The Globus Family of Brands, once synonymous with busing around silver-haired retirees, is making a push in the opposite direction with a program for the hyperactive, acne-prone student market.
With the launch last week of its Student Discoveries educational travel program, Globus is attempting to do two things: expand its customer base in the growing student travel market and increase its domestic business.
"One piece of it is that it's a huge market," said Pam Hoffee, vice president of products and operations at Globus. "Parents say that they're willing to spend money so that students can travel as a vital part of their education. This market tends to be a little more resilient."
And, she added, "We were tasked to grow our domestic business here in the U.S. ... This is a great domestic opportunity."
According to the Student and Youth Travel Association, there are about 3 million student travelers in the U.S., defined as travelers ranging from elementary school age to 25.
Their trips fall into several categories, including educational and music or performance travel; sports and leisure travel; high school senior trips; and then individual travel, such as spring break.
"Our information says that the student population that is traveling continues to grow," said Claudia Sutton, executive director of the Student and Youth Travel Association. "And they're traveling at an earlier age.
For example, she said, "In California, every child in the fourth grade must go to the state Capitol."
Sutton said the economy had not affected student travel as much as it had other types of travel. "A lot of these trips are rites of passage for these students; you don't want to deny [your child]," she said. "Parents are doing everything they can to continue to send their kids on these trips."
Even so, this year some operators are starting to feel the impact of the economy.
"The student segment this year, clearly of the 18-to-35s that we serve, was the slowest segment to recover so far," said Greg Fischbein, president of Contiki Holidays. "The 18-to-22s are the most reliant on their parents. ... In a broader sense, the youth market was insulated from what happened in 2009."
Nevertheless, Globus sees the long-term potential the market represents.
Globus has worked with student groups, mainly college groups, in the past, mostly through its custom department. Hoffee admitted that while the business has doubled year-over-year, it still only represents a single-digit percentage of the company's overall business. But that's without even having an official student program.
"The groups that we get mostly do come through the travel agent channel, which is usual," Hoffee said, adding that teachers often assemble the trips themselves. "This was a great opportunity to tell the travel agent, 'Why not talk go to the school and become their travel provider?'?"
The timing of the launch of the program, which can be applied from elementary school groups through college-age groups, was intended to give agents a long lead time to better understand the student travel market before booking the Student Discoveries trips.
Hoffee added that "even though there are these huge, wonderful tour operators that do student travel, they're not really working hand in hand with travel agents, like we are already."
Student Discoveries includes educational themes that can be incorporated into the itineraries, called Discovery Moments. For instance, there is a "flash forward" theme in which students look at what a typical day is like for scientists, broadcasters or musicians, among other professionals. Other themed activities include culinary trips, studying important historical figures or active learning experiences such as scavenger hunts.