Re-Capping “Connect with Domestic Tour Operators” Almost 300 travel and tourism professionals watched and listened to Connect Travel’s recent webinar featuring a discussion with two well-known domestic tour operators: Julie Gagnon, general manager, Jolly Tours and Travel, which is a predominantly senior group leisure operator is headquartered in Cornwall, Ontario, about 65 miles southwest of Ottawa; and Dennis Lyons, assistant vice president-coach & tour group, for New Britain, Connecticut-based DATTCO, best known for its presence in the student travel market.
“These are motorcoach companies,” explained moderator Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel and general manager, Connect Travel Events. “There are different challenges that both of these companies ae facing when they trying to figure out how they’re going to roll again.”
Top Takeaways: Following is a summary of the principal themes or messages that came out of the session.
1. Promote Consumer Confidence
Customers will need to feel safe before choosing to travel again. Tour operators feel cleanliness and safety messages will help promote consumer confidence.
“We’re going to be driven by consumer confidence, and I don’t know when we are going to see the return of that,” Gagnon noted. “Consumer confidence It is going to be at the crux of all of this. When do people feel comfortable to travel, how far do they feel comfortable to travel to?”
Added Lyons: “That’s where our focus has to be. How do we get the consumer confidence back? … We’ve got to do the things that give them confidence to travel.”
2. Get Involved
The U.S. Travel Association, American Bus Association, and Ontario Motor Coach Association are advocating for policies that will advance our industry on the national level. Unrealistic regulatory issues for motor coach tour operators, border regulations, travel insurance, and varying rules for individual states and provinces are concerning. Work with your tour operator clients and industry associations to get the tools, research, and resources needed to influence change at national, state, province, and local levels. “Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness” will be held on May 13 in Washington, DC. For information on how to get involved visit www.BusesMoveAmerica.com.
Said Lyons, “One voice is stronger in Washington,” make sure we have one very loud voice in Washington DC.”
Bailey also suggested to the nearly 300 people who attended the webinar: “ If you do want to get involved, go to the ABA site (www.buses.org) , go to OMCA (www.omca.com) or go to US Travel.org (https://www.ustravel.org/); they have a great tool kit set up so that you can download information for your local area.”
3. Find the Right Tone
When and how to begin promoting your product or destination can be tricky. Consumers represent varying tourism verticals and geographic markets so they prioritize differently. Tour operators and suppliers can share messaging to help promote each other. Ultimately, keep pushing the travel message.
“We don’t have to continue to beat the horse with a stick,” observed Gagnon. “We’re talking about people’s leisure dollars. They don’t have to go on vacation. They choose to go on vacation, and allocate dollars in that way. We don’t need that vacation to be a continual, stressful event. … That’s what we have to do as an industry—we have to cover all the rules, but keep them having fun or they’ll choose not to spend their leisure dollars with us.”
4. Connect and Communicate
Tour operators need information. Send messaging related to opening your business or community, updated contacts, hidden gem itineraries, or special offerings for tour and travel providers. Create virtual product training, site inspections, and fam trips.
Asked to what extent she welcomes such information, Gagnon said, “I always say yes. Like many people in our position, I have decades of worth of ABA conference binders and OMCA binders, but that information is only as good as that time frame. So, yes. We welcome new information. We don’t want to miss something good.”
To view and listen to the webinar, click here.