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THE MAGAZINE FOR BANK, ALUMNI AND CHAMBER TRAVEL PLANNERS

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FRENCH LICK MOMENTS

|

PEACEFUL GETTYSBURG

|

SOUTHERN SOJOURNS

An enduring

glimpse of

TUSCANY MARCH/APRIL 2019


EUROPE & ALASKA Explore the iconic cities of Europe or adventure in the majestic wilderness of Alaska with the best premium cruise line. Extraordinary by sea, remarkable by land. Luxury Voyages to the most amazing places.

304-485-8687 www.USToursVoygages.com ©2018 Celebrity Cruises Inc. Ships’ Registry: Malta and Ecuador


LOUISVILLE’S NEW 2X2 ARK INCENTIVE

Louisville’s new 2x2 Ark Incentive means savings for your group. Book one of four classic Louisville activities and overnight with us, then visit either the Ark Encounter or the Creation Museum, and we’ll treat you to room rebates plus a personalized, red carpet welcome reception with a free souvenir. For more information, visit GoToLouisville.com/Travel-Professionals

@GoToLouisville


THE MAGAZINE FOR BANK, ALUMNI AND CHAMBER TRAVEL PLANNERS

select T R A V E L E R

VOL.27 NO.2

MARCH/APRIL 2019

TUSCANY: TREAT YOUR SENSES

contents checking in: HENRY MOY

toolbox: conference marketing:

VIP TOURS

COVERAGE

PLACE MATTERS

Courtesy Collette

ON THE COVER: A woman gazes out over Montepulciano, Italy, and the surrounding Tuscany countryside. Photo by Nikita Birzhakov.

career:

LOOKING AHEAD

10 12 14 54 56

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MAC T. LACY CHARLES A. PRESLEY BRIAN JEWELL ELIZA MYERS HERBERT SPARROW DONIA SIMMONS ASHLEY RICKS CHRISTINE CLOUGH KELLY TYNER DANIEL JEAN-LOUIS KYLE ANDERSON

DANIEL JEAN-LOUIS

888.253.0455

ADVERTISING ACCOUNT MANAGER

DANIEL@ GROUP TR AVELLE ADER.COM

Founder and Publisher Partner Executive Editor Associate Editor Senior Writer Creative Director Graphic Designer/Circulation Manager Copy Editor Director of Sales & Marketing Advertising Account Manager Advertising Account Manager

selecttraveler.com

22 trains gourmet 32

KNOWN FOR:

GETTYSBURG

40

southern

T R AV E L G U I D E

Select Traveler, the Magazine for Bank, Alumni and Chamber Travel Planners, is published bimonthly by The Group Travel Leader, Inc., 301 East High Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507 and is distributed free of charge to qualified travel program directors throughout the United States. All other travel suppliers, including tour operators, destinations, attractions, transportation companies, hotels, restaurants and other travel-related companies, may subscribe to Select Traveler by sending a check for $49 for one year to: Select Traveler, Circulation Department, 301 East High Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507. Copyright The Group Travel Leader, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial or graphic content in any manner without the written consent of the publisher is prohibited. NAME OR ADDRESS CHANGES: If your copy of Select Traveler should be mailed to another manager in your organization, or if you personally know another travel director who is not receiving Select Traveler, please send your correction to: Select Traveler, 301 East High St., Lexington, Kentucky 40507, or call (859) 253-0455.


Your passengers can take a tour and a sip at the legendary Anheuser-Busch Brewery and find out why St. Louis was named “The Best Beer Scene” by USA Today. Or they can cheer on the 11-time World Champion Cardinals at Busch Stadium or Ballpark Village. And no trip is complete until they’ve experienced the city’s thriving live music scene or learned about its history at the National Blues Museum. It‘s the Midwest at its finest. Discover more reasons to tour here at explorestlouis.com.


perspective P U B L I S H E R ’ S

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his column addresses an impromptu diversion our tour director set up for us to the Florence American Cemetery on the morning of November 6, 2018, during my recent trip to Tuscany with Collette. Almost 4,400 U.S. soldiers killed in World War II are buried there in graves marked by white crosses. Another 1,409 remain forever missing in action, their names and

hometowns inscribed on a massive stone wall. Most died during or after the liberation of Rome in June 1944. This unscheduled stop was especially poignant because, back home, it was Election Day. Our friends and families were exercising their freedom to vote. A gentle rain fell as cemetery official Fiorenzo Iacono addressed us near the memorial wall. “The liberation of Rome was a turning point in the Allied advance from the south,” he said. “It was these soldiers whom President Eisenhower told, ‘The eyes of the world are upon you.’ Since the Normandy invasion is so well-known, these troops were part of what is often called the forgotten front. They were only boys, averaging 20 to 21 years of age. They loved to fish and play baseball.” I

will

never

forget

how attentive the Italian

Florence American Cemetery

groundskeepers were to the graves of these young American

heroes.

One

nodded to me as he blew another November’s leaves off the broad stone steps that cascaded downward through this eternal place!

Email me anytime with your thoughts at maclacy@grouptravelleader.com.

Mac Lacy 6

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CUSTOM CONTENT

FROM BOOKING TO

BON VOYAGE

MSC IS THERE FOR GROUP TOURS BY VICKIE MITCHELL

W

hat’s not to like about taking group travelers on a voyage with MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately owned cruise line? The planning is certainly easy; with one call, everything from meals to guest rooms to activities, is arranged. There’s also value-when all costs are tallied, a cruise is clearly a better deal than comparable land-based tours. And, for travel planners, there’s the bonus of seeing their travelers, smiling and happy as they discover the charms of Cuba, or Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Still, if you’ve never taken a group shipboard you might be hesitant to give it a try because you feel you don’t understand how things differ from a land-based program. Wayne Peyreau, regional vice president, sales (U.S.A.) for MSC Cruises, understands the concerns. Here, he covers questions planners often pose and explains how MSC works with groups

EXPECT TO ANSWER A LOT OF QUESTIONS

An MSC planning expert will spend a lot of time on the phone, talking to a travel planner. “We ask questions to understand and identify their needs and wants,” said Peyreau. “Then we can give them options.”

LET’S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THOSE OPTIONS

Maybe you’d like a special shipboard greeting for your group or, one evening, a reception on deck. If bonding is the goal, MSC planning experts can come up with fun games or teambuilding contests.

WANT YOUR GROUP TO STAND OUT? ASK MSC.

Wearing matching T-shirts or hats could help your travelers better connect on board. MSC can help brand a gathering with logoed T-shirts, hats, napkins and banners.

MSC MAKES IT EASY TO GIVE A CRUISE A TRY

A tour planner who has never offered a cruise might be nervous about getting sufficient bookings to qualify for a group rate. That’s why MSC honors a group rate even if a planner markets a trip but doesn’t meet the minimum. “It gives our clients a comfort level,” said Peyreau. “They can promote with confidence.”

NEED HELP MARKETING YOUR TRIP? MSC WILL HELP.

Marketing is key to a good group booking. MSC has marketing materials that can be customized. It will also share videos, brochures and other materials to inform and excite your travelers.

Jamaica; Georgetown, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico, before arriving in Havana, Cuba, early on a Saturday afternoon, staying overnight, and leaving at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

MEETING EXPERT AT YOUR ELBOW

An MSC planning expert will introduce themselves to planners on board and check in to make sure things are running smoothly. If unexpected issues arise, planners can use a ship’s phone to reach their on-board contact. “You have someone on board your ship making sure you have everything you need,” said Peyreau.

VARIED SHIPS, ITINERARIES FIT DIFFERENT NEEDS

Since it began offering departures from PortMiami, MSC has steadily added ships and voyages year round in the Caribbean. Again, this year, the elegant MSC Divina rejoins MSC Seaside, offering several threeday cruises to the Bahamas, which could be a good introductory tour for groups that have not cruised in the past. MSC is developing its own island in the Bahamas, and late this year, a stop there will become a part of many of its cruises. For groups that would rather spend time exploring ports than at sea, the MSC Armonia will sail seven-night Caribbean cruises with stops in Montego Bay,

FOR MORE INFORMATION Wayne Peyreau 954-958-3283 www.msccruisesusa.com wayne.peyreau@msccruisesusa.com


follow us @ gotripsinc

P L A N N E R S

T A L K

B A C K

what was one of your group’s favorite hikes or nature encounters? NANCY JO NUNLEY

DIRECTOR OF FIRST PRIORITY CLUB | FIRST NATIONAL BANK AND TRUST

Travel ☼ Thoughtfully Designed ☼ ☼ Delightfully Executed ☼

OKMULGEE, OKLAHOMA “One of my favorite nature experiences was a visit to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. I had never heard of this National Historic Landmark, but it was absolutely beautiful. The landscaped gardens were gorgeous, with lovely trails and natural beauty everywhere. The Singing Tower has a 60-bell carillon that fills the gardens with music. It is a must-see stop if you are planning a trip to Orlando.”

SHELLIE SCHWANKE

DIRECTORS OF ALUMNI RELATIONS | EUREKA COLLEGE EUREKA, ILLINOIS “I have yet to offer a group hike for my alumni, but hiking with my family is one of my favorite activities. We have road tripped to the Rocky Mountains as a family for years and have hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park on many of the trails during the spring, summer and fall. Each season brings a unique beauty as we bond with each other and the natural beauty around us. There is no better way to feed your soul than a beautiful hike with those you love.”

RANDY CALAGUAS

TRAVEL OFFICER | FIRST CITIZENS BANK MASON CITY, IOWA “We loved hiking in Bryce and Zion national parks. They are just stunning locations. The nature and scenery are also incredible and very accessible. We had similarly wonderful experiences in Alaska, Iceland and New Zealand.”

