, 1er journal des professionnels du tourisme francophone

Group Tourism: flexibility, intimacy, and freedom, the client’s new expectations

Explanation and figures presented during the MAP Pro conference

The first findings of a global study on group tourism was presented during the MAP Pro conference. It will be followed by a second chapter at the start of 2015. Presented and overseen by Atout France, this study undertaken by Protourisme, reveals that companies are changing their strategy around meeting customer’s expectations. This is a due to the multiple disintermediation possibilities, and the progressive adaptation of some service providers to the new face of group travelers.

Rédigé par Aline Pontailler translated by Joséphine Foucher le Lundi 29 Septembre 2014

The firm detects 5 major elements: flexibility of programs, more relaxed level of activities, freedom in program hours and visits, intimacy of small groups, and originality of offers.
The firm detects 5 major elements: flexibility of programs, more relaxed level of activities, freedom in program hours and visits, intimacy of small groups, and originality of offers.
"Reach 100 million foreign visitors by the dawn of 2000” (versus 83 million today.)

The goal stated by the Minister Laurent Fabius requires, according to Atout France consultants, helping service providers to better understand travelers’ expectations and adapt their offers to clients’ new tropisms.

Here’s a short help guide.

First a definition of the study’s context:

1) a group is made up of more than 10 people and travels for a minimum of two days, excluding business trips.

2) 6,9 million people have traveled at least once in 2013, which accounts for 13% of the French population.
This represents 82 million days, one fourth of in France, and the remainder abroad.

These numbers amount 10,2 billion euros, 1,6 of which in France.

The group traveler is over 65 years old, retired, and middle-upper class

French travelers leave more often but for less time.

The average length of a trip went from 6.5 to 5.8 days in France, and from 10.3 to 8.9 abroad.

Average package rates, between 2008 and 2013, increased from 395 to 453 euros for France and went from 1275 to 1242 euros abroad.

This represents an average expense per day and person of €78 in France and €140 abroad.

On average, the group traveler is over 65 years old, retired, of middle to upper class, with an income higher than average, lives in a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants and usually in the West of France.

Typical profiles

Protourisme revealed 5 types of travelers in order to guide service providers in creating products adapted to their specific features:

- The bulimic, accounts for 34% of clients: He wants to do lots of sightseeing, the unmissable landmarks of the destination, and is a frantic consumer. Not autonomous, he likes to be taken care of at all times.

- The socialite, 25% of clients: exchange and friendliness are his priorities. He tends to live alone most of the year. He likes peer groups, themed-trips, and ambiance is a priority to him.

- The anxious, 19% of clients: needs security, reassurance, a familiar setting. Demanding when it comes to logistics and accommodations. He likes tours that are not too intense with longer stops to avoid having to pack and unpack frequently during the trip.

- The hedonist, 19% of clients: younger, with less income, and refuses obligations. He requires free time during the day and a festive atmosphere.

- The restricted, 5%: a small niche of those who opted for a group trip because they had no other alternative for a particular reason.

Those from this niche often have a higher income and come with high expectations on the quality of services but they also know they wouldn’t be able to benefit from those individually. They require originality, small groups, and an exceptional guidance with great added value.

Consumers’ expectations on a steep rise

The firm detected 5 major elements: flexibility of programs, more relaxed level of activities, freedom in program hours and visits, intimacy of small groups, and originality of offers.

To decode these tendencies, the company based its research on pilot experiments in the 5 sectors.

To state a few, the Slow Cruising from Costa Cruises, with prolonged stops to fully enjoy the visited countries; a bus-driving federation that offers customized programs…

The trend is that people want to leave together, as a group, but once in the destination, everyone should be free to do as he pleases, sports, adventure, museums, mountain-biking, lounging (see Busworld Academy, an informative platform for this type of activity); the ADT of Ariège for instance has put in place products for small groups like family reunions, here again with a range of activities; or the Grande Croisière “à la carte” of Salaün, or even with a Pullman bus from Brest to Vladivostock.

Evolution of trends

Protourisme does not ignore the unclear image of the ideal chain, production, assembly, distribution, but suggests players in the group tourism sector to “deal with it” for now.

In a way of guidance towards success in a confusing landscape, here are a few tips, depending on taste and preferences:

- The increasing difficulty of attaining profitability can be compensated by the creation of technological and commercial synergies.

- Create a network of independent merchants to share the marketing and communication costs.

For example, Oscar, launched this week, is a company that gives coach operators a fully prepared database to establish a customized tour, in their name, and thus provides, without doubt, a gain in productivity and time for the production teams.

- The technological and societal evolution provides greater autonomy to the prescriber. So it is the players responsibility to follow that evolution and cultivate their image as experts on the destination.

- It is important to follow closely the current disintermediation attempts on the Internet, such as Jetbox, that allows anyone to reserve plane tickets for a group.

- Understanding retail platforms such as ProWebCE that develop an individual offer at a group price, stripping traditional group travels of its main draw: the price.

This platform underwent a 1000% growth in 5 years, and consequently, was launched on the stock market.

It is a bit of shame that this study wasn’t communicated in time to service providers who attended the Map Pro, or that it’s not downloadable online, or even printable from Power Point presentations.

But there is no doubt that this oversight, that hinders the study’s efficiency, will soon be fixed.

A second chapter will be published early 2015, and should provide an overview of the different operating approaches of successful players in the sector, news trends in terms of production and major strategic axes to advise taking.

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