Your Travel Agency

Selling Groups – Pied Pipers or Group Leaders

 Written By: Tom Ogg



Continuing with our discussion on selling group travel we will explore using Pied Pipers, or Group Leaders to develop groups.  


What is a Pied Piper or Group Leader 

A Pied Piper or Group Leader is an individual, or couple that are leaders within their niche, business, church or affinity groups that plan, organize, promote and escort  group travel. 


Depending on the type of group a Group Leaders authority may be given loosely by the members, or may be more formal as in the case of someone a hospital may appoint to package group outings for their employees.  


Finding and understanding the legal authority for a Group Leader to represent the group will be instrumental in contracting and documenting the Agreement between you and the Group Leader. As an example, if you are working with someone on a religious group that represents a church where they are a member soliciting other church members, does the church itself need to be named in the Agreement? Is the Group Leader an employee of the church that can legally bind the church in a contract? 


There are thousands of group leaders that regularly take groups annually and the best ones have a consistent following that tend to travel with them. It is not uncommon to find group leaders that form multiple groups per year. 


What Does the Pied Piper or Group Leader Do? 

Once the Group Leader decides on which date from the dates that you are offering your niche group travel event, they execute a written contract and place the required deposit required by the Agreement. Here are some of the major responsibilities of a Pied Piper, or Group Leader. 


  • They market the group travel event to potential group members that may be interested in joining the group. 
  • They manage the creation of the group member list and also manage the deposit and payment option dates. 
  • They maintain a detailed accounting of member’s deposits and payments 
  • They act as the intermediary between you and the group members. 
  • They management to marketing budget if one was established in the group costing. 
  • They manage the pre-departure distribution of documents to the group members. 
  • They escort the group unless you are going to be the escort. 
  • They oversee all elements that maKe up the group experience. 


What makes for a goodPied Piper or Group Leader? 

The best group leaders are already successfully moving groups. It isn’t uncommon for a group leader to take several groups a year on various travel experiences. They usually have an established “clientele” and are very comfortable marketing and escorting groups and tend to have a strong presence in their special niche. 


They may have their own website, social media presence and branding. They understand how to sell the group, manage the paperwork and finances and are also competent escorts having escorted a number of group travel events. They understand the very nature of putting groups together and will not waste your time with trivial questions and requests. 


If you are approached by a new potential Pied Piper or Group Leader you should ascertain exactly what his or her niche connection is and the extent of it. As an example if you are doing a special dive group to Truk Lagoon in Micronesia, if the Pied Piper owns two dive shops and has traveled extensively it might make sense to give he or she a try. The strength of a Piep Piper’s or Group Leader’s connectivity with potential niche group members will tell you whether to take a chance on he or she, or not. 


Finally a good group leader also has the necessary escorting skills. 


What Makes for a BadPied Piper or Group Leader? 

Pied Pipers and Group Leaders that you will want to avoid are those with virtually no history moving groups, no experience as an escort, are not well traveled and have no formal niche connectivity with potential group members. First they will waste your time with never ending questions and requests and will likely not fill the group because of their lace of professionalism. An example of this would be someone that is not connected to potential niche members, but would love to get a free trip.  


As an example, if someone contacted you to be a group leader that only likes to dive and would love to dive Truk Lagoon it is unlikely that they have any way of reaching potential group members and certainly would not have a following. 


Since you are on the hook to perform with your suppliers allowing someone that likely will not perform is something you need to avoid at all costs. 


Pied Piper or Group Leader Remuneration 

Many group leaders thoroughly enjoy the process of organizing a group and then escorting it. For this reason, most group leaders are happy to take on the task for complimentary travel only. However, if you have a seasoned and popular Group Leader you may need to negotiate their remuneration. 


Things like first class air, limo transfers, a resort suite or cruise suite and an expense allowance can go quite far to motivating Pied Pipers. Depending on the niche you are marketing, most group leaders will have an established expectation of their remuneration requirements, which you can uncover while interviewing them. 


Since the variable costs have been amortized over the first 50% of the total group members anticipated you can easily build a remuneration schedule of tiered payouts.  Let’s say that you are shooting for 40 passengers in 20 cabins, it might look like this. 


  • 20 pax – 1 free berth for group leader 
  • 40 pax – 1 free cabin (for group leader and guest. 
  • 60 pax – 1 free cabin and first class round trip airfare 
  • 80 pax – 1 free suite and first class air 
  • 100 pax1 free suite, round trip first class air and $2,500 expense account 


You can easily see the benefits to the group leader to fill the space all the way. In this case the variable operating and marketing costs were amortized over the first 20 passengers. The upgrades, air and expense account are funded from the embedded variable costs. 


How Does a Pied Piper or Group Leader Program Work? 

Once you have identified you niche and have blocked space for multipole dates of the same itinerary you are ready to start acquiring group leaders. We will do a separate tutorial on “Marketing to Group Leaders” but the process is pretty straight forward. 


You will tell your story to potential group leaders who then are given the opportunity to select a specific departure date to begin promoting. Since the variable marketing budget is established in the group costing and is amortized over the first 50% of the potential group size, you have the funds to be able to provide the group leader marketing tools that they can use to promote the group. This might include a group specific website, brochures, flyers or many other tools that may be specific to your niche. 


Upon execution of the Agreement between you and the group leader it is on the group leader to take responsibility for soliciting group members. The Group Leader is required to place a deposit to hold the group space and the deposit should be in the amount of your financial exposure should the group never get off the ground and also be relative to the risk that the specific group leader represents. As an example, if the group leader is successfully moving several groups per year and has done so for many years, there is little likelihood that they will not perform. On the other hand, if the Group Leader has not moved any groups before, but has strong connectivity to potential group members, the deposit may be much higher. 


The bottom line is that if you have someone that does not want to place a deposit, find someone who is. You want the Group Leader invested in the positive outcome of the movement.