Always at the forefront of travel trends and adventure travel, G Adventures is well known to the travel agent community and is a preferred supplier to many. But other than the fact that G does adventure, and does it well, what else should we know about the company? We sit down with Aizaz Sheikh, Regional Marketing Manager, Canada, to learn more about the many passions and initiatives of G Adventures.
1. As someone who regularly speaks at universities with tourism programs, can you comment on how important the Millennial market is to the travel industry? Just how influential are Millennials, and why is it important for agents to reach out to them?
Millennials are very important in most industries. And this is certainly true for the travel industry.
Millennials LOVE to travel. And the generation is redefining purchase patterns. They prefer to buy experiences over possessions. And what better experience can you buy than exploring a new culture or region?
They also crave uniqueness, so as an expert, a travel agent can play a huge role in helping them choose their next vacation. A Millennial wants to buy experiences that speak to their individuality, including custom options and extras. A good agent can be the go-to person for all the latest and greatest travel trends for Millennials.
And finally, Millennials stay busy. So they are usually time poor and love great service. I think this is underestimated in the agent community. When agents are competing on price, it’s tough because there can always be somewhere cheaper to buy something. When it’s about service and relationships, it becomes about value, and Millennials love good value!
2. What is G Adventures doing to better engage with the travel agent community?
We are trying to shake things up. We’ve developed a new boot camp-style training called ‘Special Agent G’, which focuses on adventure travel in general, as well as growing agents’ business through groups, social media and storytelling, as much as it does on G itself. We’ve flown agents in from across the country to host this at our Toronto headquarters, as we know our brand culture is strongest there.
It’s no secret that adventure travel is the fastest growing vertical yet there is reluctance from agents to sell the category as they do not have the expertise (or confidence). G Adventures is confronting this issue and breaking down the barriers with Special Agent G to ultimately cultivate adventure specialists.
We’ve also taken our fams to the next level over the last couple of years. We launched the “FAM Club”, which is not just about the seven or 10 days you are on a G Tour. It’s a whole communication and engagement program that starts as soon as your spot on an agent fam is confirmed, and continues long after you are back.
3. How specifically did social media help boost sales for G? And in your opinion, do you think social media is a passing trend or here to stay?
Social media is the modern day Internet. It’s so ingrained in our behaviour that we might not even call it by that name soon, especially the people who grew up with it. Names for different phases of the Internet have come and gone before – the web, web 2.0, social media is the latest one.
But what it is and what it represents cannot be defined by the name! These platforms have helped open up products and brands, adventure travel and G Adventures included, to entirely new audiences. Facebook is today’s water cooler, except it has pictures and video. Far more people have access to what adventure travel is and who G Adventures is, just through keeping up with their friends and family. User generated content does such a powerful job of storytelling what we are all about.
When we are talking specifics, Facebook ads program is one of the biggest areas to target people at a much lower cost than more tried and tested methods. It won’t be that way forever, by the way!
Influencer marketing is also something that has a great upside for companies, and will become a fundamental part of the marketing mix.
4. Virtual reality is all the rage these days. How does the company use this new technology, and why is it so beneficial to agents and consumers?
G Adventures has innovation in its DNA, so of course we have stepped into the world of VR as a leader.
Our first VR project was aboard our new river adventure product in the Ganges, India. It included a CEO (Chief Experience Officer) meeting you to start a tour, and the passenger jumping aboard the boat and setting off on an adventure.
We recently did our second shoot in Peru and added a very G twist to that content, so the agent community should look out for that one.
We are also proud to be a launch partner with Travelweek on the XPLR VR. We are invested and believe in the technology, and the upside it can have in the agent community.
Why is it beneficial? It gives agents another tool to show consumers just how amazing their adventure will be. It gets you even closer to the product, and in an experiential world, anything that can do that is a great tool to use.
5. How would you say adventure travel is different today than it was 10 years ago?
From a consumer behaviour perspective, we have touched on the two biggest changes –
the rise of Millennial customers and how technology has changed everything we do.
Within adventure travel, the industry has come on in leaps and bounds, and we continue to be the fastest growing vertical of travel. You can get to more remote locations, experience new things while getting even closer with local communities and by travelling with G Adventures, guests can give back to those communities too.
Adventure travel has evolved over the years to become more accessible. It’s no longer the domain of the backpacker and adrenaline junkie. For G Adventures, it’s about discovering something new and getting out your of your comfort zone, whether that’s trying a new dish, experiencing a homestay or witnessing wildlife on a safari.