Published September 20, 2016
One hundred things are going on at once. You’re directing the motorcoach driver, calling the museum to make sure they are ready for your group and you casually hear one of your passengers ask which side of the bus should get off first. You might brush this comment off and quickly answer.
However, a good listener would realize that this comment is about more than just hassling you when you’re busy. It is a tell-tell sign that your church group likes strict scheduling and structure.
An important part of successful group travel planning is really listening to your group. Not just the words, but what preferences the words reveal. They can help you uncover what type of faith-based group you have so you can better create a trip that suits their general wants and needs.
While on a trip or interacting with your church group members, be sure and stay especially alert to certain topics. For example, learn how much of your group prefers more itinerary structure of flexibility. Or if you have a mix of both, you can plan your trip accordingly and have a set plan that group members can choose to follow or not.
Typically, younger travelers want more schedule flexibility. They can avoid group travel altogether for fear of not being able to go explore a local shop that caught their eye because they are caught in a schedule with no room for spontaneity. If this is the case for your travelers, be sure and build some time in for those who want to wander.
Statements about food preferences should also always grab your attention. Many travelers want more food choices nowadays, instead of choosing between the fish and chicken. See how your group responds to more choices on group menus or a voucher system where they can order anything they would like with a pre-paid voucher.
Church group leaders should always stay on alert for destination suggestions, especially. Some members may want to see the world, while others may only like motorcoach trips. Knowing what people think, even if it contradicts what others have said, can only help. Many planners will alternate types of destinations so all of her members have a tour that fits their needs.
How to Listen
Though some group members will give you an earful about what they think, you may have to seek out the opinions of many of your members. Always listen during all of your personal interactions with members before, after and during your tours. Ask what they thought of this or that to their face to get a read on what they liked and didn’t like when you get a chance.
Other than these face-to-face moments, one of the best ways to understand the likes and dislikes of your entire group is through surveys. Send out a survey after the tour, but before everyone goes home to make sure they fill it out. Waiting and mailing it when there is less pressure for them to fill it out will only mean you have less surveys.
So after the farewell dinner, hand out trip surveys that relate to every aspect of the trip they just participated in. Leave room for comments and future destination suggestions.
You can also send out more generalized surveys to your members to see what types of trips they would like. That might produce responses from people who have never traveled with you before, so you can learn what trip might entice them. Again, mail or email will work, but your best responses will come if the group is with you in person to fill these out.
Other group leaders appoint panels of loyal travel members who meet regularly to discuss their preferences and destination ideas. This can be another way for members to stay involved in the travel organization, which helps build club loyalty.