Wrapping up the Niches with Travel Packaging
By Joe Veneto, the Opportunity Guy

For the Maine Lodging Association

Travel packaging is one of the hottest trends in the Travel Industry. Savvy suppliers realize that today’s customers want things wrapped up for them and vacations are no exception. But just understanding the marketplace dynamics, forces and decision making process of today’s customers may not be enough to reap rewards for your property.

Time starved consumers want simple, seamless and convenience when interacting with people and organizations that provide travel products and services. However, they also want vacations and getaways that connect to their interests and affinities.

To increase success from travel packaging, suppliers need not just connect the dots but rather to tap into these interests and affinities of customers. In many cases this involves understanding the motivation behind travel. These motivations are usually tied to niches in the marketplace. Traveler niches may involve large groups of people into certain sports, such as golf or NASCAR or they may be narrower and focus on an activity like quilting or antiquing. All of the above niche categories have travelers attached to them.

In order to uncover appropriate niches for travelers and your property, look first at the strengths of your destination. What are the brands elements, intrinsic qualities and attractions that attract people to your destination? Are these elements part of certain traveler niches, or are they tied to interests or affinity groups? By doing an initial destination inventory you will uncover the strengths available to you for packaging your property.

In addition, look at how people are traveling and who makes up their travel companions. One good example demonstrates this point. In 2003 Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown and Russell a well know travel Trend Company in Orlando, Florida worked with the Disney Corporation. YPB&R analyzed how people were traveling and noticed the phenomenon they termed as “Togethering.” This identified trend involved travelers taking regular vacations with family, relatives and friends on an increasingly frequent basis.

The niche travelers involved in Togethering along with newly created product opportunities enabled the management at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida to create Disney’s Grand Gatherings. These are all inclusive vacations for groups of eight or more. Groups include, families, relatives, grandparents and grandchildren and groups of friends. The packages connect travelers at a deeper level. Since the packages have been introduced in 2003, the program has been extremely successful.

Disney identified the niche segment with research and formulated packages for these travelers that met their needs. This is just one example of how looking at the market and understanding traveler motivation will reap rewards. I strongly suggest that travel suppliers also adapt this Togethering traveler niche to create compelling packages for their organizations.

To increase your success with niche markets you feel are viable for your destination or property, do a market assessment. This involves conducting on-line research into the size of the possible niche segments you are interested in attracting. Ask yourself if the niche travel segment has an association of suppliers or if the service providers are organized in some way for you to contact them. Try also to uncover key characteristics of the niche travelers and any attributes necessary to attract theses visitors.

One example is the golf niche. In doing some quick research, there is the National Golf Course Owners Association in Charleston, South Carolina. They provide economic and demographic studies on the market impact of golf and golfers. In addition, there is a New England Chapter of NGCOA and a Maine Golf Association. Each of these groups will provide added support and contacts to uncover the golf niche opportunities in their respective areas for organizations looking to tap into the niche of golf travelers.

If a travel niche has a major market following, there is normally some type of organizational group that will support research, customer demographics or organizations tied to the niche.

Once you have completed some market research, a destination inventory and a market assessment you should have good information as well as insight into the niche(s) you are exploring. I also suggest doing some competitive on-line research to see how other destinations or travel suppliers are packaging products for the niche(s). Each of the research areas will provide you with insights to increase your success with your own niche packages.

For best results, wrap up niche market segments that have a large audience of travelers. This should guarantee wide market appeal and lots of customers. To differentiate your packages look at how you can create a special signature or value that will appeal to your niche travelers. Many times a little extra effort goes a long way and niche travelers are less motivated by price especially when they realize you really care about them and their travel experience.

For best results, jump in and start testing your niche package ideas. As Nike says, “Just Do It!” You may be amazed at the rewards you and your property will reap.

Joe Veneto, aka The Opportunity Guy, is Principal of Opportunities Unlimited. He collaborates with Destination Marketing Organizations that want to increase visitation and travel suppliers that want to grow their business through innovative travel packaging. He is author of The Travel Packaging System, a comprehensive guide to creating compelling consumer travel packages. He may be reached at P-617-786-9096 or e-mail: joe@opportunityguy.com. His web site is www.opportunityguy.com.

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