KATE SANDERS

DIRECTOR FOR ALUMNI PROGRAMS AND ALUMNI GROUP TRAVEL | OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY ALUMNI ASSOCIATION CORVALLIS, OREGON “There are specific geographic areas that are always popular for nature and wildlife, such as Costa Rica and Africa. Madagascar is specifically trending up.”

TAMMY BROWNING

EMERALD CLUB DIRECTOR | CENTRAL BANK

888-55-TRIPS

www.gotripsinc.com 8 selecttraveler.com

SPIRIT LAKE, IOWA “I have not taken our members on any hikes thus far. One of the goals of the co-directors and myself in the past year has been to attract some more members from a younger demographic. We are seeing great success with this goal. I have been planning a few more active trips to give options for those who don’t require sedentary travel. “I am looking forward to exploring nature with our guests on a trip for the upcoming summer that includes an orchard, a vineyard and two botanical gardens.”

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COEUR D’ALENE TRIBE

Cultural Tourism.

Immerse yourself in the stunning beauty and serenity of our premier resort. At the same time, immerse yourself in the rich cultural experiences of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. We’ll create custom packages just for you or your group, including Powwows, traditional cuisine, historical tours, storytelling, dance and more. Book your tour now! Contact Dee Dee McGowan, Cultural Tourism Manager, at 1 800 523-2464 ext 7415

37914 South Nukwalqw, Worley, Idaho 83876 CDACASINO.COM |


checking in W I T H

HENRY MOY

H E N R Y

M O Y

QUINTUS H. HERRON DIRECTOR

MUSEUM OF THE RED RIVER IDABEL, OKLAHOMA The Museum of the Red River highlights the artistic heritage of the native people of the Americas and around the world. In 1998, the museum began offering small group tours, generally with a limit of 18 travelers. Though Idabel, Oklahoma’s population is 6,800 people, the museum’s travelers hail from across the country. The museum allows anyone interested to join the tours. Born: Chicago Education: Master of Arts in teaching from Beloit College Employment: Moy worked at Beloit College eight years after graduating to become director of museums. He established a student exchange program with Brazil before joining the Museum of the Red River in 1997. Hobbies: Moy enjoys traveling and reading. One country he has returned to repeatedly is China.

A group with the Museum of the Red River poses in front of massive Pohutu Geyser in Te Puia, New Zealand.

BY ELIZA MYERS

W

hen Henry Moy first visited China in 1979, the country had only recently opened to travelers. Handlers restricted the tour to certain areas, including one visit to a model village. “The people living there had to scavenge for firewood, so at one place I saw them chopping up 17th-century furniture that had been in their family for years to use as firewood,” said Moy, Quintus H. Herron director for the Museum of the Red River in Idabel. “That just broke my heart. They didn’t seem to care.” The China trip helped teach Moy, a fourth-generation Chinese-American, the power of travel to connect people to another culture. Moy returned to China seven times, including a few years ago on a tour with the Museum of the Red River. He wanted to create a similar cultural experience for the museum’s travelers, so he arranged some personal home visits.

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“It was at a time when the country was allowing people to own art again,” said Moy. “People were digging family heirlooms out of their backyard that they had hidden so they wouldn’t be confiscated. These private museums were popping up in people’s homes. We visited someone’s living room filled with art. These were things that had never been catalogued or seen. Cultural experiences like that are so exciting and mind-boggling.” Moy weaves these types of exclusive encounters into the tours he plans for groups traveling with the Museum of the Red River.

T R AV E L B A C K G R OUND

Moy grew to love travel early because his family prioritized travel and cultural experiences. “My parents had a limited financial background but were committed

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to going to museums and traveling whenever possible,” said Moy. “I was very fortunate.” Later, Moy traveled while attending Beloit College. He then took a job at the same institution creating international experiences for students. “I took students around the world,” said Moy. “I helped establish exchange programs in Brazil, so I had a familiarity with that.” The Museum of the Red River hired Moy in 1997. He started the travel program a year later to spread the love of travel with the local community. “We are in rural southeast Oklahoma,” said Hoy. “Most people will live here and never leave the country. We are a museum with international exhibits. We are bringing the world to a smaller community, then letting our community be a part of that larger world with our travel program.”

“With smaller tours, you expect more perks than a trip with 40 people,” said Moy. “Our trips will cost a little bit more, so we try to make sure our travelers feel like they are getting value for their money. We now have a core group of travelers who try to go on one trip a year with us. Travel has built loyalty to the institution. Travelers’ personal contributions have increased.” Yet Moy’s motivations for the travel program aren’t financial. His greatest joy is giving people a chance to interact with the world the way he was able to on his trips to China and beyond. “I love our ability to provide these opportunities to those who want to have their hands held a little bit while traveling,” he said. “Then, after the trip, people will sometimes go back to that country by themselves to go to their favorite destinations or the places they missed. That’s gratifying.”

MOD EL IN G THE WAY

The museum’s travel program first ventured to Brazil, since Moy was familiar with planning trips there. Though Moy carried with him a wealth of travel knowledge, he didn’t have other museum travel programs to imitate. “We introduced the concept of a museum travel program to Oklahoma, as far as I know,” said Moy. “There are some now. I mostly looked to universities for examples of international travel programs.” After Moy’s successful first museum trip, the travel program continued to attract new and repeat travelers, first from the community, then from farther away as more out-of-town museum visitors started signing up for tours. The museum now sends tour announcements to a mailing list of people across the country. Some people who haven’t even visited the museum have signed up for trips strictly from word of mouth. The museum typically plans two international trips a year: one in the spring and one in the fall. The groups usually stay small, with a maximum of 18 people. Each tour ties in with a museum exhibit. For example, an exhibit on Amazonian feather work inspired a trip to the Amazon. Though the museum focuses heavily on Native American pieces, in the past 20 years it has expanded its collection to include items from Africa, the South Pacific and Latin America. “The world has opened up for us,” said Moy. “We can easily match our trips to our collections. Last year, we did a trip to New Zealand because we received a small New Zealand collection. We want to broaden the experience of our exhibits with these cultural travel programs.”

T R A V E L

tips

• Focus on value-added tours by traveling with your group. • Your tour’s broad offerings should include standard trips plus special-access opportunities. • Convince participants to travel while they are young.

G AIN IN G GRO U N D

Through the travel program, donations and other initiatives, Moy has seen the museum grow from 2,800 square feet to its current 58,000 square feet of space during his time there. “We are currently on our fourth renovation and expansion,” said Moy. “The museum is now a big presence in the town. We aren’t in a big town, but we are on a major tourist route. We serve a wider area than just our local community.” For each museum trip, Moy crafts an initial itinerary with added exclusive experiences, such as early access to museums, special meals and behind-the-scenes tours. He then selects a tour operator to arrange the itinerary’s logistics.

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T R A V E L

T O O L B O X

give your members the royal treatment

BY B RIA N JE W E LL

E

verybody likes to feel important. In an industry bookended by rush-to-the-bottom price competition on one side and tiered loyalty programs on the other, the average traveler can often feel squeezed, overlooked or forgotten. So it only takes a small personal touch or an exclusive experience to break through the norm and give someone a sense of respect and significance. Making members feel special should be a crucial part of your loyalty-building strategy as an affinity travel program director. Sometimes, this might mean paying special attention to an especially influential guest. Other times, it means delivering upgraded travel experiences that your customers won’t get from any other travel organizations in your community. Whether you have true VIPs joining you on a specific trip or just want to offer a highend travel opportunity that will make every member of your group feel important, here are some surefire ways to deliver VIP experiences to your guests.

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SE T UP PE RSONA L E NCO UNTERS One of the most effective ways to make someone feel like a VIP is to introduce them to other important people. When you’re traveling, that means meeting the movers, shakers and influencers at destinations and attractions. In a small town, you might arrange to have the mayor greet your group at an attraction or a meal. At a theater, perhaps you could have a director or some cast members spend time with the group. And at a museum, ask for a visit with the curator instead of a volunteer docent. You can often secure these VIP meetings simply by asking for them.

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HIRE E XE CUT IVE COACH ES On many group tours, travelers spend more waking hours on a motorcoach than anyplace else. So, to heighten your travelers’ experience to the VIP level, upgrading the motorcoach can make a lot of sense. Today’s transportation companies offer a range of options beyond the standard 54-seat coach. Highlights include minicoaches, which feel more intimate, as well as full-size executive coaches that have been appointed with highend finishes to feel more like limousine interiors. Some even feature a lounge area and a small kitchen, allowing you to offer comfortable seating, snacks and beverages en route.

U P G R A D E ROOMS A ND A ME NIT IE S Hoteliers figured out long ago they could make their most loyal customers feel like VIPs by offering them free upgrades to fancier rooms and exclusive amenities. And while you probably can’t get every member of

INCLUDE OP TIONAL ACTIVITIES

your group into a presidential suite, you can work with hotel partners to

A long-standing practice in both

offer better-than-average accommodations. This could entail rooms on

tours and cruises is for operators to

the concierge or club levels, which often include free appetizers, drinks

offer some highly memorable — and

and other perks. If these spaces aren’t available, you could also arrange

highly valuable — experiences as

for a gift or small edible goodies to be delivered to each traveler’s room

optional extras for passengers who

while they’re out seeing the sights.

want to pay for them. This helps keep the cost of a trip low. But if cost isn’t your primary concern, consider building some of these optional activities into the standard trip package. On a tour, it means working

P L AN AR O UND MA RQUE E E VE NTS

with your tour operator to price one or two signature experiences into the

Getting access to high-demand events can make travelers feel spe-

overall program for every participant.

cial. So to really sell a VIP tour, consider building it around a marquee

On a cruise, it might mean booking

sports or cultural event. If your travelers love sports, work with an experi-

a shore excursion exclusive to your

enced tour operator to put together a trip to the Kentucky Derby, the Su-

group or, perhaps, including an on-

per Bowl, the Masters Tournament or the World Series. For theater lovers,

board credit so travelers can pick

don’t just plan a generic trip to New York or Chicago; instead, find a way to

their own excursions.

score tickets to “Hamilton” or “Dear Evan Hanson.” Many of these trips will be significantly more expensive than regular tours, but for VIP customers, the price might pale in comparison to the value of the experience.

