Group Trips – Better Value

This is a transcript of an interview with James Bailey of Castaways Travel on the subject of Group Trips.  
You can listen and download the audio portion right here.

Group Trips Better Value More Fungroup trips - better value castaways travel

Robert:                    Okay. Hi, everybody. This is Robert with Castaways Radio, and my guest today is James Bailey, one of the owners of Castaways Travel along with Donna Daniels. James is our guest today, and our topic is group travel. First, I want to say, welcome James. Why don’t you say hi to the people?

James:                     Thanks for inviting me to your podcast today. How can I help you?

Robert:                   Well, you know, I’m fascinated by this group travel better value concept, but I had to get past my image of somebody holding up a sign and people following this person around and seeing all of Europe in seven days or something like that. Meeting at the same airport. Maybe you could disabuse our listeners of some of those concerns and describe what group travel really is at Castaways.

James:                     Well, most people have the misconception that it’s exactly the definition that you mentioned. People think that they have to go to a certain airport and meet at a certain time to get on a certain plane to go to a certain resort for a vacation all together all at once, and that’s not necessarily true. Most of the types of groups that Castaways does and represents that’s fairly common for what I would call European or Australian or foreign travel where you are working with someone that pre-reserves a coach and in some cases pre-reserves and charters an aircraft and so forth. Our definition of a group is not necessarily hand-holding from the airport, is a group if you will that gets together or meets or is organized by a host couple at the resort.

                                    The only exception to that would be if you’re talking about cruises. Obviously, a cruise group is a group of people that decide to go on a trip or on a cruise at the same time on the same ship. That would apply to what I’d call your classical view of what a group is. In our case, we’re going to define really a group as a resort type of group where Castaways supplies a host couple on site at the resort to provide services while people are there. How a group typically is defined there is we establish a group date and a location and a resort on our website. We promote it, we send it out by email and newsletter and Facebook and all the social media. The host couples themselves typically are selected by Castaways. In many cases, they come to us for a request to put together a group.

                                    What that means is we go to the resort. We do a contract up, we sign it. We pay for the inventory that’s going to be taken off the shelf if you will and turn around and sell that and provide it to our listeners and our clients, our host couple people, to folks that want to join in a group at the resort altogether. They do not have to take the same plane. They do not have to arrive at the same time. It’s basically a period of time where people get together at a certain resort hosted by our host couples for a meet and greet, get together and so forth. That’s slightly different than what most people think of as what I’d call an escorted tour. It’s hosted but it’s not escorted.

Robert:                  For the people that are joining in on the group itself, are there savings with the group trip? I mean, is that the primary benefit or one of them?

James:                     Well, there’s several different benefits of a group. In this case, I’m going to call it again a resort type of group. In many cases when we go to organize and negotiate a group, typically that’s done with a contract where we agree with the resort to take a certain portion of the inventory. We pay for that inventory upfront, so that’s a saving. They also typically if it’s a volume type of a contract, usually those contracts sometimes pricing advantages are up to 25%, maybe even more than that compared to an independent tour. In addition, and in a lot of cases, a lot of locations and resorts, Castaways also provides other amenities. It provides onsite hand-outs if you will, bags, beach bags, pens, koozies, things like that. Also, in many cases, Castaways package includes roundtrip transfers, which is the airport, a bus from the airport to the resort and back on a roundtrip basis. It is a saving from that standpoint. We have some people that go on these group trips only to use the fact that Castaways brings to them a better price than buying it online.  This really is group trips better value in action.

                                    In many cases most of our people, I would say 95% of them that book into a group date are there for the socializing and having fun together and having somebody on site that has been to the resort before, that’s available for questions and for organizing off-site excursions and things like that.

Robert:                  If you’ve never been to Hedo and you want to go with a group of friendly faces, this is a great great way to do that. I mean, you’re going to save money. You’re going to save money, but you’re also going to be able to take advantage of having a built-in bunch of friends.

