ABTA conference hears about state of groups market
Delegates at ABTA’s Group Travel and Escorted Tours Conference at Japan House in London were told that the market is highly lucrative for agents to ‘target and tackle’.
Despite this, they were told it is often difficult to break into. During an overview session of the market, Laurence Hicks, managing director at Tour Hound, said: “Group travel organisers rarely come to you, you have to go to them and you’ll find them if you look hard enough”, explaining that Group Travel Organisers (GTOs) have to be sourced and agents need to research their communities.
The market, is defined by being divided into different sectors and of those, the largest is Retirement Clubs at 30%. It continues to dominate the market with 75% of the group sitting within the 65-74 age bracket. Overall, the core market consists of over 55’s. “The post-work population loves to travel”, Hicks continued.
Key trends reveal that 82% of tours are evening / day trips, 8% are short breaks and 10% are long breaks which is increasing in popularity. On average, group travel spend per passenger sees day visits at £54, short breaks of 1-3 days at £264 and long breaks of 4 days or more at £745.
Educational group travel is growing following a decline in the 80s. It’s currently at 10% of the market share and within it, ski, language and culture tours dominate this sector.
There’s also a ‘huge’ demand for adventure and experiential tourism. Brian Young, managing director – EMEA, G Adventures, said: “People want more experiences, rather than stuff. That’s what’s driving this sector massively and creating lasting memories. If you are an agent, there’s huge opportunity.”
Young said millennials, who use social media to document their experiences, are fuelling this type of tour. Generation X is also contributing to the rise as they want to see more things and immerse themselves in culture, whereas, for Baby Boomers, he said: “The older generation is actually getting younger in terms of what they want to do, they want to create lasting memories.”
The destinations where group tours are becoming more popular are Asia and South America; Europe is falling in popularity, although Croatia is performing well. Other emerging trends are the growth of self-guided tours and solo travellers choosing group travel. Speaking at the conference about self-guided touring, Andrew Appleyard, head of international sales & business development, Exodus Travels, gave an example of a recent booking at the company for six people amounting to £64,000. He said: “The repeat market is huge for these trips and this is an untapped market for agents to get into.”