Mark Warther, president of Warther Tours and Amazing Travel Treasures, is no stranger to group tours. For 30 years, as general manager of his family’s museum, Ernest Warther Museum & Gardens in Dover, Ohio, Warther was responsible for marketing to and building relationships with motorcoach companies. Fast forward to 2008, when Warther branched out of the family business to create his own Ohio-based tour company.

Warther Tours
Mark Warther
Credit: Warther Tours

Q. What inspired you to get started in the tour business?

A. I actually took a tour of Colorado through a large tour company and thought they were “missing the boat” when it came to details, quality hotels, and food. I rented a car and toured Colorado for a month and designed our own tour based on historic and boutique hotels, fantastic food, and unique experiences, including a dinner on a canyon rim with brisket cooked for 20 hours. I was hooked! I figured if that recipe for building tours works in Colorado, it would work everywhere. Now we handle five Colorado tours and other types of tour options every year with groups from all over the country.

Q. Why does the group-tour industry appeal to you?

A. I am amazed the most with the lifelong friends that one makes in this industry. Once we have spent some time with people, showing them places they have never been, in a unique and quality way, they usually come back and want to experience another place with us, and that creates friendships.

Q. Where do you find inspiration for your tours?

A. Listening to our guests. When clients ask to visit a destination I have never been before, I start researching. Sometimes it may take a couple of years and several visits to a new area to learn the right way to design the tour. Once we are satisfied with the tour we have created, it becomes part of our library of tours.

Q. What industry trends are you noticing?

A. Since COVID-19, we are seeing the desire for North American tours increase, and I think, with time, Europe will see a resurgence, too. The desire for detailed larger tours is still there. Another trend impacting the market is the increasing cost of hiring motorcoaches for one- and two-day tours. To meet these trends, we are building more tours of distinction that appeal to clients who want to stay in boutique hotels and experience activities they cannot book on their own.

Q. What’s next for Warther Tours?

A. In an effort to come out of COVID positioned to be a new leader in the tour industry, I bought a tour design company, which I renamed Amazing Travel Treasures. This company sells tour packages to other companies and group leaders rather than retail consumers like Warther Tours. We are fortunate to have hired key people in the industry such as Dawn Dornes, our general manager, who has 25 years of experience.

We also finalized two new tours this year. One is our Swiss Rail and Italian Lakes Tour, which travels throughout Switzerland on first-class rails, with several two-night stays. We include unique experiences such as wine and pasta making in a grotto in northern Italy. Our other new tour destination is the Pacific Northwest. This tour includes two days on the San Juan Cruises enjoying whale and wildlife searching and staying two nights in Friday Harbor.

Q. How do you attract new clients to your business?

A. We believe in advertising but find that word of mouth is still our best way of finding new clients. Our quality experiences speak for themselves.

Q. Tell me about your favorite tour you have planned or gone on. What made it special?

A. I really love our Ireland tour. We put together a 12-day tour, which features once-in-a-lifetime lodging like Lough Eske Castle and Ballynahinch Castle along with 23 meals. Our guide, Tony McGoey, is an old Irishman who really brings that tour alive!

Q. What travel destination is on your bucket list?

A. Future places I have not designed yet that are on my bucket list would be Norway/Sweden and the Arctic Circle.

Main image: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad; credit: Warther Tours