Home Blog

5 ways to make the most of downtime

Travel planning

Don’t stare into the abyss; reframe your mindset. The travel industry’s evolving climate is an opportunity to map a future that will grow your tour business.

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” — Gever Tulley

Become a tourism resource

Take the lead in reporting travel information where you plan tours. Update your business’ blog with posts that equip travelers with facts regarding safety guidelines from health officials. Discuss your tour destinations’ current and future plans, and reassure clients and prospective groups that this too shall pass.

Evaluate emergency protocols

The COVID-19 pandemic has most likely made you rethink how to handle a serious illness during a tour. Create a plan to retrain your team on what to do in challenging situations, like an illness, a seizure, a tornado, a hotel power outage or a motorcoach break-down. When it’s time to travel again, keep a digital or physical binder that lists the written steps for each scenario.

Update your web presence

When was the last time your company’s “about” section was updated on Facebook or your website? Draft a plan on what to post every day on each social media platform. Take time to tweak your headers and landing pages, and create a gallery on your website with photos from recent tours. Don’t forget to update your accomplishments on your personal and business LinkedIn pages.

Research new attractions

Surf the web for new tour destinations opening in 2021 and 2022. Fine-tune your itineraries with specific details, like a stop at the best local coffeeshop or a quaint giftshop. Add suggestions that are within walking-distance during free-time. Become an expert on your tour destination’s unique facts. Which celebrities live in the area? Are any of the historic buildings haunted?

Plan for an influx

When travel restrictions are lifted and cabin fever is over, people all over the world will be itching to travel. Draft a plan to help your business handle the number of bookings. Via the marketing avenue of your choice, share a regularly updated summary of facts and implications. In coming months, prospective clients will want to know when it’s safe to book travel again.

We know your business will emerge from this crisis stronger, wiser and prepared for the bright future of travel. We are here for you, and we are listening. Share your thoughts at subscriptions@grouptour.com.

Oregon itinerary: Salem

Travel Salem Cristom Vineyards Dahlias Ron Cooper
Cristom Vineyards dahlias Photo: Ron Cooper
Travel Salem itin LB 5.25.21

The fertile soil and mild climate of the Salem area inspired the Oregon Trail pioneers to look for this “Eden.”  The region is a beautiful blend of natural beauty with epic waterfalls, lush forests, rolling hills of vineyards and farmland and spectacular gardens. Woven throughout this grandeur is a vibrant history and culture that lives on today through museums, events and performing arts. 

Salem is a pleasant mix of urban living with small town charm. A patchwork of enchanting rural communities border Salem and help the destination’s diversity shine through German, Mexican and Native American influences. The agricultural offerings ensure the freshest farm to table cuisine and Salem’s award-winning wineries are a destination unto themselves. 

So, if you’re coming to Oregon, why not stay in the most Oregon part of it?

Travel Salem


Travel Salem Deepwood Museum in the Fall Ron Cooper
Travel Salem Deepwood Museum in the Fall
Photo: Ron Cooper

Salem is Oregon’s capital city, so understandably history is a big part of life here. Whether you’re watching governance at the Capitol or enjoying an afternoon tea at the Historic Deepwood Museum, you can’t help but soak in the history of the region.  The Methodist Missionaries, the Hudson Bay Trappers, the Oregon Trail Pioneers and the indigenous people all share stories throughout Salem’s architecture, museums, events and location names such as “Willamette,” “Illahee” and “Chemeketa.”


Travel Salem Dancer World Beat
World Beat Festival dancer

Salem’s cultures are celebrated through the World Beat Festival, Oregon’s largest multicultural event, with 125 performances and 70 cultures represented for two days each summer. The Woodburn Fiesta Mexicana features authentic food and music and celebrates the end of harvest; and Mt. Angel also celebrates the end of harvest as well as their German heritage with its annual Oktoberfest.  Your tastebuds will thank you for gifting them with this international cuisine extravaganza.


Travel Salem wine people
Wining and dining in Salem

The Salem region is home to vineyards and wineries whose wines compete with the finest vintages of Europe’s Alsace, Burgundy and Rhine regions.

The soil, weather and the gentle, sunny slopes allow the grapes to ripen slowly; developing the delectable flavors required for world-class wines. By world standards, the region’s largest wineries are small but the wines they produce are exceptional.  Meeting the winemaker is easy to do in these intimate settings.


Travel Salem Shopping Kelly James
Travel Salem Shopping
Photo: Kelly James

Because Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax, many groups take advantage of that and make shopping part of their itinerary.

