TORONTO — What’s the best way for a tour operator to get through a pandemic? With help from travel agents.
At least this will be the case for TruTravels, a G Adventures subsidiary that has just announced its launch in Canada. Now selling via the Canadian trade for the first time since its inception in 2012, the U.K.-based small group operator is bringing its range of adventure itineraries – available in four distinct travel styles – to millennial and Gen Z travellers in Canada.
Speaking exclusively with Travelweek, co-founder Mark Pope says that the company’s expansion into Canada was a natural progression, considering how passionate Canadians are about travel and in particular backpacking, a travel style that inspired him to launch the company in the first place after an “epic” visit to Thailand. Noting how the pandemic has given TruTravels the chance to pause and rethink its strategy as it looks to rebuild the business in a post-pandemic world, Pope says there’s no better time than now for agents to hone in on a younger demographic.
“Now is actually the perfect time for agents to look at what their businesses look like before the surge of demand comes rolling in,” he says. “There’s a big opportunity to be selling to younger travellers and our brand is super fun to sell.”
Currently, only around 5% of TruTravels’ customers are from Canada, while the majority are from the U.K. and Australia. But this, adds Pope, is expected to change as the company builds its relationship with Canadian advisors. With much of the travel industry still working remotely due to the pandemic, TruTravels will be hosting online training sessions and utilizing its massive library of online content, which includes training videos and various sales tools.
“We are in it for the long haul and see a huge opportunity to grow the market with our inclusive travel styles,” adds Pope. “We are able to provide the trade with a fun new offering for their customers that’s perfectly suited to what travellers are looking for, and we’re 100% committed to providing as much support and content to help influence and inspire people to travel again when the time is right and countries open back up.”
FOUR TRIP STYLES
Though TruTravels’s operations are currently paused due to the pandemic, when travel does resume it will be ready to welcome Canadians with four distinct travel styles, which Pope says allow agents to more easily market to clients. These include ‘Classic’ itineraries as well as three brand new styles – ‘FitVENTURES,’ ‘SailVENTURES and ‘Flashpacker’ – that launched earlier this week. All small-group itineraries can be booked as a standalone trip or as part of a longer independent overseas experience, and are led by a tour guide, also known as a ‘TruNinja,’ who doubles as the group’s social director.
On how he would describe each style, Pope says: “FitVENTURES capitalizes on the surge in interest in outdoor exercise, which has been expedited during lockdowns and provides people with the opportunity to see the world while remaining health conscious. Flashpacker is for people wanting more comfort and style, upgraded accommodation and less travel time between destinations. SailVENTURES is for people who prefer to unpack once but still explore by boat. And Classic is our OG product offering.”
The new trips will join TruTravels’ ‘Classic’ tours in destinations like Vietnam, Thailand, Bali, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Colombia. The new tours include:
- FitVENTURES: The nine-day ‘Thailand Energize,’ priced from $1,610 per person and including Muay Thai classes, bike rides in Koh Phangan and sunset paddleboarding; and the eight-day ‘Bali Energise,’ priced from $1,530 per person and including beach boot camps, a boxing masterclass and hiking volcanoes.
- SailVENTURES: The eight-day ‘Croatia Sailing Adventure’ is priced from $1,610 per person and includes visits to Split, Mljet National Park, Dubrovnik, Brac Island and Plitvice Lakes. Guests will also hit up party central at Zrce Beach on Pag Island.
- FLASHPACKER: The nine-day ‘Thailand Escape,’ priced from $1,790 per person, visits Bangkok, Railay, Phuket and Phi Phi and includes highlights like a spicy cooking class and rock climbing; the 10-day ‘Bali Bliss,’ priced from $1,790 per person, visits Seminyak, Ubud and Nusa Lembongan and features a toast atop Mount Batur, a traditional cooking class, a surf lesson and paddleboarding.
To ensure the health and safety of guests, TruTravels has implemented a number of new measures, including enhanced hygiene training for tour guides and avoiding major tourist destinations during peak times. The company has also shifted away from large, shared dorms to avoid unnecessary close contact.
WHO TO SELL TO – AND HOW
It’s no secret that backpackers have typically booked travel on their own, without help from travel agents. So what advice would Pope give agents looking to tap into this market now?
Lean into the safety of small group settings, he says.
“For both travellers and parents of younger adventurers, the safety net of a group tour will be a huge selling point as we emerge from this pandemic. Travellers will be looking to agents to offer their expertise on all the different tour options that are available to make sure travel is easy and safe,” adds Pope.
Agents would do well appealing to their ‘boomer’ clients with children and grandchildren who are looking for an adventure. Plus, TruTravels’ action-packed itineraries are ideal for “time-poor, budget-conscious travellers,” says Pope. “There’s a lot of value at a low price – think getting a Ferrari for the price of a Ford. All itineraries offer ‘TruExclusives,’ unique experiences that can’t be booked anywhere else such as dinners on a private beach and ‘live aboard’ boat trips.”
Pope encourages Canadian travel agents to contact TruTravels directly at email@example.com or by visiting https://www.trutravels.com/agents to discuss contract options. Once they’re signed up, they can either connect their site to TruTravels’ API or book through its booking system.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUTRAVELS AND G ADVENTURES
With both brands catering to a younger demographic and specializing in small-group adventures, G Adventures’ acquisition of TruTravels back in 2018 made complete sense. But now with TruTravels’ entry into Canada, a market where the G brand has been firmly established, does the smaller operator run the risk of being overshadowed?
“It’s really important for agents to know that we operate as a completely separate entity to G Adventures, though we do have the benefit of tapping into some of their ‘awesomeness’ in terms of expertise,” says Pope.
Adding that all agency relationships will be directly with TruTravels, Pope says the U.K. brand is much more inclusive than G Adventures and has a “serious focus” on having fun with fellow travellers, whereas G trips offer more flexibility to tailor the group experience with optional activities.
“We have more of a ‘one price, one experience’ approach, meaning everyone on the tour gets the same experience. This takes the burden of budgeting away and also enhances the group’s bond,” says Pope. “Travel isn’t just about the destinations, it’s the people you meet along the way, and as all our group tours place a focus on the social element of travelling together, we guarantee our travellers will make friends for life.”
For more information or to book email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.trutravels.com/agents.