Comment: Is age important?

Wendy Hartley-Scarff, chief executive of the Association of Group Travel Organisers, says the group travel sector must rise to the challenge of changing demographics.

Returning to the group travel sector in my new role with Association of Group Travel Organisers, I foresee challenges ahead in engaging with the mainstream travel sector – linked to perceptions and changing demographics.

We know we are living younger lifestyles, and we are fitter and more active; the current 60-year-old feels at least 10 years younger!

This has resulted variable behaviour and higher expectations as groups seek experiential opportunities and more imaginative itineraries.

Lifestyles have changed and a hunger for curiosity and learning has increased. We’ve finally witnessed the arrival of the “bragging factor”.

Our members continue to embrace these trends by introducing creative options that could transform an itinerary.

Once you have the relevant product, you can choose to adopt new markets and target your communications.

I see this as a start of the change process in growing new members, increasing appeal for groups and changing perceptions.

Millennials have their own preferred forms of communications with personalisation and sharing at the top of the list.

It stands to reason that to engage with this market, we need to improve our social media skills, show attention to detail in not just how we communicate, but what the key messages deliver, to stimulate engagement.

The cruise sector has achieved success in transforming its product and changing perceptions and many mainstream travel industry businesses are well on the way.

They have risen to the challenges they faced and have developed products and itineraries to excite and attract a completely different demographic, therefore creating travellers new to the market and indeed encouraging competition to meet the new demand.

Can our group sector rise to the challenge?

A commercial approach is needed for any organisation and for member associations where membership revenues are key to survival, I welcome the opportunity of driving a strategy that influences choice and delivers success.

Picture credit: Steve Dunlop.