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C O N F E R E N C E

connection AN ICONIC CONFERENCE

SELECT TRAVELER ENJOYS FRENCH LICK HERITAGE Twickenham Antebellum District

BY DAN DICKSON

T

he Select Traveler Conference is the country’s premier affinity group travel event. So it seemed only natural that the 2019 edition of the event would be held in a premier destination: historic French Lick Resort, surrounded by southern Indiana’s Hoosier National Forest. “This is America’s only international travel conference created for upscale travel groups like yours,” Mac Lacy, publisher of Select Traveler magazine, told conference delegates. “You’ll meet with the best tour companies with destinations that understand the standards you expect for your travelers. You’ll spend time with people who do what you do.” Joe Vezzoso, an executive of French Lick Resort, said hosting the conference was easy. “I’ve known the folks at Group Travel Family for years and thought this conference would be in the best interest of southern Indiana,” he said. “Our partners in the region were also very supportive of the idea.”

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AN ELEGANT SETTING

French Lick Resort was created because of the medicinal benefits of the extraordinary salt springs in the area. The resort includes two famed hotels that are 125 years old: French Lick Springs Hotel and West Baden Springs Hotel, just a short distance down the road. Both are designed to bring a sense of European elegance to southern Indiana, and both feature world-class spas. The two properties offer a total of 686 guest rooms. In addition, the sites boast the French Lick Casino, a wide variety of event and meeting spaces, exceptional golf courses and many family-friendly activities in the wider area that include everything from a local railroad to a wildlife refuge. The resort sites had fallen into decay a decade ago, but thanks to the generosity of the local Cook family, known for its medical device manufacturing empire, along with state and federal grants, French Lick Resort was restored to its original glory to the tune of $600 million. Today, the site is visited by groups from around the U.S. and the world.

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Photos by Dan Dickson

Left to right: West Baden Spring Hotel; Collette luncheon; French Lick Resort event

PLANNERS COME TO BUY

The conference included three marketplace sessions. About 100 group travel planners met with 195 travel industry representatives promoting destinations all over the country and a few foreign countries, too. Mining for travel ideas was common. “It’s my first conference, and I haven’t felt intimidated, even though there’s so much activity,” said Jacquelyn Rohrer of Eagle Bank and Trust in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas. “I’ll meet new vendors and present new trips to my members for 2020 and 2021. I usually offer one larger trip and a few shorter ones.” Nadine Mihaljevic of Destinations With Nadine in Mundelein, Illinois, loves the conference. “Whenever I come, I search for lifetime partnerships with people I can trust and who share my quality customer-service goals,” she said. “I’ve found that year after year at Select Traveler.” Cindy Salta of Bank of New Hampshire from Laconia, New Hampshire, agreed. “It’s an awesome way to network with vendors and sellers. They’re some of the top ones in the country.”

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“WHENEVER I COME, I SEARCH FOR LIFETIME PARTNERSHIPS WITH PEOPLE I CAN TRUST AND WHO SHARE MY QUALITY

CUSTOMER-SERVICE

GOALS.

I’VE

FOUND THAT YEAR AFTER YEAR AT SELECT TRAVELER.” — NADINE MIHALJEVIC OF DESTINATIONS WITH NADINE

selecttraveler.com

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C O N F E R E N C E

connection Reception time!

Rosie Mosteller’s Recycled Teenagers in Dalton, Georgia, has an impressive following. “My travel club has 2,500 seniors,” she said. “We’ve literally been around the world and have a full schedule of 12 trips this year. I’ve met so many great people here that I can travel with.” Dan Stypa of Rice University in Houston is looking to expand his organization’s travel portfolio. “We’re trying to broaden the types of trips we offer,” he said. “Currently, we do long, extended international and domestic trips. Now we’re thinking of serving members who don’t have the time or money to take long trips.” Travel planners gathered in breakout sessions to tackle several issues common to all buyers, such as how to accommodate both older and younger travelers. “The only time I have young people along is if they’re guests,” said Emily Hart of Sterling Federal Bank in Sterling, Illinois. “I just focus on my members, and the guests just go along and don’t pay much attention to what I am saying half the time.” Melody Beecham of Hometown Bank in Corbin, Kentucky, described how her Varsity Club is attracting younger members. “We’ll make a ‘junior’ version of that for 40- to 50-year-olds with activities that are more interactive, such as trails and skeet shooting,” she said. “Those members will eventually feed into our older program.”

Enjoying the auction

Happy hosts

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C O N F E R E N C E

connection TRAVEL INDUSTRY IDEAS

Tara Walton of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau came to promote her city. “My goal here is to promote travel to Birmingham,” she said. “We’re hospitality engineers and want to help travel leaders to promote us to their clients. We look forward to hosting them in our city.” Erin Hoebbel of Meet NKY in Covington, Kentucky, invited groups to her region. “We’re new in the motorcoach group market and have gotten a boost from the nearby Ark Encounter,” she said. “We’re strong in faith-based circles but also get bank groups. I want to build on that.” Many conference delegates represented individual attractions or hotels as well. “I’m trying to grow my group business and bring everyone to Natchez to show off what we have,” said Valda Harveston of Magnolia Bluffs Casino and Hotel in Mississippi. “We’re a casino and hotel, so we work well for all groups and those who want culture and heritage.” David Stephens offered Gandy Dancer Theater in Elkins, West Virginia. “We’re making people more aware of our the-

ater, our town and West Virginia in general,” he said. “The theater presents musical shows from the 1940s to today and legend shows with live celebrity impersonators, like Elvis.” Imani Dames of Warwick Paradise Island in the Bahamas enticed planners. “We’re spreading brand awareness of our alladult, all-inclusive resort. We’re the closest Caribbean resort to the U.S. Hopefully, we’ll get new future bookings and create nice memories for travelers.”

“WE’VE LITERALLY BEEN AROUND THE WORLD AND HAVE A FULL SCHEDULE OF 12 TRIPS THIS YEAR. I’VE MET SO MANY GREAT PEOPLE HERE THAT I CAN TRAVEL WITH.” — ROSIE MOSTELLER WITH RECYCLED TEENAGERS

• 165,000 square feet of meeting space (including enhanced Exhibition Hall coming this fall) • Activities such as bowling, horseback riding and sporting clays • Customized team-building adventures • World-class spas • Championship golf courses • Casual and fine dining

Proud hosts of the 2019

Traveler M A R C H Select / A P R I L 2 Conference 0 1 9

selecttraveler.com

Must be 21 years or older to enter the casino. Gambling Problem? Call 1.800.9.WITH.IT!

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E D U C A T I O N

SPEAKERS

A D D R E S S E D

B O T T O M - L I N E

Come to Cheyenne!

I S S U E S

Coeur D’Alene Casino

Join us in Egypt!

Amber Selking

Bob Pacanovsky

T

he conference also featured educational and inspirational speakers in several sessions. Keynote speaker Bob Pacanovsky urged travel planners to go beyond the obvious. “I don’t think you are in the travel business,” he said. “You’re in the people business, first and foremost. You can also deliver an excellent customer experience, but something may be missing. It’s the power of hospitality and how we make our customers feel.” Amber Selking, Ph.D., a sports and corporate mind-training expert, told delegates they must think like champions. “Champions have a mind-set that what they say to themselves and how they carry themselves matters,” she said “For them, self-talk matters for their ability to be their best. Change and ambiguity are where champions get great. People who aren’t champions worry about what will go wrong and whether they can deal with it. They don’t handle change well. In your world of travel, you must deal with change. Forget distractions. Focus.” Greg Nahmens of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration urged planners to “look before you book.” “We ask that in your due diligence, you come to our website and inspect safety records for transportation companies you might hire,” he said. “Your customers put their lives in your hands based on decisions that you alone make.”

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Booth buddies

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Globus crew

The Meeting for Bank, Alumni, & Chamber Travel Directors Keynote by Mayflower

Cheyenne, Wyoming March 22-24, 2020 Experience Columbus

selecttravelerconf.com

Call to Register Today:

800.628.0993

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EN T ERTAIN M E NT

SOCIAL EVENTS THE WEEK

U.S. Tours breakfast

H I G H L I G H T E D

M

BY DAN DICKSON

ealtimes at the Select Traveler Conference are not meant just for eating. They’re ideal opportunities for networking with fellow travel industry professionals. Delegates did plenty of that at the opening night’s welcome reception at West Baden Springs Hotel, sponsored by French Lick Resort. Under the hotel’s dramatic 200-foot-tall dome over a beautiful atrium, delegates enjoyed a buffet dinner along with the sounds of a smooth quartet presenting classic pop music. The next morning, delegates didn’t need strong coffee to wake up. A breakfast, sponsored by U.S. Tours, featured a pounding country band with a phenomenal fiddle player who seemed to get everyone’s fingers and toes tapping. Bob Cline told delegates about his company. “We do things others don’t have the guts to do,” he said. “This year we’re renting West Virginia Penitentiary for a Johnny Cash prison concert, renting all riverboats in Louisville and racing them before the Kentucky Derby, and renting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for Woodstock’s 50th anniversary.” That day’s luncheon, sponsored by Collette, featured a return engagement by popular 18-year-old “American Idol” contestant Tristan McIntosh. During the luncheon, Collette also announced the winner of a contest in Select Traveler magazine that featured a free FAM trip for two to Italy. The lucky winner was Catherine Lawless of Bradley University. The buffet dinner that night was sponsored by Visit Cheyenne, which will host the 2020 Select Traveler Conference in beautiful and rugged Wyoming, March 22-24. “It’s a chance for us to show off the growth in the community and to highlight attractions such as the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration,” said Jim Walter of Visit Cheyenne. “We’re only 90 minutes north of Denver, so we’re accessible for the rest of the country.” Another country band entertained delegates that evening, with a dance floor right in front of the stage. The closing day’s breakfast carried a Hawaiian theme and was sponsored by Trips. It featured many beautiful leis and some funny, impromptu hula dancing. “Normally, on Hawaii cruises, our tour conductor policy is one free trip for 10 booked,” said Brian Doughty of Trips. “The conductor flies and sails for free. But for a limited time, we’ll give a free trip for just seven bookings.” Globus sponsored the conference’s closing luncheon, which turned mellow at the conclusion when a yoga instructor took the stage to guide delegates through relaxing stretching and breathing exercises. Host Rachelle Hillebrandt Stoutt sent everyone away a little less stressed than when they arrived.

