Open Jaw

The Wiki On Contiki

It’s Adventure Travel with an Escorted Touring Label

Since being named President of Contiki Canada, Brad Ford has embraced the ideology behind the hip touring brand: It’s Time To Live – No Regrets!

“When I started, I was amazed at the number of retail industry leaders who sought me out to tell me how a Contiki tour had changed their lives. It really brought home what a privilege it is to be connecting young travellers to the time of their lives.” Ford says that before he joined the Travel Corporation of Canada, he associated Contiki – the world’s foremost tour company for 18-35-year-olds -- with escorted touring. While by definition it is, he says the reality is that Contiki offers adventure travel, plain and simple.

“50 years ago Contiki was leading tours to Afghanistan, India and the U.S.S.R. We’re getting back to those adventurous routes. We’ve added Asia and South America and those destinations are going through the roof in popularity. In terms of physical adventure, I think we offer more than anyone else out there, from skydiving to glacier climbing, quad-biking to white-water rafting.”

"In terms of physical adventure, I think we offer more than anyone else out there, from skydiving to glacier climbing, quad-biking to white-water rafting.”

Perhaps the most adventurous part of Contiki is the fact that many of its guests – especially on their first Contiki tour – have never travelled without their parents.

“It’s an amazing adventure in self-discovery, in self-actualization,” says Ford. “People jump on one of our trips and start to figure out who they are, where they fit in. And they have an incredible time while doing it. They may come from a smaller centre in Canada and all of a sudden they’re travelling with people from all over. And they find out that the things they care about are universal. That’s life-changing. And that’s what we’re all about.”

"They find out that the things they care about are universal. That’s life-changing. And that’s what we’re all about.”

Many of the parents and even grand-parents of today’s Contiki clients “did Europe” or India or Asia in their youth. They recognize the transformative power of travel and want their loved ones to have similar experiences before they set off on a career path. Contiki targets these “enablers” through its ‘Gifter’ program, and Ford says it offers a real opportunity for retailers.

“We’re getting better at tracking these things, and our data shows that at least 35% of our sales are touched by a ‘gifter.’ That’s where some agency groups are seeing substantial Contiki growth.”

Selling Contiki is a great way for agencies to prove their relevance to an audience of digital natives who may be only dimly aware that travel agents exist outside of a website. “You can win over a client for life,” Ford says.

"35% of our sales are touched by a ‘gifter.’ That’s where some agency groups are seeing substantial Contiki growth.”

At one time, Contiki sales were very much skewed to the student market. But Ford says that more than ever young professionals are hopping on a Contiki coach. “With the Asia and Latin America products, our average age is 26. These are people with limited time who want to maximize their experience and connect globally. And that’s exactly what they do on a Contiki tour, creating incredibly close bonds that often last a lifetime.”

With it’s later booking demographics, Contiki’s peak selling season is just kicking off. The company is launching an 8-week promotional campaign with a strong emphasis on social media and YouTube – fishing in the waters where its targets swim.

The company has engaged young people with popular YouTube channels to travel with Contiki and shoot their own footage, which will be posted on Contiki’s own YouTube channel as a linchpin of the promotion. Each of the eight weeks will feature a different destination, and agents will have access to new special offers each week.

The theme of the promotion fits right into Ford’s beliefs about the seminal importance of travel in a young life: “You have one life, one shot, so make it count. No regrets.”

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