Nominee for Global Youth Travel Award for Notable Innovation
Innovation: Travel Styles
Guest: Gemma Cromar, Communications & Partnerships, TruTravels
TruTravels is a social adventure specialist in the youth tourism sector offering life changing experiences across 17 countries for the 18 to 30+ market. The company is one of three nominees in the running for a 2021 Global Youth Travel Award for Notable Innovation. TruTravels launched three new travel styles to expand into a larger market, offering sailing trips, fitness & adventure tours and an upgraded backpacker experience.
What is the most innovative thing about your Travel Styles?
We underwent a huge brand refresh as we understood the tone, needs and core values of our business. We came back with huge plans, which we have initiated in the past 12 months. The pandemic was tough, but we took the pause in travel as a positive and used it as an opportunity to grow, adapt and innovate to offer our customers a wider range of styles.
After 8 years of operating our classic backpacker tours we realized many of those who had travelled with us as a backpacker back in 2012 were now looking to travel differently. We analysed travel trends and travel intent for our demographic and how we could bring more to the market. This had us scratching our heads, creating mood boards, brainstorming and many discussions with a glass of wine over Zoom.
We saw a high demand in both search and social focusing on wellness and health and decided there was so much more to offer in this market than strict bootcamp retreat weekends and juice cleanses. Health and wellness can be defined by so much more than six-pack abs. We combined the very best of our classic tours with some active adventures meaning customers could work out, but still explore the country at the same time. Ours are a mixture of beachfront bootcamps, hikes to famous viewpoints, healthy cooking classes and scenic bike rides alongside spa days, Muay Thai lessons and paddleboarding activities, making fitness, fun! It’s something we haven’t seen anywhere else in the market and a whole new idea altogether.
We also took the chance to branch out and grow as we launched our Flashpacker range offering a similar backpacker experience but upgraded stays in stunning hotels and famous beach clubs with infinity pools. Additionally, we launched our SailVentures offering summer sailing trips across Europe for those looking to travel a little bit closer to home. So, whether it’s long haul, short haul, fitness or relaxation you’re looking for, we’ve got something for everyone.
How did the product evolve? Which roles on the team were involved, how long did it take, how did you test and what were the lessons learned?
TruTravellers are super open and we chat to them like our mates. Once you travel with Tru, you’re a part of the TruFam, so we have conversations often about destinations they’d like to visit, how they plan to travel over the next few years and get feedback from those who have grown with Tru.
A recurring theme was higher-end accommodation. Those who had done the backpacking experience with us in their early 20’s are now looking for a little more comfort and style, thus our Flashpacker trips were born.
Our customers evolved with us, so it’s only right we evolve our tours to suit. Our FitVentures were born through the drive for home workouts and the need for social connection during the first lockdown. I for one, tried to kickstart my fitness, attempting burpees and squats in my back garden and realised that a full-fitness, 28-day haul, 3-day ab challenge wasn’t sustainable. We decided we would make fitness fun. We’d much rather be hiking to viewpoints in Thailand working up a sweat than doing star jumps in our back garden in England. We hosted surveys and polls and realised that a lot of customers felt the same.
Sailing trips had always been on our radar and as we launched Europe trips closer to home it was a given that we’d spend our days sailing Greece and Croatia with the luxury of only having to unpack once on our live-aboard boats. The whole process of launching our Travel Styles took around three months and we had all parts of the business involved, from our marketing team to our operations to training the sales team. We worked together to maximise our launch and perfect every hour of every day of the new tours. I even went on a R&D trip to sail on a yacht around Greece for a week to test out locations and boats… it’s a hard life!
From our co-founders to our interns, everyone played a part to make it a successful launch and one I’m extremely proud of. Our tours are due to operate this year and we expect to see popularity go through the roof as countries open. An extremely important lesson we’ve learnt is the power of teamwork and how so much can be achieved collectively from our agent partners to suppliers in delivering an incredible launch and a continued flawless customer service experience.
What mistakes did you learn from?
We learnt the importance of asking our customers, agencies and suppliers what they want. Over the years we have learnt how communication with our customers means our tours are the very best they can be.
What else did you need to adapt for the product to be successful?
We’re always adapting at Tru. No day is the same and that’s part of what makes working at Tru incredible and one of the reasons 2022 is looking super exciting!
We had to adapt our marketing efforts as we were appealing to new demographics and audiences we hadn’t focused on. We’re currently working on some incredible brand partnerships in association with our new Travel Styles.
Alongside our marketing, social media and rebranding of our website, pricing was a key focus for us to make our products successful. This was especially true with our Flashpacker range. We wanted to offer incredible hotels, activities and routes, but keep a competitive, fair price. Our customers associate us with being extremely good value for money. With tours under £1000, I think we’ve found the perfect balance.
Do you have an idea as to when you might need to re-think these products?
We’re extremely lucky here at Tru to be small and nimble enough to adapt to the latest trends quickly and efficiently and make pivotal decisions over a cup of tea with the whole of our UK team. We will continue to keep up with travel trends, but I’m confident that the research behind this launch means we’re offering the very best products for our customers right now and for the foreseeable future. As always, we will be creating new products and destinations as the world opens back up – we might have some exciting new projects coming!
How have your relationships with suppliers changed during the pandemic?
If anything, our relationships with suppliers have strengthened. The travel industry was hit hard. We’ve worked closely with suppliers to help build back business, from price changes to launching incentives to even just catching up with a beer over Zoom. Our suppliers are a huge part of the TruFam and we value having strong relationships with them. We’ve remained resilient and strong throughout the past two years and the great relationships we have kept with our suppliers speaks volumes on that.
What value does an international association like WYSE Travel confederation offer to companies like yours?
It makes it easier to connect with more partners and spread the Tru love around the world. We’re always looking to reach more people, as well as suppliers and agents to join the TruFam. WYSE travel Confederation gives us the opportunity to do just that.
Tru has benefited from some great days at WYSTC. We’ve built long-lasting relationships with people we’ve met there and still work with today. We’d love to see more events tailored towards tour operators and agencies working together. 2022 will be a fantastic year for travel and the operation of our new travel styles will mean we’ve got something for everyone! And hey, if we win… I might get to try out the new Flashpacker tours myself!