James:                     Well, that’s true. The other thing that you got to remember is in many cases these host couples and most of them have either a chat group, a Yahoo group, a Facebook group page of some kind that’s typically on a secret basis. With anybody that books with Castaways, we take their emails and with their permission, give it to the host couple and the host couple then, in turn, invites the folks to come on the Facebook. By the time many of the people get to the resort and meet each other for the first time, they’re already friends. Maybe they talked by phone if they wish to and they divulge that information, or they’ve friended themselves on Facebook in the private secret group that’s typically set up for most applications.

Robert:                  That sounds like a pretty good deal. If you’re going to go on one of these things, a group trip seems like the way to go. Do you have to participate with the group? I mean, there really aren’t any mandatory meetings. Right? I mean, people can do whatever they want.

James:                     Absolutely. The biggest misconception is you have to meet your camp counselor 10:00 in the morning and you’re going to go catch butterflies and then you’re going to go on a catamaran and then you’re going to go do this. That’s not true at all. The resorts typically have many kinds of activities during the day and night, theme nights and so forth; that some people just want to do their own thing and enjoy, especially the honeymooners just being on their own. Most people that go on this kind of groups though enjoy the kinds of things that the host couples might put together. Some of them may do special theme nights. Some of them may do off-site excursions. Some of them may charter the catamaran for a clothing optional trip during the day.

                                    There are some pros and cons, and it’s up to the couples or the singles that wish to participate. They judge what their level of participation is. They do not have to do anything that’s set up for the group. They can just go to the resort and enjoy it. Enjoy a good value for the room and just have a good time and relax on vacation. Whereas other people want to meet people. They love to be around other fun-loving couples, and there’s always some kind of mischief or some kind of crazy stuff going on. People like to scuba dive together so they may develop other types of activities that they can do as a smaller group too. It provides people a social network if they want to use it.

Robert:                  I think that’s comforting for a lot of people, particularly first-time visitors. What are the locations where you do group trips better value today?

James:                     There are a number of them. In some cases, some of the group trips are simply situations where they occur once a year, or we may do a resort takeover one time. That’s happened in Curaçao. We’ve done that Belize and other places. The recurring groups are typically places like Jamaica at Hedonism, in Cancun area, there’s Desire resorts, Hidden Beach resort. At this group, we do provide opportunities to get in groups at Intima resort down in Tulum. We do some groups in Europe. We also do groups at Hidden Beach resort, which is near Cancun. Probably the nicest clothing optional resort in the industry. We do things that are either local within the Caribbean and Mexico. We do things that are outside that geographic area and in other places including Europe.

Robert:                  Tell me a little bit about the host couples. I mean, they seem like interesting people. Maybe you could introduce us to a couple of them and what kind of … where they like to take people.

James:                     It’s interesting you should mention that because a lot of our business didn’t start by just hanging out a shingle and saying, “Hey, we do business to so-and-so at a certain time for a certain price.” Most of our, if not all, I can think of maybe one or two instances, just about every other group that I can think of has grown organically where somebody said, “You know, I’ve got a group of friends, five or six or eight couples that like to go certain places.” We encourage them to grow the group if they can to at least for example 10 or 20 rooms. The benefit for these host couples is obviously they have fun with friends but also depending on the contract, one of the big features is host couples can stay for free. Now, they do a heck of a lot of work, so it’s a labor of love. They may get a free room and free accommodations, but still, they have a lot of work to do.

                                    The host couples typically are outgoing folks that have a group of friends that like to travel together and have fun today. Many times those kinds will give us a call or send me an email about, “Look, we’d like to do a certain group at a certain time, certain location.” We help them organize that and so forth. What we try to encourage new groups to do is try to build a mini group around another location and date that we’ve already created a contract for because there’s no risk to them. It’s an opportunity for them to build a group up to 10 to 20 to 30 rooms. The misconception most folks have is, “Look, I’ve got at least 20 to 30 couples that are really good friends of ours, and they’re just really anxious to go.” When we put it together and organize it and so forth and they trot it out there to promote it, they’ll say, “I really can’t afford it. Gee, I can put down the deposit but when it comes to final payment time, gee, I don’t have $2,000 or my kids need braces,” or something like that.