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Marketplace Kickoff by Go Ahead

A tomato juice toast

Safe travels!

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Green jackets

Silent Auction

West Baden event

Marketplace

Spin to win!

Play to win

Reception

Trips breakfast aloha!

Cheyenne dinner

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LOCOMOTION LEGENDS ??? Spectacular mountain ranges, wildlife and glaciers keep long train rides with Alaska Railroad riveting. By Glenn Aronwits, courtesy Alaska Railroad

THESE REVERED RAILCARS DELIVER THE VIEWS

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BY REBECCA TREON

hat is it that makes train travel so special? Is it the sound of a whistle in the distance, the chuffing of the engine as it spews puffy clouds of smoke or the clackety-clack of wheels moving in tandem as the train winds along the track? Maybe it’s the romance of riding by rail, a moment when passengers can slow down and enjoy the view. Away from the stress of everyday life, travelers can read, write, rest, socialize and even enjoy a cocktail in the dining car. Hearkening back to a long-gone era, the nostalgia of riding trains is real. These days, the journey itself is the destination, with train trips offering a view of landscapes not seen along the road more traveled. Railways are offering unique experiences, too, from live entertainment and wine tastings to holiday-themed rides and even murder-mystery experiences. From coast to coast, America’s train travel is alive and well, presenting an unusual entertainment option and a way to experience a place.

DURANGO-SILVERTON NARROW GAUGE RAILWAY DURANGO , COLORADO

Durango, in southwestern Colorado, is near Mesa Verde National Park and the Four Corners. Founded in 1880 in the Animas River

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valley of the San Juan Mountain Range, the city was created by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to serve the area’s mining community. Two years later, rail tracks to Silverton were completed. The train was to transport ore, but even in those days, the railway was touted as a scenic travel route. Over the next century, the train fell into disrepair until a largescale restoration project revived the railway. In the 1980s, it built up its tourism and now provides year-round service, running a 100 percent coal-fired, steam-operated route with locomotives dating to the 1920s. Trips depart from Durango’s hub for five-hour jaunts through scenic Cascade Canyon, winding along the Animas River and arriving in Silverton, a former mining town that has maintained its historic charm. Its downtown district is lined with oldfashioned saloons and restaurants whose staffs don period dress. The railroad offers several ride options. There are half-day trips for those who want to spend part of the day exploring Silverton, rides with wilderness stops for backpackers that let them get off to camp or hike, and wine- and beer-tasting trains with live entertainment or historic narration whose rides culminate with a picnic in the woods. It’s worth the extra money to sit in the Nomad and Rio Grande cars, which send riders back to the golden era of rail travel. And upon arriving in Silverton, visitors won’t want to miss the Strater Hotel, a trip back to the Wild West, furnished with antiques and a Wild West saloon. WWW.DURANGOTRAIN.COM

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Courtesy Bite San Diego


GRAND CANYON RAILROAD

WILLIAMS, ARIZONA

There may be no more spectacular way to get to the majestic Grand Canyon than by train. Completed in 1901 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, the Grand Canyon Railroad was built with the idea of transporting ore. That didn’t pan out, but the train became a popular tourist attraction as more people headed west to see the Grand Canyon. Among notable riders have been several presidents and Hollywood celebrities. The role of the railroad in the development of the Canyon’s South Rim was significant. In 1904, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad hired Fred Harvey, owner of a chain of railroad hotels across the country and creator of railroad dining service, and his architect, Mary Jane Colter, to design the Grand Canyon’s iconic hotels, among them Pueblo Indian-inspired El Tovar. The train cars include diesel locomotives, Pullman cars, vintage coaches, parlor and first-class cars, and observation dome cars. Today, riders can choose between riding in historic Pullman cars or the Luxury Observation Dome. The train departs from Williams, Arizona, and makes a two-and-a-halfhour trip to the South Rim, where it allows for a few hours of exploration before its return. The ride includes entertainment: musicians playing the music of the Old West, historical anecdotes and Native American dancers. Overnight guests can choose one of the many hotel options to take in all the Grand Canyon has to offer. WWW.THETRAIN.COM

CASS SCENIC RAILROAD

CASS, WEST VIRGINIA

The 11-mile-long Cass Scenic Railroad encompasses the former timber company town of Cass, West Virginia, and part of the summit of Bald Knob, Back Allegheny Mountain’s highest point. Founded in 1901 by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, Cass served the local lumberjacks. Visitors today ride on converted open-air log cars, climbing steep inclines pushed by a logging locomotive. The locomotives are maintained and restored by volunteers and include eight Shay locomotives, a Heisler locomotive and a Climax locomotive. Trips include everything from two-hour to daylong excursions. The two-hour Whittaker trip goes four miles away to Whittaker Station, an authentic re-created logging camp, where riders can explore and play outdoor games. The Bald Knob trip takes four-and-a-half hours and includes the peak’s scenic overlook and an astronomy observatory, plus a stop at Whittaker Station for a “hobo lunch.” There are specialty train rides like the Polar Express and the Elf Limited, holiday trains that are great choices for families. And the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train is a four-hour excursion to the remote High Falls of Cheat and includes a four-course meal. The railway offers unusual overnight options, too. The Wild Heart Connector Package goes to Old Spruce, with a transfer to the Cheat Mountain Salamander, and ends in Elkins, West Virginia, where guests enjoy a hotel stay, a dinner and a show. Twenty of the former company houses in Cass are also available for overnight rental. Popular in winter be-

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cause of nearby Snowshoe Ski Resort, the houses are also available in spring and summer. The Castaway Caboose takes the Durbin Rocket to a remote riverside camp, where cabooses have been converted into fully modern accommodations.

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

WWW.MOUNTAINRAILWV.COM

ALASKA RAILROAD

ALASKA

Courtesy Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway

By Patrick Shehan, courtesy Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway

The options for riding the Alaska Railroad are nearly as vast as the territory itself. Its main line runs 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks, Alaska, and all points in between. The track was completed in 1923; President Harding personally drove in the Golden Spike to celebrate its completion. The railroad operates year-round with seasonal variations. There are five main routes available: On the Coastal Classic, a day stop in Seward, offers options like a cruise through Resurrection Bay or Kenai Fjords National Park; a scenic ride to a remote island lunch; a trip to Exit Glacier and a dog sled ride at Seavey kennel; or a day in town exploring shops, restaurants and the sea life center. On the Denali Star, the route runs from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska, with a stop at Denali National Park for a day trip or a multiday excursion. Hurricane Turn heads into the Indian River Valley to remote cabins, hunting and fishing. The Glacier Discovery route makes several stops. In Portage groups can visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, home to black and brown bears, moose, caribou, wood bison and other wildlife. In the port town of Whittier, Alaska, visitors can take a glacier and wildlife cruise in Prince William Sound before exploring the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, a gravel path leading to Spencer Lake and its glacier, where rafting, hiking and ice climbing are all available activities. The Aurora Winter train travels the same route as the Denali Star, but in the winter months instead, offering travelers the opportunity to head into Alaska backcountry and ski the trails at Talkeetna, Alaska, or take a train-in/flyout option, popular for guests who want to attend events like the March Fur Rendezvous or the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Anchorage. WWW.ALASKARAILROAD.COM

Grand Canyon Railroad

Special Summer Pricing for Groups Full-day excursions departing daily from two locations: Chama, New Mexico & Antonito, Colorado

· · · · ·

Mid-May to Mid-October Group Friendly Restrooms Lunch Included ADA Accessible Bus Parking

Group Sales Office: 1.877.890.2737 59284GROUPleaderC&TRR.indd 1

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www.cumbrestoltec.com/groups

Courtesy Grand Canyon Railroad

6/17/14 12:06 PM

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MOUNT WASHINGTON COG RAILWAY CONWAY, NEW HAMPSHIRE

The world’s first cog railway runs up the Northeast’s highest peak, Mount Washington, which sits at 6,288 feet high. Fifteen years after summiting the mountain and nearly dying, meat-packing mogul Sylvester Marsh succeeded in launching his engineering feat when in 1869, “Old Peppersass” first climbed the mountain. The railway, a designated National Historic Engineering Landmark, celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019, with a program of special events celebrating the occasion, including an employee reunion and ending in a public birthday bash. The train operates with vintage steam engines, replica coaches and environmentally friendly biodiesel locomotives and is in the process of a multiyear upgrading project. Though the coaches are modern and state-of-the-art, they’re built and designed on-site at the railway’s base to replicate the experience travelers would have had in the early 1900s. In the late 1800s, visitors took stagecoaches to the Marshfield Base Station before traveling by rail to hotels at the top of the peak, a voyage that’s re-created daily today. The three-hour round-trip is a narrated journey through history and a stunning natural landscape. The climb to the top ends with an hour of exploration at the visitor center and a 360-degree view of five states, Canada and the Atlantic Ocean. The rise in altitude creates a significant drop in temperature, something detailed in a visit to the weather observatory at the top. WWW.THECOG.COM

