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How to Ride the Silver Wave

Isn’t it time your church group began traveling again?

After more than a year of pandemic conditions that kept the majority of travel organizations off the road, it is now safe for groups to venture out again. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely travel without worrying about contracting or spreading the virus.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many people believed that group travel and any travel involving older people would be the last segment of the tourism industry to recover. But the reverse has turned out to be true: Because older Americans were among the first to be vaccinated, they were also among the first to begin traveling again, launching what some experts have called a “silver wave” of senior travelers.

The silver wave represents a great opportunity for you to get your church group traveling again. But making the most of it will take a bit of bravery, flexibility and creativity.

1Resume Your Gathering

Churches across the country scrambled to find ways to minister to and connect with their communities when in-person gatherings shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, many churches have managed to safely reopen for in-person services. If your church has yet to do so, now is the time to let your leaders know that you’re ready. Meeting in person will instill confidence that it’s OK to spend time in groups, which is a prerequisite for group travel. If your church is already meeting in person again, make sure your choir, Sunday school class, youth group or other constituency of travelers begin gathering together too.

2. Reset Your Thinking

A year is a long time, long enough to create new routines, habits and thought patterns. And in the year-plus that the travel industry has been dealing with pandemic conditions, many of the protocols and processes we first thought of as temporary have firmly entrenched themselves in our minds. While that’s understandable, it’s also dangerous because a tentative, wait-and-see attitude will hold you back from riding the wave of travel’s return. While the pandemic dominated our collective minds in 2020, it’s time to reset your thinking to a mindset of post-pandemic prosperity. It’s time to stop thinking about the risks and, instead, focus on the rewards that travel offers for your faith community.

3. Refine Your Messaging

Recent studies have consistently shown a huge demand for travel, especially among consumers who have been vaccinated. But many people are tentative to book the trips they want to take because they’re unsure about what the travel experience will be like. To ride the recovery wave this year, you need to cut through the confusion with strong, clear messaging: We are traveling. Don’t emphasize restrictions and safety measures in your communications; everyone already knows about masks and hand-washing. Instead, highlight the great experiences your trips will offer.

4. Rebuild Your Itineraries

If your go-to trip itineraries were created more than two years ago, they’re probably out of date and inaccurate; so it’s time to create new itineraries for your church with great travel experiences that are currently available. Check in with your destinations and suppliers to make sure the information you’re publicizing is accurate. If this is your first tour since the pandemic began, consider a shorter one to a destination close to home to help your customers ease back into travel. This is also a great year to focus on domestic trips, since many international borders are still closed.

5. Restart Your Sales

When the pandemic hit, many organizational leaders pressed pause on their sales efforts, especially travel sales. And though that decision was understandable a year ago, today is different. To ride the silver wave in 2021, you need to start actively selling. Start a person-by-person campaign to reach out to existing members, especially the ones who are eager to travel. Touching base with church members should already be part of your ministry staff’s game plan for regathering in person. You can offer to help them by contacting the potential travelers and others among your group. Invite them back to church and, while you have them on the phone, tell them about the trips you’re planning as well.

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.