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How travel brands are prioritizing group travel planning

New iMessage from “Mom.” New iMessage from “Dad.” New iMessage from “Brother.” “Dad.” “Brother.” “Mom.” “Mom.” “Mom.” The pings while planning a group trip with family or friends can feel incessant – and there’s always at least one person who isn’t answering, much to the chagrin of everyone else involved.

While group communication can prove difficult, the challenges of group travel organization have historically extended beyond text etiquette. “Whether you are traveling with one additional person or a group of twenty or thirty people, you are dealing with different opinions, needs and preferences,” said Michelle Denogean, chief marketing officer of Mindtrip, which offers group planning on its platform.

With group travel rising in popularity, companies including Mindtrip, Expedia Group and Airbnb are looking for ways to simplify the process by incorporating new tools. Meanwhile, others such as SquadTrip, Joyned and WeTravel are focused solely on streamlining group trip planning.

“As more people look to share experiences with friends, family or even strangers with similar interests, suppliers are seeing the need to facilitate these group experiences more seamlessly,” said Darrien Watson, CEO and co-founder of SquadTrip, which offers an all-in-one platform to plan, book and pay for group travel.

Group travel on the rise

A focus on simplifying comes as group travel is growing in popularity, according to recent reports from MarkWide Research and Phocuswright. In its U.S. Consumer Travel Report 2023, for example, Phocuswright found that 11% of respondents said they traveled with loved ones — a 57% uptick from the previous year when the 2022 report showed 7% of survey respondents traveling with friends and family.

“Now that the pandemic is over, not only is the need to travel greater, but so is the desire to do it with other people,” said Alicia Schmid, director of research at Phocuswright. “Our research showed a corresponding decrease in traveling alone. Travelers are increasingly taking trips with the purpose to rest and relax, but also to spend time with friends and family.”


As more people look to share experiences with friends, family or even strangers with similar interests, suppliers are seeing the need to facilitate these group experiences more seamlessly.

Darrien Watson — SquadTrip

Group travel once existed as something of a “niche offering,” mostly in the context of large groups and tours, according to Denogean. Now things are changing.

“The travel industry is increasingly recognizing the value of group travel not only as a revenue stream but also as a way to diversify offerings and enhance service delivery,” said Watson, who believes the focus on group travel planning is driven by a shift in consumer behavior and also by technological advancements.

“Today, travelers are looking for more curated and shared experiences, which increases the demand for group travel.”

Group travel has traditionally involved a good deal of manual work – with different social networks, planning tools, individually tracked payments, coordination and more happening across multiple communication channels.

“The more manual trip planning is, the more common errors become and the more time it takes from organizers, who are often time strapped,” said Zaky Prabowo, co-founder and chief operations officer of WeTravel.

Jonathan Abraham, CEO and co-founder of Joyned, which helps online travel businesses offer group bookings, called the group travel planning process “long, fragmented and very cumbersome.”

“There’s a growing demand for a platform that streamlines and centralizes this process into a simple solution,” said Abraham.

How travel companies are using technology to propel group travel forward

Making group travel easier is becoming a priority for many travel platforms.

“As a technology platform, if you don’t support the growing demand for group trips – through planning and booking features – you’re missing a key, growing market opportunity,” said Prabowo.

Travel giants Airbnb and Expedia Group announced group planning features at their update events in May.

Airbnb said 80% of trips planned on its platform are group trips. The company announced features including a shared wish list, group messaging with hosts and trip invitations in an effort to streamline group travel planning processes.

Meanwhile, Expedia Group unveiled its artificial intelligence travel assistant Romie, which can be pulled into group texts and WhatsApp groups to help plan travel. Romie provides suggestions, information and can summarize group chats, also providing an option to carry group chat discussion points into the Expedia app for easy travel shopping.

Newer players are prioritizing group travel too.

Group planning is at the “core” of recently launched Mindtrip, Denogean said. When a trip is created on Mindtrip’s AI-powered platform, users can invite co-travelers to collaborate. Each traveler can then review details, leave comments, add and remove items and move itinerary pieces around – and every change prompts a notification sent to other group members.

Similarly, at SquadTrip, planning begins with one traveler – an organizer – setting up a trip landing page on the SquadTrip platform. Organizers can implement automatic billing, manage bookings and payments and communicate in one place with participants who can see trip details, register and make payments on the site too.

And WeTravel, which started out as a multi-day trip planner for educational institutions, allows group organizers to build itineraries in its platform and then create a link or an embeddable “Book Now” button on their website. From there, organizers can manage bookings, communication, information and payments. It also offers multiple payout solutions, allowing organizers and suppliers to transfer funds between accounts.

Meanwhile, Joyned, which launched an AI planner for travelers in May, is a social commerce as a service provider integrated into vendors’ platforms directly. Joyned also works to provide key group planning insights to its vendor partners to help with personalization and more.

Challenges and opportunities

While travel technology providers are creating ways to streamline group travel planning, plenty of challenges remain – existing in tandem with the nature of group travel and the nuances that come with planning for a crowd.

“One of the primary technological challenges in facilitating group trips is creating a platform that is both robust enough to handle complex, variable data and user-friendly enough for diverse users,” said SquadTrip’s Watson.

Group travel’s nature comes with the need to coordinate varying payment schedules, preferences and necessities, inherently calling for dynamic and flexible technology solutions, Watson said. He added it also requires integrating varying systems – such as payment and communication systems – into one interface without compromising on security or efficacy.

That presents “significant technical hurdles,” Watson said.

But challenges leave room for solutions.

“Advances in technology now allow us to build comprehensive tools that can automate many of the most tedious aspects of group travel planning,” Watson said, pointing to data analytics and the use of AI and machine learning for personalized recommendations, automated scheduling and real-time changes.

Prabowo said creating technology for streamlining is an opportunity in itself.

“When it comes to the growing market – and submarkets – within group travel, there’s a large opportunity to better create technology that supports the travel-specific needs in managing multi-day group trips,” said Prabowo, pointing to managing information, resources, activities, accommodations, transportations, ticket costs, deposits and the like.

Most technology solutions handle one avenue of that process, Prabowo said. That’s where opportunity comes in.

“We have clients who previous to using WeTravel would use full-time contractors to simply send payment links each month to ensure each installment payment was made. Now they allow WeTravel’s automatic payment reminders to do that work for them, so they can spend more time on the parts of the group experiences that can’t be supported by technology.”

And Mindtrip, Denogean said, is looking at opportunities linked to personalization, group chats, on-trip functionality and moving from travel-specific functionality to generating recommendations for “everyday experiences.”

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