Sunday,  June 13, 2021  7:25 pm

Book that bubble: Trafalgar, Costsaver's pro tips for closing group sales during COVID

Book that bubble: Trafalgar, Costsaver's pro tips for closing group sales during COVID
From left (of Trafalgar and Costsaver Canada): Anita Emilio, VP of sales; Elizabeth Raposo, groups manager. (Supplied)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

With everyone feeling a little weird these days about interacting with people outside of their social circle, it comes as no surprise to learn that small groups and private tours are emerging as popular COVID-era travel trends.

This is something Anita Emilio, vice-president of sales at Trafalgar and Costsaver Canada and Elizabeth Raposo, a groups manager for the same brands, can confirm.

“People have an appetite for travel, but of course, they are looking ahead and wondering how it’s going to work,” Emilio, alongside Raposo, told PAX in a recent interview.

This is where booking a travel bubble comes into play.

A bubble can be defined as any small group, whether that be a gang of friends, family members or a pre-formed club or association, Raposo explained.

Small groups and private tours are emerging as popular COVID-era travel trends. (Supplied)

What travellers find attractive about this option is knowing the people they’re travelling with and finding comfort in knowing just where those people have been, said Emilio.

In today’s hyper-sensitive world of hygiene and social distancing, this set-up can go a long way in providing travellers with greater peace of mind.

And really, when a small group is travelling together, it’s way easier to agree on where and when to stop and smell the roses.

“You can request a particular restaurant, [for example], and look into it,” suggested Emilio.

Travel advisors, especially, can benefit from group sales because it’s an “easy way to rebuild business” and earn higher commissions, said Raposo.

Getting started

The success of Trafalgar and Costsaver Canada’s dedicated Groups Department in Canada is one avenue agents can investigate when booking private group travel for 2021/2022.

This department, led by a team of four seasoned professionals, helps agents build custom trips from scratch, assemble itineraries, and offers a strong support system.

Trafalgar and Costsaver Canada’s dedicated Groups Department in Canada can help secure that group booking. (Supplied)

The difference between Trafalgar and Costsaver, brands of The Travel Corporation (TTC), is very straight forward.

Trafalgar is an all-inclusive option where guests have their time organized for them. These tours connect travellers to the real depth of destinations, without them needing to worry about a thing.  

Costsaver, in contrast, takes care of key arrangements, such transportation, accommodation and booking a travel director. But guests have more free time to pick and choose what they want to do.

People aren’t cancelling trips

The brands’ private group tours are available on a selection of existing departures to Europe and Britain and North America.

Ireland and Scotland have always been big sellers with small groups – a trend that Raposo believes will continue.

Italy “has always been hot,” she said. France, too.

“The nice thing we saw, from the beginning of the pandemic, is that the groups we had booked for 2020 were more than happy to move their trip to 2021,” said Raposo. “They weren’t dissolving.”

Another trend, as the industry saw this past summer, is group domestic travel.

In Spring 2021, Trafalgar will be launching tours in Canada, such as a Polar Bears in Manitoba tour, an eight-day Canada’s Northern Lights journey and, back by popular demand, a 10-day Enchanting Canadian Maritimes and 14-day Scenic Wonders of Newfoundland, Labrador & Ile Saint Pierre.

“Our domestic trips have become very appealing to people,” said Emilio.  

How to pitch it

One way agents can pitch small and private tours with clients is to highlight Trafalgar and Costsaver’s guaranteed pricing.

There are discounts and savings, too, that come with these types of sales.

Travellers, for one, can get an additional five per cent off from a small group booking, in addition to regular brochure discounts, noted Raposo.

“People have an appetite for travel, but of course, they are looking ahead and wondering how it’s going to work,” said Emilio. (Supplied)

Secondly, if there is a group leader or travel agent escorting the booking, free spots are offered based on how many seats are sold.

Customers are also liking Trafalgar and Costsaver’s $99 deposit offer right now, said Emilio.

“People are more cautious this year and worried about putting down more money,” she said. “The $99 deposit has been a big selling feature, especially for groups. It reserves the spot and guarantees that pricing.”

The breakdown

Trafalgar and Costsaver’s private group offerings are available for an additional charge, as outlined here:

  • 12-15 clients: smallest private group travel option. Clients will have a 30% surcharge on the original tour price.
  • 16-19 clients: middle private group tour option. Clients will have an additional 20% surcharge on the original tour price.
  • 20-25 clients: largest private tour option. Clients will have an additional 10% surcharge on the original tour price.
  • 26+ clients: No additional surcharge, guests pay original tour price for exclusive departure.

Trafalgar’s small group tour packages are also available on a range of existing departures worldwide (maximum of 20 guests to itineraries to Africa and Asia and up to 28 guests across Europe, Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand departures).

Recommended tours for private groups include Trafalgar’s European Dream journey and Costsaver’s 10-day Britain and Ireland Delight tour.

And Italy, as mentioned, is very popular. (See Trafalgar’s 13-day Best of Italy adventure).

Health & safety

“We really do always have guests at the forefront of everything we do,” said Emilio, speaking on Trafalgar and Costsaver’s COVID-19 travel protocols.

Their strategy, developed in collaboration with the The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), is as detailed as one would expect. 

The plan includes new hygiene and physical distancing guidelines and on-road protocols, adjusting guest numbers on trips and ensuring partners/suppliers agree to guidelines, too.

TTC, notably, now includes a dedicated Wellbeing Director on every Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold guided vacation. (More on that here). 

Trafalgar, for one, includes a Wellbeing Director and Travel Director on group bookings of 20 or more people, said Emilio.

“When agents are coming to us, they know they’re travelling with a known and trusted brand that will do all the things we should do,” she said.

Looking ahead

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to the travel industry and to travel lovers everywhere. However, despite the challenges, there is still a silver lining to be found, said Emilio.

“It has given us an opportunity to look at what we do and really evaluate whether we need to change how we do things in the future,” she said.

“We know people are just waiting to travel and that’s exciting.”

Trafalgar and Costsaver’s dedicated groups team can be reached at

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