The Salem region offers a huge variety of retail options. You can select unique Salem historic downtown shopping with boutiques and specialty shops, small town shops or large outlets and malls. This is a great way for your group to stretch their legs and be on their own to experience the destination.


Travel Salem Silver Falls State Park Hiker Zak Stone
Silver Falls State Park
Photo: Zak Stone

It’s no secret that Oregon is a global destination for natural wonders and the Salem region has an abundance of spectacular natural attractions including waterfalls, rivers, old-growth forests, rolling hills of lush agricultural crops and wildlife refuges, to name a few. All of these splendors can be viewed from a coach or by walks that are easily accessible.

Louisiana itinerary: Ascension Parish


 Brought to you by Ascension Parish and Louisiana Office of Tourism

Ascension Parish Tourism Comm. LB itin 5.4.21

Over 500 years define the history of Ascension Parish; an area historically identified by the important junction of the Mississippi River and Bayou Lafourche.

Today, Ascension Parish is a true American treasure. It is the “Gateway” to a glorious and sublime portrait of time and people spanning more than five centuries. Nestled right between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Ascension Parish is an immense collection of diverse histories. Where names such as Gonzales, Sorrento and Donaldsonville reflect the story of a blended cultural past. Where soul food merges with Creole cuisine. Where art, agriculture and industry meld to echo yesterday and today.

“We invite you to come and enjoy Ascension’s gumbo of cultures unique to the South and fall in love with the food, festivals and history that all reflect our unique way of life that we are so proud to share with visitors,” said Tracy Browning, executive director of Ascension Parish’s Tourism Commission. “Ascension Parish is the perfect mix Louisiana of history and culture.”

Ascension Parish Tourism Commission


Ascension Parish Tourist Commission itinerary Houmas House and Gardens

Voted best Historic Mansion by USA Today, our crown jewel, Houmas House and Gardens, provides its guest with some of the finest dining, accommodations, gardens, and home tours in the South. Groups can tour the historic Louisiana Estate, explore 38 acres of lush gardens, visit the Great River Road Museum and relax with a refreshing mint julep while enjoying the breeze off the nearby Mississippi River.


Ascension Parish Tourist Commission itinerary The Cajun Village

The Cajun Village is a wonderful collection of authentic, restored Acadian dwellings, in the heart of Plantation Country in South Louisiana. We invite groups to stroll the grounds, step back in time, and visit the unique shops and boutiques that make their home in these sturdy old buildings. Enjoy some beignets ‘n cafe’ au lait while meandering through the stores, and shop for local art and souvenirs.


Ascension Parish Tourist Commission itinerary Historic Donaldsonville

Rich in history, our Historic District (Historic Downtown Donaldsonville) is home to 50 blocks with some 640 buildings dating from 1865–1933. Groups can meander through the historic district, tour the River Road African American Museum, meet primitive artist Alvin Batiste, shop for antiques or take in the site of the Mighty Mississippi River on the Levee top Riverwalk. Also located throughout the historic downtown are seven walking panels called Donaldsonville’s Historic Portals to the Past, allowing groups to walk and learn about the town history while taking in the sites.


Ascension Parish Tourist Commission itinerary River Road African American museum

The River Road African American Museum collects, preserves and exhibits art, artifacts and buildings as it is related to the history and culture of African Americans in the rural communities along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. More than just a slavery museum, it is an institution that tells stories of freedom, resilience and reconciliation. Exhibits in the museum reflect the fortitude and achievements birthed by a generation of artist, educators, physicians, craftsman, politicians, inventors and musicians.

Grow your tour business with independent contractors

Andrew Jackson Foundation Itin LB 4-15-2021

If you were to ask me to identify one of the most important lessons I’ve learned during my career, it is this: I can’t do everything well. Business leaders face this realization when creating a team to carry out the goals of the organization. Great leaders identify team members’ strengths and assign tasks based on those skills to create the most successful business model. But what about small tour businesses? How can you do it all when your staff size and budget are limited?

You can hire an independent agency to offer your business the skills you are looking for without the overhead of having them work in-house — think marketing, social media management, blog copywriting, photography and web design; these are just a few areas to consider outsourcing.

Start small when beginning new contractor relationships. Consider beginning with a less critical project or breaking large projects into smaller, individual tasks to determine how well you work together. Maybe you need to produce a new tour brochure or newsletter — you could outsource just the design, just the copy or the entire project.

