Experienced travel agents seek out good group leaders. In its most common incarnation, a “pied piper” or group leader is provided with a free or “comp” travel opportunity as both incentive and as compensation for organizing and recruiting others to travel as a group. In some instances, however, the group leader acts as a focal point or celebrity for the group and assumes a central role in the marketing of the travel to others. The travel consultant that consistently and patiently grooms a series of group leaders is establishing the groundwork for regular group travel opportunities. By marshalling the energies of one or more group leaders, the travel consultant both leverages the group leader for a particular trip and also comes into contact with a number of new individual clients.
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Group leaders typically fall into one of two categories: affiliated and spec. The affiliated group leader belongs to an organization or a group of people that share a common interest. As a member of an existing organization, the affiliated group leader’s position provides them with access to and influence with the group. The “spec” group leader is one whose personality, influence or drive to travel makes them a natural recruiter or focus for a group. A local radio personality or yoga instructor might be a good “spec” leader as might an individual who simply delights in organizing groups of people out of their own desire to travel.
Make sure from the outset that the group leader has a clear understanding of his or her responsibilities. If the group leader is to play an active role in administrative and organizing functions, those responsibilities should be very clear. In all instances, it is important that the group leader feels that they are earning their travel in exchange for their duties. In this way, the travel consultant is actually able to leverage the time of the group leader. The role of the consultant does not change, but the group leader, as a focal point of the trip, should play a key role in either the marketing or the administrative and organizational duties.
Good group leaders will provide a focus for the group and insight into how to coalesce the trip’s theme. As an authority figure, the group leader should understand the dynamics of the group and assist the travel consultant in pulling the group and travel theme into focus. Ask any experienced agent – a good group leader is worth their weight. Make a group leader program a part of your own marketing plan.
Exercise – write down the names of two or three individuals you know that would make good group leaders. Seniors make good group leaders as do instructors (think dance schools or photography classes) and teachers. Give these individuals a call and meet with them to discuss the dynamics of being a group leader. Offer your support, and the support of your suppliers, in putting together a trip. A few good group leaders worked into your marketing plan could make a big difference in your bottom line.