Online Group Travel Bookings - Small Groups Offer Big Opportunities
By Mike Stacy Chief Executive Officer, Groople.com | January 27, 2012
Anthea Gerberg, a married mother of two toddlers from Castle Rock, Colorado, is planning her second annual, she hopes, "Girlfriends' Getaway" weekend. On the heels of a similar trip to Moab, Utah, she's now researching options in Las Vegas. The six moms who have so far committed to go are looking for accommodations that offer a spa, pool, gourmet dining, access to nightlife, and, if possible, no kids.
Her husband, though, isn't complaining; you could say he's getting even. Bob, who runs an employment agency, recently returned from a "Mancation" in Las Vegas with the guys. They didn't seek out a spa or gourmet dining, but golf and nightlife were high on their list of requirements. Now, the guys are starting to plan their next trip: an action/adventure getaway in Los Cabos, Mexico.
The Gerbergs represent the growing number of small group travelers, parties of three or more looking for getaways to meet a specific need or interest. Girlfriend Getaways, Mancations, Historical Journeys (where groups of intrigued travelers go to a historical destination to connect with history), and all sorts of special interest travel groups such as culinary organizations and car clubs, are hitting destinations worldwide to explore their passions with other like-minds.
Growth in the group travel market and leisure travel spending are helping fuel the trend. According to recent Group Travel Research conducted by PhoCusWright, the total groups and meetings market is projected to be $175 billion in gross bookings by 2008, of which hotels can expect $34.3 billion. Among the baby boomer generation, leisure travel alone has increased by 25 percent since 2003, according to a report in USA Today. Generation X, though smaller in numbers, is making up the dollars spent difference by spending more per trip than wealthier baby boomers. In 2004, Xers, the 60 million Americans aged 25-40, spent an estimated $2,140 per capita on travel involving a hotels stay, versus the boomers' $2,016, according to travel research firm D.K. Shifflet & Associates.
This generation of savvy, well-funded travelers is also more likely to go online to research and book their group getaways. After all, this is a generation used to booking their individual travel on websites such as Travelocity and Orbitz or hotel and airline websites. It's highly unlikely that those weaned on online travel sites will change gears when it comes to researching and booking their group travel.
The numbers, too, point toward growth in the online sector. The trend toward booking online continues to grow and is expected to reach 41.8 percent of travel transactions by 2008. The leisure group will be an important player in this growth, with $14.5 billion in sales going online by 2008, of which 36.5 percent will be hotel gross bookings. Smaller groups, between one to nine persons, are predicted to go online rapidly, according to PhoCusWright.