Relationships with independent agencies need the right level of engagement and management to achieve the highest quality of work. As the hiring business, it is up to you to ensure a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with outside contractors. Selecting a partner begins with identifying the right skills for the project. Look at the agency’s portfolio to see that it reflects the level of ability and business practices you are looking for. A great place to start is to ask colleagues for recommendations or by requesting testimonials from the contractor’s current clients.

“We understand the hesitancy that small businesses might have when deciding to partner with an outside source, but the benefits are extremely worth the time and research to find the best fit,” said Courtney Birchmeier, chief content creator at Shoreline Creative, a marketing studio that delivers transformative print and digital resources to niche businesses and brands. “When selecting an independent agency, don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask to see their portfolio. By having an open dialogue, you’ll feel much more comfortable, and the agency will get a true sense of your needs and the needs of your business. Building that relationship is key to success.”

Once you have selected an agency to partner with, follow these tips to get the most out of your relationship.

Set clear expectations

Create a written agreement detailing the scope and schedule of the outlined project. Contractors need to know the project’s ultimate goal. It is helpful to recognize previous work of the agency and discuss specific areas you liked or want to avoid. Identify project milestones for evaluation and include a plan for revisions. Both you and the independent agent should clearly agree on the deliverables of the project.

Negotiate your rate

Understand the market for the type of work you are requesting. Fees will vary among agencies based on deliverables, timeline and the skills required of the agency. Think about the future needs of your organization. If you have lots of work, an independent partner might be willing to reduce their rate for the reassurance of steady work. Agree on the payment schedule. One popular payment guideline is to pay 20–30% of the project upfront, with the remaining payments awarded based on the completion of milestones.

Keep communications open

The more the hired agency understands your needs, the better they can deliver a good result to you. Most often, independent agencies work with multiple clients at a time, meaning they are not as accessible as in-house workers. It is helpful to determine the preferred method of communication upfront. It is important to be available for questions and freely provide feedback in a timely manner. As the project progresses, communicate updates that affect the contracted work. Making additional requests can quickly result in incurring costs you did not plan on. If more work develops, be prepared to amend or write up a new agreement that clearly addresses the changes from the original project.

Protect your assets

Part of your written agreement should state the completed work belongs to you and your business. Pay attention to basics by including data protection, confidentiality and intellectual property agreements within your written contract. Additionally, you may request independent contractors sign an agreement prohibiting them from soliciting work from direct competitors for a specific period of time.

Partnering with an independent agency helps small businesses achieve big success. Working with an independent agency on specific projects allows your in-house team the ability to concentrate on their strong skill sets.

Pennsylvania itinerary: Experience the Industrial Revolution in Lackawanna County

Intro Lackawanna Co CVB itinerary
Lackawanna County CVB itin LB 4/27/21

Experience the home of the Industrial Revolution in Lackawanna County with interactive museums that showcase the region’s transition from agriculture to iron production and coal mining. This transition sparked demand for steam engines and led to the development of the first functional electric trolley system. Student and bus groups will discover the harsh conditions boys and men faced in the mines, the development of transportation through the years as trains went from commercial use to luxury passenger cars, and electric trolleys became the wave of the future. The Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau will provide useful tips and customized plans to those who embark on this Industrial adventure through time.

Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau
Alexa Peregrim, sales director


Coal Mine Lackawanna Co CVB

With a Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, explore 300 feet beneath the earth through an anthracite coal mine originally opened in 1860. Stick close to your guide as you walk through the winding underground gangways and rock tunnels past three different veins of hard coal. Listen as they explain the fascinating methods used and the heroic efforts involved, as men and boys worked to heat a nation and fuel the conversion of our economy from agriculture to industry.


Anthracite Heritage Museum Lackawanna Co CVB

Anthracite Heritage Museum focuses on the history of hard coal mining, its related industries and the immigrant culture of northeastern Pennsylvania. The museum tells the story of people who came from Europe to work in the anthracite mining and textile industries. Visitors are welcomed into the families’ homes and neighborhoods with a moment of reflection in the kitchen, a visit to the pub, or a seat in a local church.


Steamtown Turntable Lackawanna Co CVB

At Steamtown National Historic Site, you can learn the history of the steam engine, see the giant locomotives that helped expand our nation, hear the sensational true stories of those that rode, worked for, and built these beautiful machines. As you tour this national park you will be amazed at the ingenuity of the engines and the turntable. Ask for a guided tour of the Locomotive Repair Shop to witness engineers at work restoring these legendary machines and the massive equipment required. Steamtown offers rides and excursions of various lengths to several different destinations.


