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How to Engage Your Group

We often say that group travel builds community. But the reverse is also true: Community builds travel groups.

If you want to grow your church’s travel ministry, one of the best ways to accomplish that is to grow the community of potential travelers in your congregation. People are more likely to sign up for your trips if they feel connected to you and the other travelers. And although you can’t be everyone’s closest friend, you can employ some strategies for engaging your potential travelers and helping them feel like valued members of your travel community.

Engagement happens in many different ways, both during trips and when everyone is at home. Here are five proven methods for increasing the connection your travelers feel to you, your church and one another.

1) Newsletters:
The best way to build a community is to communicate regularly with the people you’re trying to engage. You may send out postcards, flyers or emails when you have trips to promote, but you can communicate better by creating monthly newsletters or emails regardless of whether there are trips coming soon.

Use the newsletters to update your members on the trips you’re considering for the future, to share group members’ birthdays coming up that month and to let your travelers know about other events at the church in which they might be interested.

2) Facebook Groups:
If you or your travelers are tech savvy and active in the world of social media, you should consider augmenting your newsletter communications with an active Facebook group. Facebook is the social media platform most commonly used by baby boomers and older travelers, and it allows you to instantly communicate virtually anything you like with group members.

You can use Facebook to make quick announcements, poll your travelers, share pictures and videos, and send out event invitations. And the best part is that your members can respond to you and interact with one another inside the Facebook discussions, creating a much more vibrant sense of community.

3) Photo and Video Sharing:
In the current age of travel, great photos and videos are the ultimate in social currency. People have always enjoyed taking pictures when they travel, but the ubiquity of smartphones makes it easier and more fun than ever to capture scenery, selfies and silly videos in the midst of a trip, and then to instantly share them with other travelers and loved ones back home.

During your trip, encourage your travelers to share their photos and videos via group text messages, social media and other platforms. And you can use services from companies such as PhotoVision to instantly compile your travelers’ photos into fun group videos that everyone will enjoy.

4) Giveaways:
Everybody loves free stuff, even if the freebies are of little value. You can use this principle to your advantage by employing giveaways and contests to help build excitement about a trip. Offer a discount or an upgrade to the first few people who sign up for a trip, hand out small gift cards to travelers who post their photos to social media during a trip or even give rewards to people who can answer trivia questions about the places the group has visited.

If you have frequent repeat travelers, consider creating a loyalty program that rewards them with bonuses for reaching a certain number of trips with your organization.

5) Events:
It’s hard to build a thriving community around events that happen only once or twice annually. So even if traveling is your favorite thing to do with your church group, you can build your community of travelers by holding numerous other events throughout the year. Preview parties for trips you are promoting are an obvious place to start, but not all your events should be focused around trips. Plan a Christmas party, a Memorial Day cookout or a neighborhood service project for your group.

If you want to give potential travelers a taste for what to expect on your trips, consider planning some miniexcursions to ballgames, concerts, theater performances and other fun events. In addition to providing a great night out, these trips will start to plant the seeds of community and encourage new members to consider coming along on a full-length trip.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.