It is easy to understand why J. Chris Babb gets nostalgic when talking about group travel.

Babb is the president of The Group Tour Company, a family-owned and -managed tour company started by his father in 1975. The Washington, D.C.-based company works with travel professionals to design, build and manage multi-day programs for adults and students throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and beyond.

Over the years, Babb and his family have worked with tour planners to build distinctive itineraries that connect travelers to the local community through private activities, which helps set their programs apart from competitors.

The Group Tour Company has built a dependable reputation, with loyal individuals who traveled with the company as students, and then again as adults.

Q. How do you attract clients to your business?

A. The main way The Group Tour Company gets a new client is by a referral from existing clients. We also find new clients by being active in the travel community, attending events such as the National Tour Association’s (NTA) Travel Exchange and our volunteer work with Tourism Cares. 

Q. What is your best travel tip fellow travel professionals?

A: Do not over-program! People traveling on a group tour want time for personal exploration, reflection and time to connect with their fellow travelers. We are big believers that traveling as a group builds an understanding of a community through shared, enlightening experiences.

The Group Tour Company
Photo: The Group Tour Company

Q. How would you describe today’s group travelers?

A. They are more active and looking for light adventure and activities that are participatory. They also are looking for ways to connect with a community through volunteer activities or networking opportunities with local affinity groups.

Q. What industry trends are you noticing?

A. In the domestic market, we have seen smaller group size, shorter booking windows and groups are getting more diverse in their interests, which in turn leads to us building itineraries that provide more flexibility and free time.

In the international market, we are seeing a softening in our numbers due partially to the strength of our dollar, but also out of safety concerns and the presumption that foreigners are not welcome. These last two assertions could not be more untrue, but unfortunately, it is what we have been hearing about why it is hard for the U.S. to compete with other destinations.

Q. What is on your travel entertainment list?

A. Music wise, I have been listening to Lizzo and Maggie Rogers. Also, a good playlist would have to be R.E.M., Pink and Madonna, with some good show tunes mixed in. I tend to read nonfiction, so I always have some books downloaded on history, public policy and politics. I do live in Washington, D.C., after all! 

Q. What is the one cuisine you always need to try when traveling?

A. Street food is a must! And, I am always excited about a good, local IPA! •

The Group Tour Company