Electric City Trolley Museum Lackawanna Co CVB

Located on the Steamtown National Historic Site grounds in a restored, late-19th century mill building, the Electric City Trolley Museum commemorates the first successfully operational electric powered streetcar system in the United States. You will enjoy the interactive exhibits and displays including vintage trolleys. Then climb aboard an authentic 1926 or 1932 trolley for a 5 ½ mile trip over Roaring Brook through the mile-long tunnel and along the original Laurel Line.

Hocking Hills lets small groups reconnect with nature

Hocking Hills zipline
The Hocking Hills is the canopy tour capital of the Midwest. Credit: Explore Hocking Hills

The Hocking Hills region of southeast Ohio boasts an entire bucket list of experiences and activities.

Fill an itinerary with world-class hiking, zipline canopy tours, all-terrain Segways, rock climbing, rappelling, canoeing and kayaking and bird-watching.

And don’t forget hands-on art, wineries and vineyards, microbreweries, washboards, galleries and unique accommodations.

“For smaller groups and smaller vehicles, we have tons to offer,” said Karen Raymore, executive director of Explore Hocking Hills.

The area’s lodging mix of primarily cabins and lodges works best for groups of 12 to 20 people.

Not all roads in the Hocking Hills are able to accommodate a full-size motorcoach.

Commune with nature

Cedar Falls
Credit: Explore Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills State Park is the area’s No. 1 attraction. The park’s natural areas of Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs, Lake Logan and Rock House feature waterfalls, craggy caves and dense forests unlike any other in Ohio. Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve is considered one of the parks in the Hocking Hills State Park group.

“After COVID-19, the state park reconfigured the trails to make them one-way,” Raymore said. “The Ohio Department of Natural Resources put a lot of thought into everyone’s safety. And the Hocking Hills became a pretty attractive getaway.”

Hiking in the state park is a popular activity. Trails range from a quarter-mile to 6 miles and from easy to difficult. A couple are handicapped-accessible. “Our accessible trails are really nice,” Raymore said.

High Rock Adventures-Hocking Hills Eco Tours offers rock climbing and rappelling tours as well as guided nature hikes. Raymore said this spring the company will introduce forest bathing to the Hocking Hills. Forest bathing, based on the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku, is a form of nature therapy and not bathing in the general sense. While a participant’s hands or feet may touch the water, they will not be immersed in water. They will be immersed in the forest itself. The guided slow walk in the woods with activities is designed to allow people to connect more deeply with the forest.

Hocking Hills
Hocking Hills State Park
Credit: GTM/David Hoekman

The Hocking Hills is perfect for self-care. Spas, a salt cave and sauna pods are all available.

“Our spa and wellness options have expanded significantly,” Raymore said.

Feeling adventurous? You’re in luck, as the Hocking Hills claims the title of canopy tour capital of the Midwest. Feel the wind brush past your face as you fly on zip lines. More than 60 zip lines provide a bird’s-eye view of breathtaking landscape.  

Hocking Hills Canopy Tours features two award-winning zip line canopy tours as well as a world-famous SuperZip®, a one-of-a-kind zipline just for kids called DragonFly and off-road Segway tours. The company’s Rockbridge Encounter includes a “nature drive” in an all-terrain vehicle to and from an under-explored geological feature. Visitors experience a rock bridge — the longest one in Ohio, at 100 feet — and take in the natural beauty of the Hocking Hills.

Canoe liveries offer canoe and kayaking opportunities on the Hocking River and local waters. Head to Lake Logan State Park, a human-made, no-wake lake, for pontoon boat rides and opportunities to rent paddle boats.

Hocking Hills favorites

The Columbus Washboard Factory, located in downtown Logan, Ohio, is the only remaining washboard manufacturer in the United States. Many original presses and machinery are used to make the washboards. Groups are able to see an American manufacturing factory in action on a guided tour, which needs to be arranged in advance.

Columbus Washboard Company
Columbus Washboard Company
Credit: GTM/David Hoekman

Washboard Fest, set for June 17–19, 2021, in Logan, celebrates the washboard as a musical instrument. This will be the festival’s 20th anniversary, delayed by a year because of the pandemic.

Raymore said the washboard factory and The Olde Dutch Restaurant and Banquet Haus in Logan are able to handle full-size motorcoach groups.

Logan’s shops and boutiques offer a variety of unique products.

Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum
Credit: GTM/David Hoekman

At the tourism association’s welcome center in Logan, don’t forget to stop at the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum. Inside, find more than 3,400 pencil sharpeners in a variety of styles and from several eras.

One spot for hands-on art is at Art & Clay on Main in Lancaster. This accessible art studio features paint your own pottery, a wheel throwing studio and Square 7 Coffee House.

