hidden gems that are en route, hidden in the city, or in outlying areas.
At the end of every tour, we hand out feedback sheets, both for evaluating the tour they just finished and for getting their thoughts on other subjects, such as tour ideas, the pace of a tour, and ways we can improve. We make changes and adjustments, and hopefully, they see our desire to serve and decide to join us again.
Food on Foot Tours | New York City
It will get harder and harder for everyone to get advance bookings in the individual market. The upcoming generations have been conditioned to not book in advance.
We are attending NTA and other conferences to increase our group bookings so we are not as dependent on the individual market.
Sports Travel and Tours | Hatfield, Massachusetts
People will still travel in groups, but they desire more flexibility: an FIT flavor within a group setting. While on tour, we will have to make daily offerings to deliver options to our clients. I could see tour escorts swiping payments for admissions on the fly and then dropping off small groups of people at different attractions, with planned pick-up times.
We already make efforts to use hotels in downtown locations to give people easy options to walk on their own to the sites and sounds of that location. If there is a drive longer than six hours, our multi-day/city programs will fly intra-trip to maximize “time doing” rather than bus riding. We also tend to fly into one city to begin a trip and depart from the last city, eliminating mileage to get back to the first city.
Rail Source International | Olin, North Carolina
Train travel within Europe will increase, as trains are more green than flying, and the trains are getting faster and faster. Travel agencies will grow again as agent knowledge increases and younger generations are willing to pay for that information.
We hope to increase our staff’s familiarity with destinations through educational trips, use of local trusted ground suppliers, and other educational resources (webinars). With regards to technology, we are going to implement a new booking system, and in the next few years we will have a travel app for our clients’ itineraries.
Safir Tours | Victoria, Australia
Traditional transportation will not change—air, cruises, rail, and road. What will change is technology within them. Also, artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality tools will be adapted by many and will become mainstream in our industry.
I would invest in new technology to disrupt the playing field and garner new markets but will take a wait-and-see approach before implementing it in markets that adapt slowly to changes.
Visit Durango (Colorado)
People travel with a purpose or want themed experiences. And as more travelers are seeking a customized and localized travel experience, DMOs are often becoming destination concierges.
We already fill this role on a daily basis by making travelers aware of the unique and educational aspects of the Durango area.
Roland Neave, CTP
Wells Gray Tours | Kamloops, British Columbia
I am sometimes amazed at the destinations mentioned in the top 10 lists that National Geographic and Condé Nast publish, but travel is a popular topic in social settings, and it’s exciting to own bragging rights about a place that nobody else has been to. Also, I see the trend towards late booking continuing in the next decade, and this is exasperating. Many hotels do not recognize this trend and are changing their final rooming list deadlines from 30 days to 60 days, which is impossible to meet.
My philosophy is that early bookers need to be rewarded, and I will put up with empty spaces on the tour before I will do a late-booking discount.
Myer Hotels | Branson, Missouri
Thank heavens customers’ interests and desires change gradually, so we get the opportunity to adapt. The cell phone camera and the ability to share photos have made the public more curious about unique places and has spurred visitation to places that were previously undiscovered.
My father, who founded our company, used to say, “The tourists will continue to travel and vacation in the same way as in the past. But, they will want to see different things based on their past life experiences.”
Uno Restaurants (consultant) | Boston
I believe the rise of a global distribution system—already in place in the airline and hotel industries—will emerge in tour and travel packages, giving consumers all the choices, all the time, anytime. I can also see the trend of offering a personalized travel “companion” app with various “must” functions becoming a norm—and probably not on a device like today’s smartphone but something different, perhaps a wearable watch or AR glasses.
One of the reasons I decided to open my own consultancy business comes from wanting to help my tourism industry peers with technology transitions.
To see Part 1 of this article, click here.
Top photo by DepositPhotos/3DConceptsMan