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5 ways to make the most of downtime

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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.

A return to hands-on tour planning

David Matthews, president, Enrichment Travel Services

After running Prime Tours, in Ohio, for 23 years, David Matthews was ready for a change. Feeling like more of an overseer, he missed the hands-on tour work. In October 2019, Matthews sold the company to start a small firm, Enrichment Travel Services, based in Dublin, Ohio. The new business means more hands-on with guests and vendor partners, while still affording Matthews time to practice his public relations and journalism skills through consulting and travel writing.

“I learned a lot about group tours in 23 years,” Matthews said. “Now, I’m putting that knowledge to work to do anything from operating small to large group tours, to consulting, to producing travel marketing videos.”

Q. Upon starting Enrichment Travel Services, were you looking to fulfill a niche that was not being met?

A. In addition to broad-based group tours, we’ve found success in custom tours for musical bands and their fans where they tour Ireland or Scotland and see the country and do several shows for their fans and the locals.

Q. What sets your company apart from other tour planners?

A. We only serve private groups, which lets us truly customize each tour to suit their needs and desires. We’re also with our groups all the way and never take a group to a place we don’t already know.

Q. How have group travelers changed since you began your career?

A. Guests are more sophisticated and want more flextime, more adventure, more hands-on experiences, more learning. They want more enrichment, which is how I decided on the name of my new firm, Enrichment Travel Services.

Q. What is the best advice you would give to someone starting out in the tour planning field?

A. Working with private groups, we initially only need to sell a tour to one person, the group leader. You’d better be able to answer their questions about any aspect of the tour or the destination. Prepare by going to the destinations and seeing up-close everything the group will experience. Also, have your office systems, record-keeping and marketing ready to go before you market any tours.

Q. What marketing practices do you recommend new organizations focus on?

A. Customization and expertise. Competition is strong, so many entities are offering group tours, whether they have experience or not. Planners need to make it clear you have what it takes to make it a great tour and can add very special features.

Q. What is your favorite part of your job?

A. Aside from travel and adventure, I love meeting new people in the travel industry during tours or at workshops in the U.S. and Europe. So many people in this industry are so smart and caring and fun and cool, and we’re all working together to make guests happy. My other favorite part is being around our guests, who are so diverse, fun, inquisitive and adventurous. I always wish I could just hang out with them and enjoy the tour, but I have to run the show.

Q. What travel destination or activity is on your bucket list?

A. More river cruises. I have cruised the Seine and want to do more. River cruising continues to grow as a perfect group tour. I’m looking forward to getting back to Ireland, Italy and France to reconnect with friends in the industry and letting them know more American groups are on the way.

Q. What is your favorite travel app?

A. Before we contact airline or hotel group desks, I check Kayak.com. That and others like it are good barometers of which airlines and hotels might work best. Rome2Rio.com is my favorite when I’m on my own exploring and doing site visits, mainly in Europe. I usually have a rental car in Europe, and it still comes in handy. 

David Matthews
President
Enrichment Travel Services
614-581-2126
EnrichmentTravel.com
Photos courtesy of Enrichment Travel Services

West Virginia itinerary: Appalachian heritage and modern ingenuity meet in Huntington

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Huntington Area CVB
Huntington Area CVB itin 8-10-21 LB

Nestled along the scenic Ohio River, Huntington was first settled as a main hub for the railroad industry. Now, Huntington, or H-town as the locals call it, has been reimagined and revitalized into a thriving metropolitan, with a side of southern hospitality, known for its unique retail shops, Appalachian craftsmanship, one-of-a-kind restaurants and bustling downtown.

H-town is full of amenities to comfortably welcome groups with easy parking, affordable dining and lodging. Local attractions showcase the best of Appalachian heritage and dynamic modern ingenuity. Experience a walkable downtown area and beautiful natural wonders in one destination. 

Huntington Area CVB
Anna Adkins, sales manager
304-525-7333
anna@visithuntingtonwv.org
visithuntingtonwv.org

LEARN

Heritage Farm

Celebrate Appalachian ingenuity and grit at Heritage Farm, a Smithsonian Affiliate. Heritage Farm brings a pioneer village to life with artisans demonstrating forgotten trades like blacksmithing, woodworking, weaving, and printing. The Nature Center is a unique “living classroom” where visitors learn about native wildlife. More adventurous guests can enjoy the new Treehouse Trek, taking visitors to new heights via a 750-foot series of canopy bridges that send you 60 feet high into the forest.

