Custom groups offer agents a big opportunity, says The Travel Corporation sales and business development director, UK & IRE Rachel Coffey

Pivot – it’s been the buzzword of the pandemic. We’ve all had to become soothsayers of sorts; trying to establish what destinations will be available for international travel; what customers will be looking for in the coming weeks, months and years ahead; and most importantly how we adapt our product, our language, our method to our ‘new reality’.

The brands that are going to come through the other side of this with their market share and customer base intact are those that have innovated, and I’m confident that at Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold and The Travel Corporation’s wider family of brands, we’ve done just that. In fact, something that has been reassuring to us in many ways is that many of the innovations were already in progress – Covid-19 just meant we had to push the foot harder on the peddle.

One big opportunity that we see for our brands, for our agent partners, and for our sector as a whole, is the concept of custom groups. And this week happens to be our Groups Week, so it’s timely to be talking about it.

Along with our sister brands Trafalgar and Costsaver, we launched Groups Week to help support agents realise the potential of groups business in a variety of forms – smaller groups, bespoke groups, bring your own bubble groups, special interest groups.

Come the end of 2020, ask any client what they missed this year and I’ll put down a confident bet the list will include ‘spending time with extended family and friends’ and ‘the freedom to travel’. So it seems a no-brainer that anyone puts these two needs together will be in a strong position to harness that pent up demand.

The good news is that we’ve been doing this for a long time through our extremely experienced Custom Groups team. Now we anticipate them being busier than ever, as agents find they’re without the time and resource they once had to dynamically package trips themselves. We can take the hassle away, so all that agents need to do is tell us their clients’ needs, interests, group size and budget, and we can put together the rest. We’ve curated trips for yoga and wellness in India, religious pilgrimages across Europe and the Middle East, gardens, art and foodie themed trips in Europe, science and space trips for school groups in the USA, wine trips in California and much more. Our message is that (almost!) anything is possible.

Groups business means more volume from one sale, which not only means commission is easier and more lucrative, but also that you can lavish one key point of contact with incredible care and attention, translating into loyal, repeat customers.

We see this being a huge opportunity moving in to 2021 and beyond, but of course all this has to be underpinned by reassuring the guest and building that confidence that their health and well-being is in safe hands. This is a fundamental for any guest travelling in a post-pandemic world. That’s why we have put in place another innovation – an industry first – the role of our new Wellbeing Director. For groups of 20 or more, our Wellbeing Director will be on every trip supporting the guests and on-the-road team and ensuring that all the enhanced protocols are being adhered to. A new video to support agents in articulating this new role to their clients is available here, and we hope that it can help agents to reassure their clients that their health and safety is paramount. As an industry, we have to come together to get that message across.