                                    The big misconception is, “Gee, I have 30 couples that are friends.” That doesn’t mean that they can afford the group, or either they have the time, or they can’t get off of work, or somebody gets sick or divorced or whatever. There are other circumstances that people have to look at when they first form a group. Our first and most successful way of growing groups is what I call incubator groups. You start with the five or six or seven couples that want to go with you, and then if you build it up, the next year or two, work into a situation where you have enough couples to justify a separate contract. Otherwise, we encourage people to have their mini-group within a contract or date or time when Castaways already has a trip organized.

Robert:                  Perfect.

James:                     Does that make sense?

Robert:                  The whole concept makes a lot of sense. I mean, I just think … I don’t know if I’m just projecting, but if you’re going to go to one of these resorts, you want to at least know some of the people that are going to be there at that time. It makes everybody a lot more comfortable and a lot more … Unless you’re an extremely outgoing individual, it gives you people that you already know and you already meet, and you’re doing that at one of the best rates possible. I think that’s a tough formula to beat.

James:                     The best benefit, one of the best benefits other than the socializing is folks that are either new to this whole type of resort or new to this kind of vacation, especially in a clothing option environment, there’s a tremendous amount of intrigue as well as trepidation about, “Gee, what do I do when I take off my clothes? I’ve never done this before, but I want to do it. My wife is interested and so forth and so on.” There’s a lot of what I would call preliminary work that people need to do in terms of thinking about the group, where they’re going to go, what kind of activities they want to get involved in, and whether or not they enjoy truly a clothing optional environment. That really comes first. Coupling them with the host couple and putting together with a group that’s already been there, or the host couple in this case … all of our host couples have always been to these resorts before. We don’t have any rookies.

                                    These folks were trained people that have been around. They know their drill. They know the situation and so forth. For newcomers, it’s probably one of the safest ways to go because they get … Everybody has a thousand types of questions. Many of them fall into the same kind of categories, so it’s important to have that host couple available there. Now, that’s our job as well, but it’s always fun to be able to connect to the guy or girl that’s going to be on site with you. That’s a big, big benefit for brand new people, for newcomers, for newbies that are still a little bit nervous.

Robert:                  Super. James, I’d like to thank you. I learned a lot about group trips. I’m sure our listeners did. The best way to learn more about this is to go to CastawaysTravel.com and right there on the homepage, there’s a menu and it tells you about clothing optional resorts, but right next to that there’s a menu item of group trips. You can learn all about the group trips there. If you have any specific questions, you can call into Castaways. The telephone number is 800-470-2020. With that, Jim, do you have anything that you’d like to add? Did we miss anything?

James:                     Well, the number of trips we organize and implement every year is probably something like 40 to 50 to 60 trips. We have 25 trips for example group trips going to Hedonism, probably 10 or 12 going to Desire resorts. We represent about seven or eight clothing optional adult cruises as well. Plus, we have a separate division. In fact, our parent company is American Express Associate. If you need conventional tours or travel or cruises or family vacations, we can help the folks right there. In terms of doing group type activities and so forth, you’re correct. Go to the Castaways travel site, CastawaysTravel.com. The menu items there include the cruises, all the resorts we represent, plus groups, which we talked about in this conversation. Also, specials and resort discounts that are available, and also exotic bucket list type locations that people can take advantage of. Just remember CastawaysTravel.com and give us a call or send an email if you have any questions.

Robert:                  Great. That number is 800-470-2020, and that’s 9:00 to 5:00 Central Standard Time, Monday through Friday.  You can also view our pages where our group trip better value information is available for your review.

James:                     That’s correct. We also monitor email on the weekends as well.

Robert:                     Great. Jim, James, I’d like to say thank you, and we’re going to do this again. We’ll pick another topic soon. Thank you very much, James.

James:                     Great. Thanks so much. Bye-bye.

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