OBSERVE

Blenko glass

With dazzling colors and show-stopping shapes, Blenko Glass has been an iconic glassmaker since 1893. Observe artisans shape unique hand-blown pieces of art from molten glass. Blenko is famous worldwide for its bold style in art and stained glass. Book a tour, visit the observation deck, browse the historic glass museum, or stroll the glass garden for a vibrant experience fusing history and art. It’s one of Travel Channel’s Top 10 U.S. Factory Tours.

TOUR

Marshall University fountain

In 1970 the entire Marshall University football team, along with coaches and supporters, lost their lives in a horrific plane crash. The story of how the school and community rebuilt was told in the movie We Are Marshall. On the Marshall University: We Are Marshall Tour, groups can see where the movie was filmed, visit pertinent locations and honor those lost at the Memorial Fountain. Guided group tours are available upon request, or use our tour map for a self-guided experience. 

EAT

hillbilly hotdogs

Are you ready for good eatin’ hillbilly style? Try dining in a vintage school bus, bathtub or outhouse. Home to the Homewrecker (a 15-inch hot dog) and the Doublewide (a 15-pound burger), along with 20 other dawgs, burgers, chicken and fixins, Hillbilly Hot Dogs was No. 15 in Travel Channel’s 101 Tastiest Places to Chow Down, and was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, The Late Show with David Letterman, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

1000 Islands itinerary: Explore charming waterfront destinations in New York and Ontario

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1000 islands
Photo credit: George Fischer Photography
1000 Islands Tourism Council itin LB 8-28-21

Quaint towns and villages are nestled along the shorelines of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River while over 1,800 islands decorate the waterway itself. This combination of woods and water create a scenic region full of beauty and recreational opportunities. Sightseeing boat tours, historic home tours, fishing and paddlesports, museums, agricultural attractions, and War of 1812 sites provide a variety of ways to spend your time here. 

From Sackets Harbor to Alexandria Bay, Kingston to Brockville, our communities offer ample accommodation, unique dining experiences and distinctive shopping. Specialty boat tours, Boldt Castle, 1000 Islands Tower, Fort Henry and more await exploration. More active groups can enjoy whitewater rafting, cycling, hiking, tree-top adventures and helicopters tours. 

The Thousand Islands Bridge island hops across the St. Lawrence River to connect New York, USA, to Ontario, Canada. Each side offers amazing opportunities but together, unique two-nation itinerary ideas provide memorable tours for groups of all sizes and interest.

1000 Islands Tourism Council
315-482-2520, ext. 318
visit1000islands.com

DISCOVER

Boat Castle docks 1000 islands
Photo credit: RTO9

Home to a tragic love story, Boldt Castle, a 120-room Rhineland-style castle was built as a gift to George Boldt’s wife. He walked away after four years of construction and close to completion when his beloved Louise passed away. It laid in ruins for over 70 years. Now available for tours, it has become the region’s featured attraction. Be sure to include Boldt Yacht House for an even more in-depth view into the Boldt lifestyle.

CRUISE

1000 islands
Photo: George Fischer Photography

For nearly 100 years, boat tour companies have provided scenic, narrated cruises of the 1000 Islands. Popular sightseeing choices include stops at Boldt Castle, Singer Castle or Rock Island Lighthouse. Meal, entertainment and craft beverage tasting cruises round out a great schedule of touring opportunities from morning to evening and specialty charters can be arranged. Cruises are available from Alexandria Bay, New York; Clayton, New York; Gananoque, Ontario; Rockport, Ontario; or Brockville, Ontario. 

LEARN

Antique Boat Museum 1000 islands
Photo: Antique Boat Museum

For a peek into the importance of the St. Lawrence River, a visit to the Antique Boat Museum (ABM) is a must. Beyond looking at an immaculate collection of personal watercraft from native dugout canoes to spectacular race boats, ABM provides insight into why the region was settled and how the waterway provides commerce as well as recreation. The six-building complex has a static collection as well as revolving exhibits. Specialty tours include a visit aboard George Boldt’s opulent houseboat La Duchesse or a ride aboard an antique cruiser.

