Know the customer
First, you have to examine your potential faith-based travelers to determine what kinds of trips they will be most interested in.
What age are your customers? Most older groups have different capabilities than youth-focused trips. Older groups may want sit-down activities, such as taking a train ride, while younger groups may want to add some adventure travel to their tour, such as a zip line experience.
For a group of mixed ages, you might want to look for a family-friendly museum that appeals to all people. Service projects added to the trip should also be carefully chosen so everyone can participate despite different capabilities and levels of experience.
Another good question to ask is: Do I have aspects of my tour that will appeal to both men and women? For example, if you include an art center or shopping excursion aimed mostly at attracting women to the tour, be sure and also include a baseball game or a similar activity that might attract men as well.
Continue to gain new trip ideas by polling your group members while on other trips. Find out if they are more interested in day trips or vacations farther away. One of the biggest issues many of your faith-based customers will have is their budget, so try to research where the travel deals are. This will help you narrow down your search of possible destinations, so you can offer a trip that your group members can afford.
Finally, it’s important to make sure the trip will allow the group members to enjoy themselves. Don’t plan a service mission trip that is only focused on something tragic. Ensure that your volunteer opportunities are ultimately uplifting so the group members can feel like they have made a difference.
Additional fun excursions woven into your trip’s itinerary, such as theme parks, hiking trails or engaging museums, can also help your faith-based group experience some fun fellowship.
A good way to achieve a positive trip is to set the tone of the trip before you leave, so people will expect to have fun and meet new friends along the way.
An ongoing education
Part of being a travel planner means you can never stop learning about new destinations and attractions. Explore travel sites on the Internet and keep a library of travel brochures and magazines.
If you plan day trips, remember to also stay in contact with your local convention and visitors bureau (CVB) to stay up-to-date with your local area.
Watching marketing trends is another way to attract people to your faith-based trips, since more media advertisements means people will be more likely to respond.
Once a year, the Going On Faith Conference provides a great opportunity for faith-based travel planners to learn about new destinations. Religious travel planners network with CVBs and tour operators who all want to cater to the faith-based travel market.
Conference attendees not only pick up trip ideas, but they also learn about industry trends at scheduled seminars.
It is vital you know the destinations you have selected inside and out before sending a motorcoach full of travelers there. Try to minimize unwanted surprises by staying in touch with local CVBs, who are experts on their own territories.
Their expertise can also help to recommend restaurants, hotels and other attractions that your group might love.
If the option is available to you, it is also helpful to visit the destination before the trip to get firsthand experience there. Familiarization tours (or “FAM tours”) are often offered by CVBs and tour operators for this very purpose. They can give you peace of mind that your trip will be a happy memory for your faith-based travel group.