From new “experiential” offerings from OTAs such as Airbnb, to fresh techniques for optimising websites, to having a plan in place for a variety of potential dangers – companies leading tour groups for youth travellers have a lot to consider for staying relevant in the ever-evolving market. During a panel session at the World Youth and Student Travel Conference, several of the top tour companies in the youth travel industry shared their best practices and today’s trends for operating one-day and multi-day tours worldwide.

Hot: Content comprehensiveness We’ve all heard the tagline ‘content is king’, but according to Ramsey Kerr, of Dragon Trip, the new buzz phrase is ‘content comprehensiveness’. That is, making sure all your content is extensive, accurate and correctly put into context. It is not good enough to create new content, or even great content.
Man sitting with backpack and phone

Comprehensive content is key to integrating into your search (SEO) strategy. The importance of comprehensiveness continues through the entire booking process. It is not enough to bring traffic to your website, you must also attend to the process of engaging potential clients with your site right through to booking and payment. The transition must be as seamless and stress-free as possible. This is what the panellists agreed the major booking sites are doing very well.

Not: Sustainability ‘greenwashing’ Youth travellers are savvy in identifying lack of authenticity. GoEco’s Jonathan Gilben explained that ‘greenwashing’ for environmental sustainability and token gestures just don’t cut it with the enthusiastic and educated youth travel market. However, while young travellers are concerned with sustainability and social responsibility, timing of introducing certain initiatives is important. Christian Wouters, of Tour Radar, said their organisation recently added a ‘Donate Now’ button to their booking page, allowing customers to donate to a local charity of their choice at the time of booking. The drop off rate from the page was so strong, the button had to be removed. Apparently, customers like to choose when and where they donate, and it is not at the time of acquisition.


Hot: Justin Trudeau Well, not just Prime Minister Trudeau, but Canada as a tour destination. However, the tour operators agreed that a youthful and hip leader, paired with destination driven marketing, certainly helps. The country also celebrated its 150 year birthday and Montreal hit 375 years. The milestones have been marked with parties and events across the country and throughout the year- which is very attractive to young travellers. Additionally, Iceland has stayed strong as a desirable location, even as their currency has started to rebound from a 40% nosedive. Japan and Italy are two additional countries which are back on the radar for backpackers.
Not: Excessive taxation Excessive tax and regulation is always a potential business setback because it can be at a local and/or national level, especially for those tour operators running tours in multiple countries. SANDEMANs New Europe is one example. The walking tour company operates in 16 countries. David O’Kelly, of SANDEMANs, brought up a recent tax hike proposed for Amsterdam, which would raise the hotel costs in the city centre – with the intention of edging out hostel travellers. Amsterdam is not alone in trying to raise revenue by targeting travellers. Auckland, New Zealand also recently passed a hotel bed tax.
Hot: Review site management Long gone are the days of tour operators hoping to receive five-star reviews. Tour organisations now say that clear corporate strategy around the management of positive (and negative) feedback is vital and must be at the top of a tour businesses online marketing agenda. The sites mainly being watched are Facebook, TripAdvisor (for one-day tours), TourRadar (for 3+ day tours) and GoAbroad. And while safety is the main objective for putting risk assessments and response strategies in place, there’s nothing more essential to customer satisfaction than ensuring they are fully cared for in an emergency. Strategy should be in place for terrorism, natural disasters, pandemics, and health- including mental health complications.
Happy traveling tourists sightseeing with map in hand