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A fall foliage ride with Mount Washington Cog Railway

Courtesy Mount Washington Cog Railway

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Courtesy Mount Washington Cog Railway

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a taste of

THERE’S A LOT TO LOVE ABOUT THE heart OF ITALY

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BY MAC LACY

ver espressos at a street-side cafe in Bologna, I asked Alexa Dorobantu which better captures the essence of Italy: food or fashion. She paused, then laughed. “I cannot choose,” she said. “But I will say this: I will give up my pizza every now and then to buy a Gucci belt!” Dorobantu knew she had inspired this and other questions with her animated references to all things edible or wearable as our tour director on this Collette Spotlight tour of Tuscany. Youthful and expressive, her use of the English language veered between flawless and priceless. When asked if contemporary culinary trends had taken root in Italy, she answered, “Yes, it’s a thing to be vegan right now. But for me, if you are vegan, you should not even wear shoes!” Describing a region of Italy where men hold traditional sway over family matters, she created classic irony when she observed, “There, it’s the men who fold the pants in the family.” “We are very warm people,” she said, as we talked, just paces off Bologna’s boisterous outdoor market. “We embrace. We’re welcoming and open-hearted. In Sicily, you are best friends in five minutes. In Venice, it takes longer, but be patient.” Sicily and Venice will have to wait. My wife, Kim, and I were spending this week with a Collette group in Tuscany.

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Tu scany

San Gimignano

WE’D LI KE E •

• WE’D LIK E

NK • CO LL E

TT

TO

THA

T TO

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OS TRIP H

THA

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LE

Courtesy Collette

FLORENCE

Dorobantu gave us radio headsets to listen to her commentary as we arrived in Florence and warned us that they cost $100 to replace. “Don’t lose your radio — that’s a pair of shoes,” she said. Florence remains the cradle for one of civilization’s greatest leaps forward. Steeped in Renaissance art and architecture, it demands to be enjoyed at street level. Historians place the Renaissance between the 14th and 17th centuries, and the near entirety of Florence’s ancient core is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Piazza del Duomo; the Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo’s David; the Uffizi Gallery, Florence’s Renaissance art repository; and the sculpture-resplendent Piazza del Signorio are within minutes of one another. The city’s iconic

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Ponte Vecchio bridge, built in 1345, crosses the Arno River just another few steps away. It was All Saints Day when we arrived, and the local crowds were enormous. Just grabbing a gelato required commitment. Getting into major sites like the Uffizi or the Pitti Palace, built in the 1450s, was impossible, but Collette had arranged entry into the Accademia Gallery, so we walked into what looks like Michelangelo’s workshop. Brawny, half-formed figures emerge from blocks of marble as you walk toward the David, sculpted in 1504. They look unfinished but aren’t. “Life is a struggle,” our guide said. “We are imprisoned in our bodies. Michelangelo believed this. His unfinished sculptures represent this.” We stood before his masterpiece, whose steely countenance has

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Florence’s Duomo

Michelangelo’s David Courtesy Collette

defined resolve for centuries. “Don’t tell me you see fear because it does not exist,” said our guide. “We see determination.” As we stood in the piazza surrounding the Duomo, Dorobantu cautioned those thinking about climbing the steps to its cupola, a Florence landmark. “Take your time,” she said. “They’re not Hollywood steps — they’re Renaissance steps.” Kim and I were hungry, so we crossed the crowded Ponte Vecchio, then navigated side streets to find Gustapizza. This pizzeria was so busy that we had to split up to order and find a table. We traded travel stories at a high-top with a young couple from Austria, then spent the afternoon with the crowds enjoying gelato and shopping in the city of Da Vinci and Michelangelo. That evening, we had a raucous dinner and cooking demonstration at Amici del Colle in Montecatini Terme and began meeting friends we’d enjoy throughout the week. This tour included travelers from Cleveland, a chamber group from Rochester, a travel club out of Houston and a group from a Seattle community center. Leaning Tower, Pisa

All photos by Kim Lacy unless otherwise noted

PISA

It may be unorthodox to mention Pisa’s lively downtown before its beloved square, but it’s not unreasonable. After viewing the famously leaning tower, cathedral and baptistry, we spent a couple of hours walking through this college town. Pisa is a coastal city but is also dissected by the Arno River, just minutes away from the tower. Pisa University, established in 1343, creates a youthful vibe in a medieval city. Some of the best commentary we heard in Pisa was at the expense of Lucca, our next stop. The two towns have shared a heated rivalry for centuries. “Americans say their country is young — but actually, Italy is young,” our guide said. “We’ve only been a country since 1861. Until then, Pisa was Pisa, Rome was Rome, Florence was Florence, and Lucca, unfortunately, was Lucca.” He walked us through Pisa’s revered Campo dei Miracoli, a monumental campus featuring white marble architecture, and discussed its Cattedrale, Baptistery and Leaning Tower, built in 1063, 1153 and 1173, respectively. He pointed out the symmetry of the structures and their spatial relationships.

Our driver and Alexa

Cooking class in Pescia

Ponte Vecchio, Florence Courtesy Collette

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A

SP OT L IGH T

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compass

n a Collette Spotlight trip, travelers use one hotel in a strategic city and travel from there each day, allowing them to develop a familiarity with that city. We stayed in the Grand Hotel Tettuccio in Montecatini Terme, and by the end of the week, both felt like home. We walked every evening through town, and by week’s end, our walks concluded with dessert and coffee at Pasticerria Giovannini near the city square. We downloaded Collette’s Compass app before we left home and used it extensively in airports for checking into flights and monitoring gate changes. It included useful information on each city we visited, organized by day of arrival, and provided walking directions, web links and phone numbers for museums, restaurants and other sites. Everything was at our fingertips.

Grand Hotel Tettuccio

“The Renaissance was more about math than art in its beginnings,” he said. “It began with calculations like those required to construct these magnificent structures. Numerals led the way, not Michelangelo.” For the record, the tower not only leans, it also bends. It began leaning early on, so subsequent construction negated that by tilting it back toward center.

Gustapizza, Florence

LUCCA

The day before our arrival in Lucca, the city had hosted its version of Comicon, an event that attracts thousands of comic book and movie fans, many dressed in elaborate costumes. White tents spread across the city, and costumed characters shuffled about. Lucca is pristine, and its massive medieval wall, the Passeggiata delle Mura, accommodates many walkers and bicyclists. Lucca is the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini, and music endures. “Lucca draws major rock stars like the Rolling Stones for concerts,” said Dorobantu. “It’s cooler and breezier than Florence for outdoor events like that.” “We had 400,000 visitors here in five days,” said our guide, clearly unhappy about the costumed crowds invading her beautiful city: “You see these horrible tents.” Then she started in on Pisa: “So you were in Pisa yesterday. I hope you heard good things about Lucca. I doubt it. St. Michael’s Church was built in the 12th century, and its bell tower stands perfectly straight — like every bell tower in Lucca.” We loved Lucca. An ancient Roman amphitheater there, Piazza Anfiteatro, dates to the second century and has been retrofitted with

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Lucca’s Passegiatta delle Mura

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Forest Church, Siena

Ceramic art, Siena

Bologna’s market

Seamstress, Lucca

Tuscan hillside, Fattoria Lischeto

cafes and shops. We had lunch nearby and bought several gifts. It would be easy to spend a morning on Lucca’s town wall. On our way home, someone surveying the medieval landscape asked about ghost tours in Italy. “We have no ghosts in Italy,” Dorobantu said. “That’s a thing in America. A ghost tour here is a knockoff.”

SIENA

Siena is known for its mammoth town square, Piazza del Campo, which is punctuated by the magnificent marble Duomo, and for its ancient neighborhood districts. There are 17 districts, each with its own stable, and the no-holds-barred horse races through town during its Palio delle Contrade are legendary. Siena’s districts feature distinctive names like the Goose, the Forest or the Panther, and residents born to one remain loyal forever. Naturally, the winning district in each summer’s horse race enjoys serious bragging rights. “Siena has had a problem with water supply for centuries,” said our guide. “So while every district has a fountain, they are only turned on for baptisms. You are baptized into your district and your church. Family reunions take place in our districts during the horse races.” After a walking tour, uphill and down, through Siena’s stone streets, Dorobantu surprised us with entry into the Forest district’s small church. Like most in Italy, it is filled with original art, but our guide discussed something else. “For the Palio, the horses are blessed,” she said. “The door opens, and the horse comes to the altar. The priest blesses it with holy water,

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saying, ‘Go, and come back a winner.’ The jockey is not mentioned — only the horse. We bribe the jockeys to lose. We spend all winter figuring out who bribed the jockeys.” We asked for a restaurant recommendation and landed at Antica Trattoria L’Aquila. Kim had cheese and spinach ravioli in wild boar sauce, and I had spaghetti with tomatoes, sausage and pecorino. Kim noticed two large newspaper clippings on the wall of an exuberant Palio spectator running wildly alongside thundering horses. “Is that him?” she asked our waiter, pointing to the owner at the register. Our waiter laughed and called to the proprietor. He came over, and speaking entirely in Italian, explained that his district had won those races and that in the picture, he was celebrating on the track.

BOLOGNA

Unlike most Italian cities, Bologna is a city of porticos — or “loggias” — that overhang sidewalks to repel weather. It is an elegant city and, like Pisa, is a college town. Bologna University, established in 1088, is considered the oldest in Europe. As we learned firsthand, it is home to a mesmerizing street market in the Quadrilatero, its medieval center. This is the place to go for fresh fish, meats and vegetables, as food is taken seriously in Bologna, enough so that our guide offered this advice should we return: “If you are having a business meal in Bologna, eat first, then talk.” She took us into Tamburini, a delicatessen where tables were set for us in the back, and we had a delightfully spontaneous lunch of charcuterie selections with wines.

