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.
Enrichment Travel Services
Photos courtesy of Enrichment Travel Services