Travelers weary of lockdowns are looking for new ways to get out and about. The summer of the road trip has come to an end, and we are now entrenched in “Stretch Season,” which finds travelers looking for adventures well into the fall and people taking advantage of countless work-from-anywhere deals.
But what about group travel? That is coming back, too.
Obviously, social distancing means that it is not on the table presently, but youth travel operator Contiki sees a rebound from pent-up demand.
“That’s our expectation. We question and talk to people regularly and external surveys say the youth travel market will rebound faster than others,” said Contiki CEO Adam Armstrong. “They can rationalize the risk without a vaccine. They want to experience the real world after living in the virtual world.”
Bringing this reality to life is a lot harder than it looks and a logistical nightmare, and Contiki has safety top of mind.
“It is quite complicated,” he said. “We can’t operate until it’s safe for guests and then not until experiences are open. A lot of places are open and a lot are still restricted and that keeps moving and changing.”
However, out of all this, Contiki has taken the time to re-envision itself for a changing demographic. While these efforts were ongoing before the pandemic, the tour operator has taken advantage of this pause to plan for a post-COVID world.
“Contiki is continuing to evolve,” said Armstrong. “I think that you will see elements in the relaunch. We will continue to operate core programs and new shorter products.”
The tour operator is looking into more domestic products in the U.S., particularly shorter trips for the American market.
“We have half a dozen trips ready to go,” said Armstrong. “We may start operating them in spring of next year. Our top two states are New York and California but who’s to say we couldn’t do more around the U.S. All options are open at the moment. We just need to cater to those who want to travel internationally and those who want to stay close to home.”
Armstrong notes that Contiki is ready for whichever direction the market goes.
“A brand like Contiki is able to pivot pretty quickly to whatever the market wants,” he said. “We don’t offer the same trips today as when we started.”
Ultimately, down the road, Armstrong sees Contiki increasing its American footprint.
“The brand is going to be bigger,” he said. “We need to find more American travelers. We want to triple the number of Americans that go with Contiki, that’s the goal. We know we are underrepresented in America, and we know it is our top growth market globally. That is kind of the end game, is tripling the size of the business.”
Plan on hearing more from Contiki as well.
“We are going to have to invest in the trade and our marketing, and we have to provide the right products,” noted Armstrong.
Contiki is beginning to make inroads in America already, combining its sales team with sister company Trafalgar to reach more markets.
“This triples the number of salespeople we have out in the field,” he said. “They are currently working on training and rollout.”
Some of the journeys currently available for travel with Contiki in the U.S. are trips to national parks, the U.S. South and the Pacific Northwest.
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