Group Tour magazine recently surveyed group travel planners to track trends on the climate of group tourism. The final survey question provided the opportunity for operators to tell how suppliers could help as operators return to actively planning trips. When it comes to providing travelers with the best experience, planners and suppliers working together are more successful. Both parties can benefit by following the three “Cs” to build strong planner/supplier relationships.  


Several survey responses focused on the importance of advisors and suppliers connecting with one another on a regular basis, regardless of the operator’s current plans to bring a group to the destination. Over the past year, many organizations experienced staffing changes, and it is imperative for new hires to have introductions from suppliers. Planners are looking to suppliers to continually update on attraction openings, entry requirements and travel protocols. In turn, when travel advisors are booking a group to a destination, they can improve supplier relationships by providing concise, informative communication. Consolidating information about individual needs of travelers within your group helps suppliers organize and prepare for your stay. During the planning process when questions arise, each party in the planner/supplier relationship will benefit from prompt, direct replies.    


Pre-pandemic travel capacities might not be available at some attractions; planners are looking to suppliers for creative solutions with one-day tours and experiences. Travel professionals indicate they are ready for in-person or digital meetings with suppliers to learn what is available for their clients. Planners can help suppliers by learning the basics about a destination. Additionally, sharing why clients are traveling can help suppliers improve the group’s experience. For example, a group of business colleagues will have different interests than a family reunion group. Collaborative partnerships between two organizations can lead to loyalty and help mutually increase each business’ bottom line.  


Coming out of a year fraught with travel challenges, group tour advisors will look to align with suppliers who were supportive and solution-based during the crisis. Advisors are more likely to partner with suppliers who provide user-friendly and clear terms and conditions, because that is what travelers are demanding. Planners are requesting clauses in contracts detailing refundable deposits if COVID-19 causes destinations to close again. Our survey also indicates operators are looking to websites to communicate changes to business hours and limited amenities. Likewise, planners need to understand that suppliers are at the mercy of other travel partners. Planners should recognize that suppliers have the same goal — to have clients who are thrilled with their trips. Suppliers need transparency when planners hear feedback from clients to allow them to understand what went wrong and determine how to fix the problem for the future. 

Travel planners and suppliers depend on one another to make their unique businesses successful. Building strong relationships through understanding, working together and mutual respect helps both planners and suppliers grow their business.  

Are there tips you would recommend to group travel planning colleagues on building relationships with suppliers? Email to share your thoughts.