Ye Olde Mille Velvet Ice Cream

Group Tour magazine travel supplier

Velvet Ice Cream

Yet five generations ago, Velvet was just part of a young Lebanese boy’s dream of making good in his new country. When Grandpa Dager, who arrived in 1903 at age 15, founded Velvet Ice Cream in the basement of a Utica confectionery in 1914, he hand-cranked his product and distributed it around town from the back of a wagon filled with ice and sawdust.

Still family-owned and operated, Velvet now has a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility just outside the town where it all began, and it produces and distributes its ice cream for foodservice and retail in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and Florida. Velvet is also the preferred distributor of several national brands of ice cream novelty treats.

Its historic Ye Olde Mill headquarters, a tourist destination in its own right, features a visitors center resembling Grandpa Dager’s original dairy barn and attracts more than 150,000 visitors annually.

Attraction Type: Factory Tour
Group Rates: Free Admission
Hours of Operation: 11 am – 7 pm

Seasonal Dates: May 1 – October 31
Seasonal Hours: 11 am – 7 pm

Bus Parking: Yes
Driver Rate: Comp food, dessert & drinks
Escort Rate: Comp Food, dessert and drink

Nearby Attractions that Influence Group Travel:

  • Longenberger
  • Daves Arboretum
  • Cherry Valley Lodge & Co Co Key Water Resort

Ye Olde Mille Velvet Ice Cream

11324 Mt Vernon rd
PO Box 588
Utica, Ohio 43080
Phone: (740) 892-3921
Phone: (800) 589-5000 x223
Fax: (740) 892-4339
E-mail: adager@velveticecream.com
Web: www.velveticecream.com


Wildhorse Saloon

Group Tour magazine travel supplier

120 Second Ave
Nashville, Tennessee 37214
Phone: (615) 902-8222
E-Mail: Don.osborn@wildhorsesaloon.com
Web: wildhorsesaloon.com


Weathervane Terrace Inn & Suites

Group Tour magazine travel supplier

111 Pine River Ln
Charlevoix, Michigan 49720
Phone: (231) 547-9955
Phone: (800) 552-0025
Fax: (231) 547-0070
E-mail: info@weathervane-chx.com
Web: http://www.weathervane-chx.com/


Wayne County CVB

Group Tour magazine travel supplier

428 W Liberty St
Wooster, Ohio 44691
Phone: (330) 264-1800
Phone: (800) 362-6474
Fax: (330) 264-1141
E-mail: mstarkey@wccvb.com
Web: www.wccvb.com


Visit Tyler

Group Tour magazine travel supplier

Tyler TX Rose Garden
Tyler Rose Garden

Tyler TX Goodman LeGrand House & Museum
Goodman LeGrand House & Museum

Tyler TX Art in the Park
Art in the Park

Visit Tyler, Texas where you’ll have a bloomin’ good time! Tyler, known as the Rose Capital of America, is the perfect destination for your next group tour. Here you’ll find a bouquet of possibilities. Stroll the brick streets of the Azalea & Charnwood Districts and Downtown; visit unique boutique shops, and don’t miss the roses! Notable events include: Tyler Rose Season/Texas Rose Festival, Rose City Christmas, Azalea & Spring Flower Trail and more!

Member: ABA, NTA, TTA, Boomers in Groups (BIG), Select Traveler, Going on Faith (GOF)

Nearby Attractions that Influence Group Travel:

  • 1859 Goodman LeGrand Home & Museum
  • American Freedom Museum
  • Kiepersol Winery/Distillery
  • Historic Aviation Museum
  • East Texas Oil Museum
  • Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Texas State Railroad
  • Tyler Rose Garden & Museum
  • McClendon House 
  • Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary 
  • True Vine Brewing
  • ETX Brewing Co. 
  • Tyler Museum of Art 
  • 1854 Roseland Plantation 
  • R. Don Cowan Fine & Performing Arts Center

Type: DMO
Tour Services:

  • Attractions
  • Lodging
  • Theater
  • Brochures
  • Dining/Banquet
  • Photos
  • Shopping
  • Step-on-Guide
  • Itinerary Planning
  • Miniature Rose Bushes for each person (overnight groups only)
  • Tyler Candles or Coffee Packets for Daytrippers

Visit Tyler

Susan Travis, TDM, CTE
VP, Tourism/Servicing
110 N. College Ave., Ste. 105
Tyler, Texas 75702
Phone: (903) 595-7229
Fax: (903) 592-1268
E-mail: stravis@tylertexas.com
Web: www.visittyler.com