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SAN GIMIGNANO

Lunch in Bologna

Close your eyes and imagine a town on a Tuscan hilltop. That’s San Gimignano. Like nearby Volterra, it rises above its surroundings, its medieval towers peering across rolling terrain for miles. Towers were built as a sign of wealth in the Middle Ages, and today, 14 of 72 towers built in the 12th and 13th centuries remain. Like Florence, its town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

COLLETTE 844-445-5663 WWW.GOCOLLETTE.COM

Dorobantu extolled the virtues of the local gelato, pointing out that Gelateria Dondoli has twice been named the world’s best. A bright sun welcomed us to San Gimignano, and our group spread out to enjoy its acclaimed collection of artisans shops. Kim and I bought two handcrafted ceramic pieces from the artist himself at Corsini Ceramiche. On our way to Fattoria Lischeto for lunch, I watched as a valley beneath us began to move. Hundreds of white sheep scuttled in unison across the base of an emerald hillside. After a winding entry on a gravel driveway through classic Tuscan countryside, we were greeted to this small farm by a braying white donkey that sprinted up his pasture to greet us like an old friend. “Our family bought this land in 1962 and turned it into an organic farm in 1991,” said our host. “We came from Sardinia. We became cheesemakers and are now sending cheese to Europe, the United States and China. Today, we have 20 apartments for guests.” We enjoyed a wonderful meal there that included insalata forro, fondue, beef carpaccio, stracchino cheese and an antipasto plate. It was our last loud lunch together, and it tasted like an exclamation point. By trip’s end, I had to agree with Dorobantu. Between world-class food and fashion, Renaissance art and architecture, and maybe newfound friendships, defining the essence of Italy is a lot like defining the genius of Michelangelo: It’s best not to try.

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CIVIL keeping things

BY ELIZA MYERS

The Mason Dixon Distillery offers not only specialty liquors but also an eclectic array of food. Photos courtesy Destination Gettysburg

WITH GETTYSBURG CUISINE, EVERYONE WINS

D

BY ELIZA MYERS uring the Civil War, the dish was a favorite among the Georgia militia. And it has become popular again in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at the Historic Farnsworth House Inn, which serves Civil War-era inspired food. Gettysburg’s culinary attractions can turn routine group meals into entertaining and enlightening events. Whether the choice is a period-authentic restaurant or a comprehensive city food tour, Gettysburg offers a variety of options that cater to groups. Even tastings at the Mason Dixon Distillery or the Adams County Winery keep the focus local to showcase the town’s momentous past and thriving present.

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HISTORIC FARNSWORTH HOUSE INN

Peanut soup, game pie and sweet pickled watermelon rind take visitors’ taste buds back to the Civil War era at the Historic Farnsworth House Inn. But the inn’s two restaurants go beyond food to immerse guests fully in the period. The inn’s Meade and Lee dining rooms feature 1800s decor, displays of Civil War pictures and servers in period attire. At the more informal Sweney’s Tavern, diners can browse through a collection of costumes and props from the 1993 movie “Gettysburg.” The inn also provides historic tours of the 1810 home. Tours begin in the cellar, where guests learn about the home and how it once housed Confederate sharpshooters and a hospital. Groups then climb to the attic, which holds a collection of Civil War artifacts. Interested groups can also choose from several ghost-themed tours, including the Mourning Theater, in which guests step into a room decorated to look like a Victorian Mourning Parlor.

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Groups can eat outside at a re-created Civil War Camp to feel like part of the historic experience. The Eat in Camp package includes a costumed interpreter and a meal in the same area where the Louisiana Tigers ate during the Gettysburg Battle. Another program called In Their Shoes lets groups experience what a day was like in the life of a soldier. Each participant is given a wooden replica rifle, a hat and a card with personal details of a different Civil War soldier. “The costumed historian will walk them through the history and the realities of being a soldier,” said Rachel Wright, media relations manager for Destination Gettysburg. “They learn how to hold a rifle and go through drills. It is a cool experience.”

MASON DIXON DISTILLERY

The owners of the Mason Dixon Distillery do not simply concoct spirits with Civil War-inspired names. They seek to create as authentic an experience as possible. The distillery partners with the National Park System to grow their grain right on the nearby Gettysburg Battlefield. The small-batch distillery also uses locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. The distillery even grows a garden for its restaurant’s seasonal menu. “Mason Dixon Distillery offers distillery tours, as well as meal and beverage packages for groups,” said Wright. “The owner and distiller will take you around the distillery and explain the process from grain to bottle. He is an interesting guide, so it is a fun tour.” Tours allow participants to smell the head-spinning vapors coming off a maturing barrel. The owner also shares the history of the distillery, which opened in a century-old furniture factory after careful renovations. After a tour, groups can sample spirits, purchase bottles and order cocktails such as Lavender Lemonade, Watermelon Splash or The Commonwealth. The distillery produces vodka, rum and corn whiskey and has plans to expand its whiskey and gin offerings.

SAVOR GETTYSBURG FOOD TOURS

Instead of limiting a group’s city tour to looking out the motorcoach window, group leaders can break up the tour with delicious food. Savor Gettysburg Food Tours offers both walking tours and step-on motorcoach tours that combine the town’s culinary highlights with its culture and history. “The tour is a great way to get a sense of the town,” said Wright. “It’s also a great option for groups that have been to Gettysburg be-

fore but want to do something different. It puts the destination in a new perspective.” The three-hour Historic Downtown Food Tour features six local eateries, including an eclectic restaurant, an Irish pub, a Thai restaurant and a homemade-ice-cream shop. One stop — the Hoof, Fin and Fowl — serves sustainably sourced seafood, beef, poultry and game meats. The Group Bus Tour Package lasts 2.5 hours with four tasting locations and intriguing history lessons. During the holidays, the 12 Tastes of Christmas Holiday Walking Food Tour delivers the town’s glittering lights, decorated storefronts and 30-foot-tall downtown Christmas tree with festive flavors to match. For groups of 15 or fewer, the Field-to-Fork Agritourism Experience is a daylong tour of local farms. Participants learn the process of making artisan goat cheese, pick their own harvest at an orchard and harvest vegetables at a local farm. At the final destination, a local chef takes the collected products and creates a tasty meal to serve under the farm’s enormous maple tree.

ADAMS COUNTY WINERY

Walking up to the Adams County Winery, visitors sometimes receive a welcome from Rusty, resident golden retriever and winery mascot. The friendly dog reflects the laid-back attitude of the winery that strives to appeal to wine connoisseurs and newcomers alike. The 1975 winery grows six varieties of grapes on-site, so they can offer wines with flavors ranging from sweet red to dry white. The owners even grow an acre of blueberries to make their popular Yankee Blue. Nestled against the base of South Mountain, the winery has garnered numerous awards over the years. Its Terrace Bistro specializes in wood-fired pizza for an end-of-the-day comfort food experience. “Adams County Winery is the oldest winery in Adams County and the fifth oldest in Pennsylvania,” said Wright. “They have a private room where they usually send groups for tastings. Groups can work with the winery to have food prepared for them ahead of time. During the warmer months, there is always some event going on. They have a lot of live music. Food, live music and wine makes for a wonderful evening.” Groups can choose from several tour and tasting packages, including the Upgraded Tasting with six samples of wine and a souvenir wine glass. The Taste of History Tour and Tasting package incorporates tales from Gettysburg’s past into the experience. For a more private tour, the Experience Tour and Tasting package offers behind-the-scenes information, a barrel draw of wine and additional tastings and paired snacks.

www.destinationgettysburg.com

In Their Shoes program at Historic Farnsworth House Inn

Adams County Winery

Historic Farnsworth House Inn

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VOICES &

C HO I C E S BY ELIZA MYERS

Salt Lake City comes to life in the twilight hours.

Utah Museum of Contemporary Art

Salt Lake Tabernacle

Tabernacle Choir

Eccles Theater

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groups love their options in salt lake city

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alt Lake City is a destination for saints and sinners alike. Whether your travelers prefer a holy start to the evening listening to the heavenly Tabernacle Choir or a night of fun at a brewpub, Salt Lake City can accommodate them. Dubbed Ski City, Utah’s capital has four ski resorts and is near several other outdoor attractions. The city’s easy-to- navigate public transit allows visitors to ski or hike by day, then enjoy the lively metropolis by night. Tours that take off in the morning for the area’s natural wonders can return in the evening for a relaxing choir concert, theater performance or art stroll. The city’s popular craft-brewing scene can also provide a laid-back atmosphere for dining and sipping on local beverages. Salt Lake City’s night scene can stretch out an itinerary for visitors eager to keep exploring after sunset.

TABERNACLE CHOIR

There is a reason that the Tabernacle Choir, formally the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, is well-known around the world. The 360-member choir exacts high standards from its performers while maintaining an impressively comprehensive repertoire. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan dubbed the choir America’s Choir in 1981 when the Tabernacle Choir sang at his inauguration. One of the largest and oldest choral groups in the world, the choir has performed for several presidents, sold millions of records, won scores of awards and sung in more than 28 countries. Despite the prestige, choir members remain unpaid volunteers motivated simply by the joy of music. Groups can listen to the glorious choir music on Thursday evenings. The weekly public rehearsal runs from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with options for visitors to come and go as they wish. The rehearsals frequently occur in the famous Mormon Tabernacle. The 1867 church stands without pillars or posts to obstruct audience views. The groundbreaking design and historical significance led to the church’s designation as both a National Historic Landmark and a National Civil Engineering Landmark. The resulting extraordinary acoustics allow a person standing 170 feet away to hear a pin drop from the pulpit. Sometimes rehearsals move into the 21,000-seat Latter Day Saints Conference Center to accommodate larger crowds. Groups can still tour the nearby temple as part of the experience. “For groups, touring the temple and listening to the choir is a big attraction,” said Shawn Stinson, director of communications for Visit Salt Lake. “Sometimes we include it with a brewery or distillery afterwards for a saints-and-sinners-theme tour.”