TOUR

Kingston Pen Tours 1000 islands
Photo: St. Lawrence Parks Commission

Kingston Pen Tours offers a unique opportunity to explore Canada’s oldest and most intriguing maximum-security prison. Now a National Historic Site, this historical building dating back to the 1830s is full of interesting stories from former staff. Stories of escapes, riots and more are heard as you experience life beyond the stone walls. Beyond the standard tour, 2021 offers extended tours, as well as architectural and film tours. 

Massachusetts itinerary: Make your own history in Lexington

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historic Battlefield
Photo Credit: Town of Lexington
Town of Lexington itin LB 8-17-21

Make your own history in Lexington! From exploring the historic Battlefield to strolling the charming downtown streets, or taking in our natural beauty, there is something for everyone in Lexington. Located only 20 minutes from Boston, Historic Lexington is the gateway to traditional New England life. With a variety of activities, Lexington offers an array of itinerary options for your group trip.

Relive the exciting events of April 19, 1775, and the literary legacy that defined American identity and culture by planning a visit that your groups won’t soon forget.

EXPLORE

Downtown Lexington
Photo: Town of Lexington

Known as “the Center” to locals, Downtown Lexington a quintessential New England Town. The Village Center is a hub of activity. Stroll along our charming streets and stop into one our many unique, independently owned shops or restaurants. There are a variety of dining options with private seating for large tour groups as well as dedicated bus parking.

LEARN

Visitors Center
Photo: Town of Lexington

Just a stones throw away from the Battle Green, is the new Visitors Center. The Visitors Center is open seven days a week with knowledgeable staff to provide valuable and interesting information to your guests. Check out our new Revolutionary History Room and interactive exhibits as well as a gift shop with one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Accessible public restrooms available.

JOURNEY

professional guides
Photo: Town of Lexington

Leave the tour guiding to us! Hire one of our professional guides to step aboard your bus as we take your guests along the route that the Colonial Minutemen travelled in 1775. Dressed in full Colonial regalia, our guides bring history to life as they narrate the story of the American Revolution and beyond. Interested in literary history as well? Our staff can arrange for tours of cultural sites in Lexington and Concord including the homes of authors Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

VISIT

historic houses
Photo: Town of Lexington

Learn what life was like in Colonial New England. Lexington is home to three historic houses from the Revolutionary War era that are available for tours. Visiting these homes can give your guests a unique look into how early Americans lived in the 18th century. Among these, is the iconic Buckman Tavern, where many historians believe that the first shot of the American Revolution was fired- the shot heard around the world!

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

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Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Bureau of Engraving and Printing

9000 Blue Mound Road
Fort Worth, Texas 76131
Phone: (817) 847-3881
Fax: (817) 847-3757
E-mail: carol.riggs@bep.gov
Web: www.moneyfactory.govhttps://www.bep.gov/fortworthtxtours.html

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Food & Drink 2021 is available online

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Food and Drink 2021
Visit Lubbock Digital Edition Sponsor Food 21 LB

The digital edition of Group Tour Food & Drink 2021 planning guide is available to read online.

Group Tour Food + Drink 2021

Savor these delicious destinations:

Modesto, California

Tuscarawas County, Ohio

Quincy, Illinois

Miami County, Ohio

Saint Charles, Missouri

Red Wing, Minnesota

Sacramento, California

Visit Lexington NC

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Visit Lexington NC

114 East Center Street
Lexington, North Carolina 27292
Phone: (336) 236-4218
Fax: (336) 236-4220
Email: Rbivens@visitlexingtonnc.com
Web: www.visitlexingtonnc.com

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Randolph County Tourism/ Heart Of North Carolina

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Randolph County Tourism/ Heart Of North Carolina

500 Albemarle Road
Asheboro, North Carolina 27203
Phone: 336-626-0364
E-Mail: amber.scarlett@heartofnorthcarolina.com
Web: www.heartofnorthcarolina.com

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Texas itinerary: Welcome to Lubbock

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Visit Lubbock Texas
Visit Lubbock 7-27-21 itin lb

Welcome, to Lubbock, Texas, home of Buddy Holly and The Crickets, the world’s largest windmill museum, the one and only Prairie Dog Town, and where West Texas hospitality still reigns king. Here, your group will be welcomed with open arms and truly feel how grateful we are for their visit. Check out these group-friendly attractions for your visit to the “Hub City.”

