What Trip Operators Need to Know for Group Travel Post COVID-19

What Trip Operators Need to Know for Group Travel Post COVID-19

June 3, 2020 | By Go Galavant

COVID 19 has changed how we think about travel, how we physically travel, and how those of us in the travel industry do business.  One sector of the travel industry that’s been hit especially hard and will need to make adjustments to how they conduct business in the future, is group travel. With social distancing requirements and health agencies encouraging people to stay away from large groups, how do travelers get comfortable again with the idea of sharing intimate spaces with strangers in other countries? Coronavirus will not put an end to group travel, but trip operators will need to adjust how they offer and execute their experiences. The Go Galavant Team put together information to help group trip operators know what’s going on, how it will impact their business, how they can adjust, and where to go for specific information.

People still want to travel, but travel will be different… at least for now

According to a study done by Destination Analysts, one in five say that the first order of business when the lockdown is lifted is booking a trip.  While Skyscanner’s research suggests that 85{64dae39ad4db638b63cd68b16c9094ba83b25ba6b2851c2058408b6a90338b9a} of Americans believe it will be safe to fly domestically by this fall and 74{64dae39ad4db638b63cd68b16c9094ba83b25ba6b2851c2058408b6a90338b9a} think an international flight will be ok.

There’s clearly a desire for travel, but operators need to keep track of which countries are open for business. In a separate post, we’ve outlined which countries are opening for tourists starting this summer.

Airlines and hotels are adjusting to the new face of travel post COVID-19. Check out our posts on the Current State of Travel and COVID travel policy changes for specifics on what airlines and accommodations are doing to protect travelers. 

Changes to the travel process are not only happening on planes, but also at airports around the world. Travel + Leisure reports several places where the airport experience will change. Social distancing, limiting people who enter the airport to passengers only, health screenings, more self-service options in airport, simplified boarding processes, increased cleaning presence, and lounge limits are all items being addressed on the TSA & airlines’ To-Do lists.

Cruise ships were under fire for how they responded to the Coronavirus outbreak, but now they’re taking measures to ensure they follow health & science experts on how to move forward. Travel Weekly reports that cruise line CEOs are waiting for the CDC and regulatory counterparts in other nations before they have definite dates for when cruises will resume. They understand that after health organizations give the ok for cruise lines to resume, ultimately the decision of when it’s best to go on a cruise is up to when society feels comfortable with large social gatherings. 

What can group trip operators do to stay in business

Skift talked with smarTours CEO and provided some thoughts on how group trip operators can adjust to stay in the game while the travel industry adjusts to this pandemic. 

Offer trips with smaller group sizes: Navigating the new face of travel will be easier with a smaller group and Social distancing is easier with smaller group sizes. We don’t yet know how local communities will react to group tourism yet, so keeping a smaller footprint will allow you to be more flexible on the go. 

Work to have more flexibility with rebooking for travelers: Travelers are more likely to book a trip with an operator if they know they have an out should restrictions or the spread of the pandemic change. Operators should work on relationships with hotels, airlines, & others on the ground vendors to have flexibility in their contracts. 

Opt for more outdoor activities: Initially, as people get comfortable with traveling again, outdoor activities will be more attractive to travelers. People have been cooped up for months, so there’s a strong desire to do things that take them outside. It’s believed that with fresh air, breeze, and more space between people, the risk of being infected with COVID goes down when you’re outdoors.

Consider other locations: Although travelers will want to see the main attractions, consider making trips around or at least including, 2nd city locations that are less crowded. Studies suggest that in the short term domestic travel will grow faster than international travel.  If you’re able to, experiment with offering domestic experiences with an international flair.

Prepare your travelers: With everything changing, and changing quickly you can provide added value to your travelers by helping them be prepared for all parts of their trip. Even if you’re not handling their flights, helping your travelers to navigate the new airport experience, or at least be prepared for it, will put you in their good graces and display you as the travel expert that you are.

Operators should be well versed in regulations for the departure, connection, and landing airports and communicate anything to their travelers.  Also, encourage them to get to the airport earlier than before and to check-in online or know how to use self-service kiosks to speed things along.

Communicate price increases: If it costs you more to operate with new regulations don’t be afraid to charge more for a better, safer, cleaner experience. People will pay more if there’s a clear plan in place to appease their fears and concerns.

Lastly, work to promote your offerings with third parties that don’t disrupt your relationship with your customers. When things change quickly a direct line of communication with your travelers will save time, money, and make for a better travel experience.

Helpful resources

In the coming weeks, local governments & tourism boards will hopefully provide more information on how they expect group tourism to adjust to keep communities and travelers safe. As we hear from them, we’ll keep you updated.

While working with other trip operators wasn’t a priority before, it might help to lean on a fellow operator or two to handle the complexities of our new normal.

Safety first- so keeping yourself, employees, and travelers safe should be paramount to everything else. If they’re brave enough to travel with you in the near future, they’ll rest easy and be more likely to continue doing business with you if they feel protected.  As you’re working on your late 2020 or early 2021 trips here are some useful resources to know how you can protect your travelers:

American Hotel and Lodging Association’s new Safe Stay initiative for cleaning guidelines

Airbnb’s new cleaning guide for hosts

CDC notes on domestic and international travel 

List of coronavirus update centers per airline


Check back to our blog for updates to this article and for articles with new information.



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