SQUATTERS PUB BREWERY

To identify the defining characteristics of an ideal brewpub, Jeff Polychronis and Peter Cole planned a yearlong pub crawl to visit more than 40 brewpubs throughout the West. After many nights appreciating beer, the two opened Squatters Pub Brewery, Salt Lake City’s first brewpub. Squatters Pub Brewery opened downtown in 1989. Inside a storied hotel on the historic registry, the brewpub offers award-winning craft beer in a space that can fit up to 300 guests. Indoor private M A R C H / A P R I L

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spaces and outdoor patios give groups plenty of options. “Squatters works with groups all the time,” said Stinson. “The beer is amazing. They also offer a full bar. If someone in the group would prefer wine or a margarita, then they can handle that as well.” Visitors can sample some of the brewpub’s favorite beer blends, among them the Chasing Tail Orange, a golden ale infused with naval orange flavors. Squatters’ menu features daily specials and traditional pub favorites like bacon-topped meatloaf. The company uses mostly local and sustainable ingredients for both its food and brews. The company operates five brewpubs, as well as a wine and ale house. Groups can learn the process behind Squatters’ craft beers on a tour at the nearby Utah Brewers Cooperative. Tours include a tasting and a take-home glass.

ECCLES THEATER

When Pelli Architects created the urban master plan behind the Eccles Theater, the firm had to not only design an important city landmark but also incorporate the character of the city into the project. In 2016, the theater opened to the public. With architectural details that mimic trademark Salt Lake City buildings, the arts center features the 2,500-seat Delta Performance Hall, the 250-seat Regent Street Black Box theater and a six-story grand lobby. The lobby draws in abundant light through dramatic retractable glass walls. The Delta Performance Hall recalls the terraced Utah landscape with warm-colored panels and gold-toned metal. When guests look up, they see a ceiling that resembles the night sky, with tiny starlike lights suspended in the dark. “It’s a brand-new state-of-the-art theater,” said Stinson. “It shows all the big touring Broadway shows. It is an exciting development for the city.” Among the Broadway shows scheduled for 2019 are “Rent,” “School of Rock” and “Aladdin.”

SALT LAKE GALLERY STROLL

The first public building in Utah was a social hall where pioneer settlers could gather and enjoy the arts together in 1851. The city has retained its love for the arts with murals and installations that dot the downtown landscape. Groups wanting an evening filled with art have plenty of options in Salt Lake City. Every third Friday, galleries across the city keep their doors open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Live music, refreshments and artistic lectures often accompany the event. “The nice thing is that you can make arrangements with the galleries to work with the groups,” said Stinson. “We can hire a guide to go with them. It is a casual walk around the city to see the various galleries. Groups can pop in and grab dinner somewhere on their own or at a scheduled stop.” Visitors can browse through local paintings at the 15th Street Gallery, book an art workshop at Art Access or admire a rooftop sculpture garden at the Phillips Gallery. Some sponsors offer discount rates for Gallery Stroll participants. If a group’s tour date does not line up with the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll, they can still have an art-themed evening out at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. On the University of Utah campus, the museum houses more than 18,000 works from around the world inside a 74,000-square-foot building. The museum stays open until 9 p.m. each Wednesday. Another night option, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art stays open until 9 p.m. on Fridays. The museum showcases local, national and international artists in four gallery spaces.

www.visitsaltlake.com

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ORNATE MOSCOW SUBWAY

TRANSFORMATIVE T R AV E L D E S I G N EVOLVING GROUPS KEEP DITTO FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE BY VICKIE MITCHELL

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ravelers are seeing more of the world, and they are no longer trying to see it all in one trip. That’s just one of the changes Collette has noticed as the 100-year-old tour company monitors the way we travel. Collette has long been known for creating tours that travelers love to take. These days, creating trips that resonate with travelers is the job of Collette’s tour development team, led by director of product design Diana Ditto. Ditto has worked in tour development at Collette for six years. In her 20s, she led tours for Collette and as a high school student, she worked some summers at its

Rhode Island headquarters. Her art history major, combined with passions for travel and history, come in handy as she and her staff determine how to make Collette’s tours unforgettable.

BEYOND THE BUCKET LIST

People travel more than they ever did in the past, and that’s led to changes in group travel. “Airfare is more affordable than it has ever been,” said Ditto, “so you can do more than one trip. In the 1960s and ’70s, getting on a plane was only for the very wealthy.” Because travelers no longer feel compelled to see it all on a trip they saved a lifetime to take, they want trips that go beyond bucket-list attractions.

“People used to just get their picture taken in front of the Taj Mahal,” said Ditto. “Now, they also want to meet a local artisan and learn more about local culture.” And because they are more independent than previous generations, today’s group travelers also want more free time. “The question becomes ‘How do you squeeze it all in without being exhausted?’” said Ditto. Making logistical adjustments has helped. Although some Collette tours cover multiple countries, most of today’s tours focus on a single country or even a region or two within the country. That makes for less time spent aboard the motorcoach and mostly two- to three-night stays at stops along the way.


A CUSTOM CONTENT SERIES FROM COLLETTE

EL OMBU RANCH, ARGENTINA

DIANA DITTO

INDEPENDENCE HALL, PHILADELPHIA

MEETING PEOPLE WHERE THEY LIVE AND WORK

The Collette team also looks for opportunities to squeeze in cultural experiences. For example, a break on a long drive becomes a cultural exploration. “Before, a tour traveling from Killarney to Galway in Ireland might have stopped for a break in a town and let everyone walk around,” said Ditto. Now, Collette arranges stops that connect travelers with people. “We arrange for a stop at a farmhouse for tea or have lunch with the owners of a fifth-generation family restaurant. Everyone needs to eat and get off the bus,” Ditto said. “So we think, ‘How can we have a meal and a cultural experience?’”

THE SUBWAY AS A CULTURAL BRIDGE

CENTENNIAL IRELAND

Another way to incorporate culture — and make tours a better value — is to use reliable public transportation. There’s no better way to understand how people live than to ride to work, to school or to shop with them.

Ditto’s favorite example of Collette’s use of public transportation is the subway system in Moscow. Collette’s new Russia tour uses the metro to take travelers from the hotel to the Kremlin. It’s only three stops away. “In Moscow you are navigating one of the most agile, historic and on-time public transportation systems in the world,” Ditto said. “The subway stations are so beautiful that people take guided tours of them. Stalin wanted the system to be a ‘palace for the people.’” In London, guides can show travelers how to use the Tube, the underground rapid transit system. “It empowers people,” said Ditto. ”Now they think, ‘If I want to go out for dinner and don’t want to take a cab, I can take the Tube because I did it today.’” Sometimes alternative transportation is just more practical, as in Savannah, where Collette has used a trolley company to shuttle groups around the city’s narrow streets and squares.


CHOICE ON TOUR CONSIDERS VARIED CAPABILITIES

Another issue, given varying physical capabilities, is how to offer experiences that everyone can do. Collette’s Choice on Tour gives travelers different options. “Every tour we do has a Choice on Tour and a lot have two,” said Ditto. For example, in Edinburgh, Scotland, travelers can take the coach along the Royal Mile or opt to walk the historic route. “If you are someone for whom walking is more of a challenge or you are just tired that day, you can take the low-impact option,” Ditto said. Flexibility is also needed in terms of free time. “That can be the hardest balance to strike,” said Ditto, “especially when you have highly independent travelers or some with very niche interests.”

Collette always incorporates free time, but also offers an add-on activity (for a fee) for those who would rather do a tour or group activity. Collette’s guides also are known for turning free time into an impromptu outing. “Our full-time tour managers are so passionate about what they do,” Ditto said. “One might say to a group, ‘Hey, I’m going to Harrods for lunch in the food court if you want to go with me.’” Often, travelers cite these outings as favorite moments from their trip. Those comments sometimes puzzle Collette’s staff, who realize such an outing is not on the regular itinerary. “We call the guide, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I just took the group there on a free afternoon,’” said Ditto.

MAKING TRIPS TRANSFORMATIVE

Collette’s goal is to add value to tours, without losing the quality. Ditto feels the tours her team design do just that. She loves elements of the Russia trip that have added flavor without a high cost — culinary walking tours, riding the subway, being transported to dinner in Soviet-era cars. “Over the years Collette has stuck to its core values,” she said. “We haven’t stripped down our product; if anything we’ve added more value to it. I believe Collette strikes the best value for the money. People spend a lot to go on vacation; it is a time commitment. We need to make sure for those 10 days that every moment is impactful and transformative.”

HARRODS, LONDON

CLIENTS TALK; COLLETTE LISTENS AFRICAN LION

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f you’ve answered one of Collette’s post-tour surveys, you’ve had a hand in tour development. Likewise, if you’ve answered a call from a Collette product development team member, asking your opinion on proposed changes to a tour, you’ve had an impact. Collette listens to its clients and travelers. It asks them questions through surveys, and through what Diana Ditto, director of product design, calls “the lost art of picking up the phone.” Her staff calls clients — lots of them — for feedback. Sometimes Collette poses a specific question; for example, when the company was thinking about replacing free time on a London tour with a matinee show. “We call the group leaders we have worked with for

many years, especially for the big decisions,” Ditto said. Client input was crucial in a major change Collette made to its longstanding Heritage of America tour. Sales had been lackluster; the Collette team thought shifting the tour from New York to Philadelphia might spark interest, given that city’s numerous ties to the Revolutionary War and American independence. Clients told Collette they liked the idea and after three months of discussion, research and reflection, the change was made. The new tour has gotten good early response. It’s evidence, Ditto said, that group travelers have a big hand in driving Collette’s tour design. “Groups are such a pivotal part of our business,” she said. “You have to gauge their feedback.”