Whether your group is looking for local tunes, internationally acclaimed art, or a glimpse into West Texas culture, Lubbock, Texas is the ideal place to gather. The Visit Lubbock team will assist group tour planners from the beginning of the planning process to the moment the bus pulls out of town. Let us help you plan a visit to the “Hub City” for your group!

Visit Lubbock
Tory Mitchell, group tour sales manager
tory@visitlubbock.org
visitlubbock.org

VISIT

Buddy Holly Center

At the Buddy Holly Center, visitors are immersed in the life and music of Lubbock’s favorite son. Here, you will catch a glimpse of Buddy memorabilia, including a firsthand look at the iconic glasses of this rock ‘n’ roll legend. Located in the Depot Entertainment District, the Buddy Holly Center serves as inspiration for young artists performing on stage at one of the many music venues of the Depot District.

EXPLORE

Texas Tech

The Texas Tech Public Art Collection inspires visitors with more than 100 pieces of art scattered through campus. For each construction project, whether it is a new build or an update, a portion of the budget is allocated to commission a piece of art to complement the space. Browse the work of international artists on campus by downloading the ArTTrek app to your mobile device, which mentions the artist, inspiration, and other details.

TOUR

National Ranching Heritage Center

Learn the history of ranching at the 19-acre National Ranching Heritage Center, featuring 53 structures that tell the story of ranching in the West. Before you explore the park, browse through the 44,000-square-foot museum with rotating galleries. Every holiday season, visitors travel to see the park come to life during Candlelight at the Ranch. The annual December event features people dressed in time-period clothing living as they did as far back as the 1700s.

LISTEN

Cactus Theater

Once a 1930s movie theater, the Cactus Theater serves as an iconic landmark for the entertainment scene in the Depot District. This live music and performance hub is known to attract talent across the country. From soul to country and rock ‘n’ roll to pop, music lovers will find their home at the Cactus Theater.

Oklahoma itinerary: Oklahoma City

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Bricktown Water Taxi, Downtown OKC. Credit: Courtesy of Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

“Oklahoma City is always evolving and has transformed into an all-new city for groups to explore. It’s a spirited and welcoming city that embraces its unique Western heritage. Groups traveling to OKC can experience a variety of experiences and destinations including renowned festivals, outdoor adventures, top-notch museums and 14 diverse districts.”

—Sandy Price, vice president of tourism, Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

GO

American Banjo Museum. Credit: Courtesy of Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Named one of the 50 Best Places to Travel in 2020 by Travel + Leisure, Oklahoma City boasts a rich Western heritage. Discover the legacy of the American West at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. The museum includes numerous galleries, three Halls of Fame, permanent collections and a research center. Upcoming special exhibitions include “¡Viva México!,” and “Tattoos: Religion, Reality,” to name a few. 

There’s more to the banjo than meets the eye; discover the history of America’s instrument at the American Banjo Museum. In addition to guided tours through the museum’s permanent and special exhibits, groups can enhance their visit with a live performance and a meal.

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s collection features North American, European and Asian art — as well as a permanent collection that boasts one of the world’s largest public collections of Dale Chihuly glass. Coming to the museum June 26 through October 17, the “PAINTERS OF POMPEII: Roman Frescoes from the National ArchaeologicalMuseum, Naples” will feature over 80 artifacts and artworks.

EXPLORE

Tower Theatre. Credit: Courtesy of Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

The State of Oklahoma features over 400 miles of historic Route 66, and Oklahoma City’s stretch of the route is home to a number of notable landmarks. See a live event at historic Tower Theatre or get a bite to eat at POPS — Route 66’s newest landmark featuring a gift shop, café, shake shop and convenience store.

ASK

Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau
405-297-8913
visitokc.com

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