At Happy Times Tours & Experiences, virtual experiences are part of the product lineup just like day trips and casino trips.
The tour company, located in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Wisconsin, launched in July.
“When COVID-19 started, never did I think I would be producing videos and recordings in 2020,” said Kris Hoff, president and CEO. “But I find myself doing just that. And, I am enjoying the challenge.”
Hoff said the company is starting to offer traditional tours with limited seating and other requirements to keep everyone as safe as possible.
But many people do not yet feel safe going on a tour. Or they are looking for an activity that will lift their spirits. Moreover, Hoff noted, many groups cannot take any trips at this time but are looking for something to engage their clients.
So Happy Times Tours & Experiences developed virtual experiences to provide people with a tour experience even if they are not ready to go out.
“It is a whole new tour world out there, so you just have to move and work with what people will be interested in,” Hoff said.
The company offers several virtual experiences. All include items from local businesses. Hoff’s team members have recorded video presentations that show what the businesses do, their history and more.
“People who purchase the package can choose to do the drive-thru pickup or we do ship nationally as well,” Hoff said. “In their package they receive all the items listed in a tour plus a jump drive that contains all the recordings we have so they can watch and experience all these great businesses. The only exception to this is our Wisconsin Cocktail Experience boxes, which will have a presentation on either how to make the perfect Wisconsin Old Fashioned or the perfect Wisconsin Bloody Mary.”
A new product is “Destination Virtual Experiences” and involves partnering with other small tour operators. “We are offering our first Destination Experience Packages in New Orleans and in Wisconsin’s Amish Country,” Hoff said. “We are expanding and will have other destinations.”
Hoff said she has learned that people are purchasing the virtual experiences and making a checklist of where they want to travel and what they want to see once COVID-19 is in a better place. “With that knowledge, I decided to offer more than just local and expand to include other destinations, and, of course, I will offer those an incentive that purchase the destination experience and good discount to sign up for the real tour,” she said.
For groups, the company is offering limited in-person presentations, Zoom presentations and other ways to present the information depending on each group’s needs.
Hoff said Happy Times Tours & Experiences adds value to the virtual experiences by making sure they are affordable. “People do receive a good amount of treats, and we have done all the work making sure they get the extra ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the businesses,” she said. “All businesses are local to Wisconsin and really are small businesses.”
An occasional challenge for Happy Times Tours & Experiences is that a business does not want to be included in a virtual experience. “We cannot always understand why they are not interested, but we just look for someone else who has a good product, a good business story and fits what we are looking for to complete our experience,” Hoff said.
According to Hoff, the reaction of clients to the virtual experiences has been very positive.
“It is filling a lot of demands from group leaders that are not able to offer travel at this time,” she said. “We also have had people that are signing up for the drive-thru pickups because this is something fun they can do at home.”
Virtual experiences also make great gifts, Hoff said.
Contact Happy Times Tours & Experiences at 414-867-2727 and happytimestours.com.