“Industry Q&A” Featuring Dan Kellerd of Explorica CanadaFebruary 12, 2016
In the third edition of the “Industry Q&A” series, we sit down with Dan Kellerd, President of Explorica Canada. Dan shares his thoughts on trends affecting the student travel industry, and how DMOs can best work with this unique and large travel segment.
Q: What trends in the educational travel market are you noticing this year?
A: This year we’ve seen an increase in groups going to slightly more exotic locations. While Paris, Rome and Madrid remain popular, more and more of our group leaders are choosing to explore Eastern Europe, South America and even China. We’ve also seen an uptick in teacher-led tours in which entire families are traveling together, not just students. It’s an exciting time for us!
Q: What factors do you consider in order to add a new program/itinerary to your product portfolio?
A: Traveler feedback is always the #1 driver of our product development. We track demand for existing programs, as well as customization requests. We also stay current with global affairs, e.g., Cuba opening up to American travelers.
Q: What role, if any, do familiarization trips play in your program/itinerary decision making?
A: Safety and quality are our main priorities when it comes to providing excellent educational travel to our customers. Familiarization trips allow us to experience new destinations and activities in person to ensure that they meet our high standards for safety and quality.
Q: What have you found to be the most effective means for marketing your products?
A: Our marketing department is constantly trying new and exciting marketing techniques, but over the years we’ve found that good old-fashioned word of mouth is still the most reliable source of information when it comes to educational travel. In fact, a recent company-wide survey of our group leaders showed that the #1 way teachers hear about Explorica is “a recommendation from a trusted friend or colleague.” So really, our most effective means of marketing is continuing to provide an outstanding product and excellent customer service that group leaders tell other travelers about.
Q: How do you integrate social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) into your marketing efforts?
A: Social media is an important aspect of our overall marketing strategy because once a teacher has started considering to lead an educational tour, they are going to do their research to make sure they are traveling with the best. Social media allows us to connect with those potential group leaders at an early stage in their decision-making process and better understand what they want. We keep a strong presence across many platforms, and as I said previously, our marketing team is constantly innovating to open new and effective means of communication with our customers.
Q: Based on your experience so far, what can DMOs do better when working with members of the travel trade or organizations like your own?
A: Offer more familiarization trips. Explorica is widely known as the most flexible educational travel provider in the industry due to our excellent customer service. The more first-hand information we have about a destination’s lodging, dining, attractions, events, history, museums, arts and culture, etc., the better we will be able to serve our customers in creating the perfect itinerary to meet their needs.
Q: What advice would you give to DMOs looking to enter the North American market?
A: It would be easy to paint the North American market with a wide brush, but to do so would be a disservice to yourself and your consumer base. DMOs looking to enter the North American market should strive to understand each specialized segment of the market, so as to offer the right products to each segment.
Q: Which industry conferences/trade shows have you found most productive to reach your target clients?
A: We specialize in teacher-led tours so, as vendors, we attend the conferences convened by teacher associations. But just as importantly, we take a hands-on approach to our business decisions so that we can be 100% sure we are providing the very best products and services to our customers. So we attend industry trade shows as a buyer, to meet and interact with suppliers. We enjoy attending WTM, SYTA, ITB, FITUR, USTOA and more.
Founded in 2000, Explorica helps teachers create educational tours full of authentic, interactive learning experiences. They specialize in connecting teachers and students to new cultures, languages and people on educational tours across the globe. Explorica’s combination of exclusive online tools and personalized service enables us to create tours uniquely suited to provide both the best value and the most customized tours in the industry.