Getting into groups is good business for World Travel: Travel Weekly

    Corporate travel has long been a mainstay of global travel in Exton, Pennsylvania. But the agency’s newly launched division, World Group Vacations, seeks to capitalize on current trends toward entertainment by offering several guided tours each year.

    “Groups thrive, because people are ready to go with their friends and family, and they are willing to do something,” said James Keeler, vice president of business development, meetings and events at World Travel. In view of this, he said, the agency decided to aggregate and market such trips to existing customers as well as to new customers.

    James Keeler

    James Keeler Image source: Courtesy of World Travel

    Keeler joined World Travel, #17 on Travel Weekly’s 2021 Power List, during the pandemic. The agency’s previous business mix included only 5% of leisure travel, but noting the high demand for group travel, it took the opportunity to expand further into vacations.

    The agency has formed two groups that will leave this year, with a third group likely in the pipeline. Already in the books are a gastronomic tour through Tuscany and a trip to climb Mount Kilimanjaro followed by a safari in the Serengeti.

    The decision to only offer two rides in the inaugural year of World Group Vacation was intentional. Keeler wanted to create unique opportunities to attract clients.

    For example, the Kilimanjaro/Safari is led by motivational speaker and adventurer Shaun Swarner. Surviving two unrelated forms of cancer spending a year in a medically induced coma, Swarner not only overcame cancer but reached, with one lung, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, beginning with Mount Everest.

    One of the Holiday World Group's itineraries will see guests climb Mount Kilimanjaro before enjoying a safari.

    One of the Holiday World Group’s itineraries will see guests climb Mount Kilimanjaro before enjoying a safari. Image source: Courtesy of World Travel

    Swarner has spoken to World Travel clients in the past when Keeler asked if he would lead the Kilimanjaro trip. Swarner has agreed and will be taking 10 to 15 people on the trip next July as well as pre-training them to be ready both physically and mentally for the challenge.

    “This journey is really for that person who says, ‘I want to get over something,'” Keeler said. I want to do something that has always been on my to-do list. I want to do it for me. “

    World Travel will market the trip through a series of webinars, email and social media campaigns as well as invitations to CEOs of companies the agency works with. Swarner will also share with his fans. It’s a short selling window, but Keeler is confident the unique nature of the ride will fill the seats.

    Later this year, a local tour guide will take a small group across Tuscany to cook, eat, and see the sites. That trip will be led by Liz Mandarino, CEO of World Travel, and her husband.

    “I hope this is the beginning of the CEOs’ future journeys and that you decide to take people to the places you love, share and get to know them,” Keeler said.

    Logo for World Group Vacations, World Travel's new group travel division.

    Logo for World Group Vacations, World Travel’s new group travel division. Image source: Courtesy of World Travel

    Slow recovery of the corporate sector

    For World Travel, the new division marks the beginning of a larger journey in leisure travel as a whole, Keeler said. In the coming months, he will begin planning a mass departure in 2023.

    Keeler said he thinks other players who were previously focused on companies are likely to join the entertainment bandwagon, too. Business travel has been slower to recover than leisure travel. And while the World Business Travel Association said in February that optimism for a return was strong as more business trips were allowed and employees were ready to travel, suppliers still reported that bookings for business travel were just 42% of pre-pandemic levels.

    Moreover, Keeler also believes that the attraction to leisure travel is different and strong.

    “Comfort draws your heart,” he said. “I want to go somewhere, I want to run, I deserve a break, I deserve a vacation. I feel like the gates opened because people were like, ‘I haven’t been out of the house in two years.'” Let’s get something in the books. ”