It’s the travel agents vs. social media when it comes to how millennials plan their vacations.
Today, a travel consultant is up against the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube—all used religiously by millennials because it’s where the trends live; where they get their news; where they share pictures with friends; and where images and posts are elevated to a level of grand importance by a simple “like” tab.
But have no fear agents, for Contiki Vacations targets the younger demographic, those between the ages of 18 and 35 years old—and has been for the past 50 years. What started out as a tour operator selling solely camping trips to young travelers has now grown into a full-fledged tour company leading travelers into Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America.
“Travel agents have a great opportunity to let the 18-35 market know how valuable and priceless their expertise can be,” says Ashley Woodring, national sales manager for Contiki. “With staff members that are in the 18-35 demographic, Contiki gives agents tools to be able to promote our product using social media and keeping them in the know with the latest trends that matter to the millennial market. We also work with agents that are interested in local marketing opportunities to actually meet and talk to the youth market.”
Contiki’s website resembles a social media site: the design, layout, its Join the Conversation section with dozens of links to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube conversations, videos and posts—all centered around travel news and what’s trending online. “It is important to know and understand what our client’s needs are, so we can make sure the Contiki message and product is clear…we are in touch with the consumer trends and habits of the young millennial market,” points out Woodring.
In April 2012, Contiki launched MeetUp, a mobile version of its website, that allows travelers to chat together before they embark on their Contiki trip, as well as while on the road. “Our travelers feel connected with others when they engage with MeetUp,” says Rita Kelly, Contiki’s marketing director.
In addition to that, last year, Contiki launched its Shout app, which features a group timeline option that allows travelers to “tell their travel story while on their trip by creating an exclusive tour timeline for each individual departure,” says Kelly. The timeline is accentuated with photos, videos, and comments, and is also customizable with the traveler’s specific tour itinerary such as weather updates, city maps, and destination information.
every agent counts
And with its new travel agent incentive program, Every Agent Counts, Contiki is telling travel agents that they are truly an important part of Contiki’s bookings.
“The idea of Every Agent Counts is to let agents know we appreciate and support each and every booking they create,” says Woodring. “It is important to Contiki to have a team out on the road to support trade sales efforts and then reward the agents’ returned support—reiterating that every agent counts. Every agent registered for the program could earn $50 for every passenger they booked in a designated time period.”
This past year, the brand updated its agent-specific website (contiki.com/agents) offering travel agents access to flyers and sales training, as well as tips to help agents snag Contiki’s young clientele. In addition, Contiki expanded its sales team, now known as “Contiki Regional Sales Executives,” focused on handling the needs of travel agents nationwide. “Our regional sales team can also provide social media training and information about how to access the youth market in their area,” says Woodring.
This past year, Contiki expanded its Latin America product to include Costa Rica and Ecuador with the Galapagos. For Europe, Contiki added a new style of traveling via sailboats in western Greece, which was modeled after Contiki’s popular 8-day Turkish Sailing itinerary. “The trips are for smaller groups and a great adventure off the beaten path. We have also launched our latest conservation project as part of Contiki Cares—working with The Sea Turtle Conservancy in Costa Rica,” adds Woodring.
But the brand’s No. 1 seller year after year is the 13-day European Discovery. The reason, says Woodring, “is that it offers what I like to call our sampler of Europe—you get to see the blockbusters like Paris’ Eiffel Tower and Rome’s Colosseum, and the backstreets of Europe, all fitting into a perfect 13-day trip. The other hot sellers this year include Asian Adventure—for the adventure and culture enthusiasts—Simply Italy, Spanish Spree, and Greek Island Hopping.” ●