What do you get when you combine a community tourism pioneer, talented travel advisors and a bedazzled troupe of Tudor ladies with powerful pipes?
One vivacious night on the town.
That’s what G Adventures delivered Thursday night (Feb. 1) in downtown Toronto as it took an esteemed group of travel agents to see the hit Brit musical “Six,” which is a modern retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII, presented as a pop concert.
“We’ve had an amazing January, our business has grown from strength to strength, and we just wanted to say thanks to the travel community,” said David Green, managing director for G Adventures in Canada, who organized the night out, inviting PAX to tag along.
The made-in-Canada tour operator calls these actions “random acts of G” (a spin on random acts of kindness), which Green sums up as “something unplanned” that revolves around giving back to someone, or a community.
As it is well documented on his social media (and in his office, which is wrapped with framed musical posters – many of which are signed by cast members), Green is a Broadway aficionado.
So treating agents to a dazzling song-and-dance show, like Six, was a natural fit.
In the show, on now at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, each of Henry VIII’s wives (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr) take turns telling their story to determine who had the worst experience at the hands of their common husband.
The sparkling, 80-minute production taps into themes of female empowerment and solidarity, bridging the worlds of catchy pop tunes and English history.
“It’s an all-female cast and the musicians are female. We work in an industry where the majority of travel agents are female, so this show is a nice way to bring diversity into the conversation,” Green told PAX.
All eyes on private groups
But arena-ready vocals and electrifying choreography were just half of the night’s agenda.
The evening doubled as a training workshop at G Adventures’ downtown headquarters (referred to as “basecamp”).
Prior to the show, agents gathered in G’s playful office space – which features a slide connecting two floors, a ball pit, arcade games, a wall installation of retro lunch boxes, and eclectic meeting rooms tied to themes, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, comic book superheroes, Alice in Wonderland and even primatologist Jane Goodall – to eat pizza, sip wine and discuss the latest in private group travel.
The agents who were invited either sell private groups with G or specialize in the segment.
A private group, Green explained, is an opportunity for agents to bring together their own travellers for a G Adventures experience that's created by the agent in conjunction with G, runs with only their selected travellers and lives up to the same G experience, but as a private group.
“More likely than not, an agent’s private group is pre-formed and involves people that may already know them. An agent may be travelling and bringing their own database with them. On a private group they’re not travelling with regular G Adventures travellers from around the world,” Green said.
There are different ways to organize a private group, and in many occasions, travel advisors will pick their own dates and destinations.
The most successful private groups, Green explained, are regular departures that are listed on the G website, or in the brochure, that agents want to do themselves, with their own clients.
“And they may make changes, like adding a day at the beginning or at the end of the trip,” Green said.
A normal G Adventures trip will revolve around flexibility, allowing travellers to pick which activities they’re interested in. Whereas in a private group, an agent may determine the agenda in advance.
“Agents have more control over what the group is doing,” Green said.
But there are limits. After all, community tourism is the beating heart of a G Adventures experience.
The company strives to provide direct economic benefits to the destinations it visits – it uses a “Ripple Score” to show guests the percentage of money it spends locally on hotels, restaurants and transportation.
Groups allow for some customization, but at the end of the day, all G tours must still reflect the tour operator’s community-first philosophy.
“If an agent came to us wanting to stay at a five-star international resort chain as part of their private group request, we wouldn’t allow it if it didn't fit within the experience that we strive for at G Adventures,” Green said.
Private groups also don’t have to be the same size as regular G tour, which run in small groups (12 to 16 travellers, on average).
An agent can request more travellers for their group, if it’s possible.
“In most cases, we can go bigger,” Green said. “A group size could be 30 instead of 16, but it really depends on the destination. But equally, it can also be a smaller group. Most of our private groups are for around eight travellers.“
If a group, for example, reached 30 travellers, then G could arrange for two CEOs – “Chief Experience Officers,” G’s term for tour guide – to lead the experience.
Change Makers is back
Now is the time for travel advisors to step up their G game.
The G universe was swirling with activity yesterday as the company confirmed that it’s rewards program, Change Makers, is returning, with 15 Canadian agents earning a space at this year’s Change Makers GX Summit.
Last year, G hosted its first-ever community tourism summit, called “GX,” in Peru, giving more than 400 attendees an opportunity to not only see what the company does on the ground, but to also engage in conversations about community tourism – a touring model that G has pioneered since its formation in 1990.
Agents will be able to earn their way to this year's Summit (which will be held in a yet-to-be-revealed destination), joining 75 winners from around the world.
The campaign encourages agents to focus on changing people's lives through travel by booking G Adventures trips – and the challenge is live until May 31, 2024. Click here for details.
Another campaign that's currently running is the worldwide “You Belong with G Experience," where top-selling agents have a chance to join G Adventures to see “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” live in Toronto this coming November. Click here for more.
“It’s about community”
Niagara-based travel advisor Michelle Gaudet of Inspired Travel Adventures & Women's Wellness Journeys was on last night’s guest list.
It was fitting, hanging out at the headquarters, as Gaudet, yesterday, had clients in Africa with G Adventures, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
That’s the thrill of being a travel advisor. “You get to bring people to destinations that they don’t think they’ll ever get to. You help make those dreams come true. It’s very cool,” said Gaudet, who’s been selling G for seven years now.
Getting in some face time with the G sales team at basecamp last night was a boon for Gaudet, who praised the company for its ability to create and foster communities.
“G is very easy to work with,” she told PAX. “You build friendships.”
“It’s more than just a business transaction. It’s about community and building our clients up, together, to give them a really spectacular experience.”