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Answers from a Customer Focus Group

This week I had a focus group trying to discover the needs of our customers so we can develop tours for the future!!


Several times a year I sit down with customers trying to determine the needs of our customers, to help develop tours for the future. Each and every time I am surprised by the results and what our customers tell us. These focus groups are made up of 20 our loyal customers in every age bracket. We sit down, share pizza and beer, share stories, and answer a series of targeted questions. 

Here are the results of some of more than 100 questions I asked over a two hour time period. 

Many of our customers now have families they want to travel with and create experiences, that will last a lifetime. Several in the focus group said that would pay for a companion of a child. If the companion family could not afford the trip, they would pay either part or all of the costs. They told me they would like a room for the adults and nearby room for the children.  The idea of parents and teenage children sharing a room simply does not work. Having a companion for the child makes a more enjoyable vacation for the whole family. I asked what you would consider the ideal family vacation; the most common response was a cruise, followed by an active vacation such as a ski trip or Disney trip.  Very few thought camping trips with teenagers would be well received by the teens. Many who are passionate about their hobbies want to engage their children in these hobbies, where travel creates a bonding experience.. As an example I was given ideas such as a photo tour or family adventure such as a canoe or atv trip. The group said no to any type of motor coach trip with 40 strangers.

Girl’s Get Away:  The woman in the group said they love their companions, but need to just get away with other woman.  Many suggested that men and women have totally different interests when traveling. The women suggested anything from a couple of nights at a beach resort, to a culinary tour through Europe.  The women said doing a cruise with other women only, would not be a positive experience. Trips to Nashville, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Spas, Charleston, and Savannah would all rate high for girls get aways.  Many feel that having a bachelorette party was important. Most said the average group would be 15-20 with the primary destinations being Nashville, New Orleans, or Las Vegas.

Men’s Get Aways: The men said that if they were to travel without girlfriends or wives the number one destination would be Las Vegas followed by a hunting, or golf trip.  The men felt that for a bachelor’s party they would want to go to Las Vega, Montreal or New Orleans.

Birthday Trips:  Almost all in the focus group said they would plan some sort of travel centered on mile stone Birthday’s. These are 30, 40, 50, 60, 70. Those in the 30 – 40 age bracket said they would prefer to celebrate with close friends. The average size of these celebrations would be 10 – 15. Those in the 50 and 60 age bracket said the focus would be more family and maybe a few friends. They said that the average size would be a group getaway of 15 -20 for two to four days.  Many thought renting a couple of beach houses were a great idea.  At 70 most said they wanted to spend time with family and if they could afford it would like to take the family on a cruise or unique vacation.

I asked if they would like to visit historical places like Williamsburg: Most replied that with young children they might consider going to Jamestown, Yorktown, Philadelphia, etc but not with teens. They said they would leave historical trips to the schools. Those that were 65 plus said they would visit these destinations to learn about our past. Most said they did not consider New York or Washington historical destinations.

I asked if you do not consider New York or Washington would you spend money to visit and why? Many said they would go to New York for the excitement. Many said they would go to NY for the entertainment aspect.  Primarily to see a Broadway show, a sporting event, a special exhibit, to see the Statue of Liberty and 911 museum. Some said they would like to go to Moma, Natural History Museum or be at a TV taping. Most said being on a TV Taping would be the highlight of the trip.

I asked what are the most important things you are likely to do in NY. The answers surprised me and they are in no particular order.  Can’t go to NY without seeing the statue of Liberty. Seeing a Broadway show is a must.  We love watching; the Red Sox play the Yankees, the Celtic games, the Patriot / Jet games. We love doing NY food tours. We like doing things like the Ride or the Beast. 

I asked what about going to DC? We go to DC because there is so much cool stuff. We want to experience the Cherry Blossoms, 4th of July, a Presidential Inauguration, see the Gem collection and air and Space at the Smithsonian. We want to feel the emotion of Arlington Cemetery. We would go to DC to be inspired, to be moved, and to let the sound of freedom ring.

What are you most likely to do in DC? Take a tour, visit Mount Vernon, see the monuments at night.

What would you be willing to pay for a week’s vacation, including hotel, sightseeing, food?  Most felt that $1500 – $2500 plus transportation was about right.  1/3 of our customers are single travelers.

What do you feel is appropriate for a single supplement? We would be willing to pay up to a hundred dollars a day to travel as a single and have our own space.

If you could travel anywhere in the world what are the five top places on your bucket list?  These are the top answers: Alaska, Hawaii, African Safari, Tahiti, Australia, golf at St Andrews, Golf Pebble Beach, Ski in Switzerland. 

How likely are you to take a foodie or wine tasting tour in the next year? 71 percent responded that the culinary aspect is an important part of any tour.

What type of hotels do you like to stay in? We like to stay in unique hotels, not chain hotels that have a three or four star rating.

What are the most important things to you when choosing a hotel? The hotel must be quiet at night, the beds comfy, able to adjust the temperature of room, must have free fast wifi, a good breakfast, a coffee maker, and a hairdryer. The front desk staff must speak understandable English and answer the phone when we call. The hotel must be safe and have security cameras. If the hotel uses Styrofoam products we are likely to choose another property. The hotel must be clean.

How likely are you to stay at a hotel that charges for wifi? We would stay at a hotel that charges for wifi on a business trip only, or if we are paying using points. Any other time we would find a hotel with free wifi.

 What do you think is missing in the New England Tour Market? There are not enough places in New England where we can make something and bring home at an affordable cost.  How many times can we do a wine making, beer making, or chocolate making class? The painting class with wine making is already old. How many glass trivets can we make? When we harvested the grapes and help crush the grapes, that was fun, when we picked apples and pressed our own cider that was fun. We need more things that bring us closer to the earth. We need to be able to make useful things and take home.

 When traveling what is the maximum number of people you want to travel with? We think 15 -25 is the right size group. If we have a larger group we are always waiting for someone, or someone is always looking for attention.

How many meals do you think should be included? We think a good breakfast should always be included. We like having dinner included but not eating as a group.

What do you think about having meals in a banquet space? When traveling on business we have no choice; it is the only way we can be fed. When we are traveling for pleasure, absolutely no to a banquet type meal. We would rather pay for a meal than eat in a banquet room.

When someone refers to a late booking what time frame are they talking about? 2 weeks prior to departure was the number one answer.

What do you think about tipping tour directors and drivers? We think tour directors and drivers should be paid a wage where they do not have to depend on tips. No matter what you tell us, we are uncomfortable tipping tour directors and drivers. If they do something extra for us I do not mind tipping. Overall tipping has become customary, and not a way of saying thank you for providing extra service. We think you should have the tips built into the package and have a no tipping policy. If the tour directors you hire are not good, would you keep them around?

On short tours what are you looking for? We want things that are fun and different. Last year when we went to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens at Christmas time to see the lights that was magical and inexpensive. None of us had ever been to Boothbay in Dec. and we all enjoyed this experience. When we went to Quebec City and did the tasting tour that was special. We want more of these type trips. We want to participate in our adventures, not watch other people have fun, while we watch.

 Our tours and the way we do business evolve based on what the customers tell us they want.

You were very knowledgeable which made the trip both interesting and fun.

Janet Y


Janet Y

You were very knowledgeable which made the trip both interesting and fun.