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How to Grow Your Group

How important is growth to your organization?

If you plan travel mostly for fun or personal satisfaction, you may not think a lot about whether your group is growing. After all, if the group is going to disband when you’re no longer able to travel, why invest in long-term sustainability?

If, however, you believe that travel is an important part of your church or organization’s greater mission, you should be interested in setting your travel ministry up for long-term success. A vibrant travel program that outlives you can be a part of your legacy and your church’s impact in your community.

To enjoy long-term success, your travel program needs consistent growth, both to replace the members who can no longer travel and to expand your reach and impact. Growth is exciting, but it doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes growth takes effort and long-term investment.

If you want to reach people you have never reached before, you’re going to have to do things you have never done before. With that in mind, here are six strategies you can use to grow your group. Each can be modified to fit your specific skills and personality. Taken together, they can help jump-start growth that will carry the mission of your travel group for years to come.

1.  Automate communications.

If you want to get more people to come on your trips, one of the best ways to start is by reaching more people with your invitations. Taking advantage of some simple technology tools can help you do that.

One of the most effective methods is blast email. Relying on phone calls, newsletters and catalogs limits how you reach travelers because each of these activities is time intensive, and your time is limited. Emails allow you to reach a wider audience at a lower cost and with less investment.

Messages don’t have to be long and complex; they can be as simple as a few sentences and a picture from a place you’re going (or have gone). They can be quick, too: With a little effort you can use services such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp to set up campaigns that will send a series of messages to anyone on your list.

2. Offer incentives.

People who already travel with you can be your greatest marketing force if you encourage them to bring their friends and family members on your trips. Incentives help leverage their influence.

Offer incentives to your current travelers for bringing new people on trips. This can be something simple, such as a Starbucks gift card, or a more elaborate gesture, such as a room upgrade or even a cash referral bonus. You can also offer incentives directly to first-time travelers to help them see the value in trying out your trips.

Another option is to create an incentive program for frequent travelers. For example, people who travel with you four times might get an upgrade or a discount on their fifth trip. Or give frequent travelers extra input on the trips your group takes next year.

3Enlist influencers.

Your travelers love spending time with you, but people that don’t know you well might be more persuaded to join the trip if there is another influential person coming along. You can often attract increased interest in a trip by enlisting a high-profile, well-known personality from your community to come on the trip with you.

Many church travel groups have found success in bringing the pastor or other member of the church staff along. Joining the trip gives members an opportunity to spend time with these important people.

If you’re working with a tour operator or a hotelier that offers comps, you may be able to use one of your comps to host this person on the trip free of charge, which will go a long way toward convincing him or her to come with you. If you don’t have comps, consider offering the person a free or discounted trip by slightly increasing the cost for other travelers.

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.