LIBERTY BELL, PHILADELPHIA

CENTENNIAL IRELAND


FLORENCE

ITALIAN VISTAS WINNER CONGRATULATIONS, CATHERINE!

E

DUSK IN VENICE

VENICE

SPANISH STEPS, ROME

arly next year, Catherine Lawless and her guest will be off to Italy on an eight-day tour with Col-

lette. Lawless, program director in continuing education for Bradley University, won the trip when her name was drawn February 11 at the Select Traveler Conference in French Lick, Indiana. The Italian Vistas familiarization tour, February 27-March 5, includes land, round-trip air travel, taxes and surcharges from New York and most meals. Travelers will spend two nights in Rome, one night in Sorrento, two nights in Florence and one night in Venice.

JIM EDWARDS, LEFT, AND AMANDA NIEMAN, RIGHT, PRESENT CATHERINE LAWLESS WITH HER TRIP FOR TWO TO ITALY AT THE SELECT TRAVELER CONFERENCE.

ABOUT COLLETTE Collette celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018. The family-owned business is the longest-operating tour company in the U.S., and offers 169 tours to 59 countries.

844-445-5663 www.gocollette.com


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he South is known for its lush vegetation, beautiful gardens and ornate estates. On tours of the South’s most intriguing gardens, travelers get a taste of all of that and then some. If you have horticulture or history lovers in your group, plan to include some of these great gardens

on your next trip through the South.

The gardens at Cheekwood Estate mix the old and the new.

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Courtesy Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

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THESE

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STATE BOTANICAL GARDEN OF GEORGIA

CHEEKWOOD ESTATE AND GARDENS

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. It started out as a place to see different plants native to Georgia as well as a botany learning center. “We are the nation’s oldest land grant institution at the University of Georgia, so we have very strong agriculture, forestry and horticulture programs,” said Connie Cottingham, public relations and special events manager for the botanical garden. “I think it started out supporting that and being just a beautiful place for visitors. We have grown to really embrace conservation and how to propagate different native plants, how to get them into gardens and what the benefits are, preserving them and reestablishing lost populations.” Visitors stroll through 313 acres of themed gardens and hike through natural woodlands along the river. The gardens have about 225,000 visitors a year but expect that number to jump within the next two years when the new children’s garden opens in 2019. “That is our new development,” Cottingham said. “There is so much programming with it that will teach children about nature, and the flora and fauna of Georgia, and the geography and geology of Georgia, and our history.” The children’s garden will be very hands-on, allowing children to get their hands dirty planting and harvesting different plants and roots. They also can walk through the bones of a 100-year-old cypress tree and climb into a forest play area. The gardens are also a great place to have a picnic or listen to a concert. The center also features a tropical conservatory where visitors can learn about orchids and the medicinal and food value of tropical plants. W W W .B OT GA R D EN . U G A . ED U

Cheekwood was built in 1929 as the home of Leslie and Mable Cheek, who amassed a large fortune after the sale of Leslie’s family grocer business. The coffee division of his company became Maxwell House coffee, and that is the only type of coffee served in the estate’s cafe today. When building the home, the Cheeks hired Bryant Fleming, a famous landscape architect, to incorporate the landscape into the design of the home. About eight miles outside Nashville on 55 acres, the property adjoins the Warner Parks, giving visitors a sense that they are in the country. When visitors look out the windows of the mansion, it is “trees as far as the eye can see,” said Caroline Jeronimus, communications manager at Cheekwood. “There are no buildings or traffic lights in sight. My compliments to the architect for thinking of that.” The 36-room mansion overlooks the botanical gardens. The third floor of the mansion has gallery space that features a variety of traveling exhibitions. On the second floor, visitors can tour the family’s library, dining room, drawing room and morning room. The gardens themselves comprise a mix of historic and new, with a boxwood garden that surrounds the family reflecting pool, a color garden to show off the flowers of the season, a dogwood garden and a Japanese garden.

ATHENS, GEORGIA

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

DINING. IT’S WHAT

WE DO BEST. Photo Credit: Table & Main

Photo Credit: The Mill Kitchen & Bar Photo Credit: The Mill Kitchen & Bar

State Botanical Garden of Georgia

Over 200 restaurants to discover just 20 miles north of Atlanta.

Courtesy State Botanical Garden of Georgia

moDeRn SPiRit. Southern Soul.

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770-640-3253 www.visitroswellga.com

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“I think our gardens are what draw people in the most,” said Jeronimus. “We have 11 distinct gardens, and they are all so different and unique and have such different offerings. The gardens are so pristine.” Cheekwood is best known for how it incorporates art into its gardens. It also holds concerts and festivals on its grounds throughout the year. W W W . C H E E K W O O D . O R G

BILTMORE HOUSE AND GARDENS

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

Cheekwood Estate and Gardens Courtesy Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

Biltmore House

Courtesy Biltmore House and Gardens

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The gardens surrounding George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore House estate are more than 100 years old. He began buying up land for his estate in 1888 and hired Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the most renowned American landscape architects, to help design it. Visitors to the gardens get to see the amazing mansion Vanderbilt created, with 175,000 square feet, as well as wander 8,000 acres of formal and informal gardens. The Conservatory, designed by Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1895, is an architectural wonder in its own right. The brick-and-glass structure is split into four main rooms housing a variety of tropical and exotic plans, including palms and orchids. Visitors who don’t want to wander too far from the house can enjoy the Library and South terraces. The Library Terrace is shaded by an arbor of wisteria and trumpet creeper vines and has an unobstructed view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The four-acre Walled Garden features flowerbeds planted in a style popular in the 1800s called bedding out. Two arbors serve as its spine,

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and its beds feature seasonal flowers and a butterfly garden. Biltmore Gardens also has rose, spring and shrub gardens. The Italian Garden has three formal water gardens filled with Victorian lilies, water lilies, lotuses and papyrus and features classical statuary. The 15-acre Azalea Garden has one of the country’s largest collections of native azaleas. W W W . B I L T M O R E . C O M

YEW DELL BOTANICAL GARDENS

CRESTWOOD, KENTUCKY

The gardens at Yew Dell got their start in the 1940s. The owner of the property, Theodore Klein, was internationally known as a plantsman and an expert in his field of American holly and yew. He built a farm there, as well as formal gardens, including a topiary garden, an English walled garden and a serpentine garden. When he passed away in 1998, gardeners and landscapers in the area were afraid the farm would be developed, so they formed a nonprofit organization to refurbish the property and the gardens. “When we first started, our board members — some who are on the board to this day — would come out, make sandwiches and work all day long tearing down vines and disassembling buildings that had fallen in,” said Jackie Gulbe, marketing and events director for Yew Dell Botanical Gardens. “Blood and sweat went into it in the beginning to see what there was to work with.” The castle on the property, which was the Kleins’ pool house, was an obvious building to save for special events, but the volunteers also discovered the ruins of formal gardens that were just engulfed in veg-

hello

Holly Allee at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens Courtesy Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

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Huntsville,AL 4

Huntsville, Alabama | huntsville.org

Get ready for your adventure in the Rocket City!

Marvel at more than 800 illuminated Chinese lanterns at the Huntsville Botanical Garden Shop the nation's largest privately owned arts facility at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment and stay for a concert

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Hear stories of spies, lies & ghosts while touring Historic Districts, Historic Huntsville Depot, and The Weeden House

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Commemorate Alabama's Bicentennial at Alabama Constitution Hall Park

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Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch and moon landing and future human space exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center ...and more!

Pam Williams

Tourism Sales Manager

256.551.2204 pam@huntsville.org

HuntsvilleCVB

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etation. The gardens are spread over 60 acres, and hundreds of volunteers helped reclaim the Sunken Garden, which is a rock garden with alpine plants, and a secret garden that Klein built for his wife. The fairy forest is home to ferns, conifers, evergreens and tiny fairy houses, and the gardens have one of the largest collections of hellebores and hostas in the country. W W W . Y E W D E L L G A R D E N S . O R G

A castle at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

HUNTSVILLE BOTANICAL GARDEN

HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA

Courtesy Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

Huntsville Botanical Garden Courtesy Huntsville Botanical Garden

The population of Huntsville exploded in the 1950s with the coming of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The boom prompted city leaders to augment the cultural attractions in the area. They settled on a botanical garden. The land for the garden was leased from Redstone Arsenal, a U.S. Army post nearby, and with the help of many volunteers, some of whom were retired rocket scientists, the gardens opened in 1988. A work in progress, the facility has 11 distinct gardens and numerous trails, including a birding trail. Visitors can enjoy the fern glade, the children’s garden, the garden railway, the aquatic garden, the herb garden and the butterfly house. In 2017, the garden opened a new visitor center, which has helped the gardens become a major wedding destination. “It’s a beautiful facility that is open and airy and has three new rental areas in it for people to do receptions and weddings, and a gift shop that is twice the size of the previous one,” said Carol Casey, vice president of communications and programming for the Huntsville Botanical Garden. “It’s just beautiful. People love to come see the building.” The garden couldn’t function without its volunteers. With 112 acres, the garden has a relatively small staff. Different gardening societies have adopted sections of the gardens, and their members volunteer to plant them and keep them tended. The garden raises money through events like the Galaxy of Lights display during the holidays and the Chinese Lantern Festival in the spring. WWW.H SV B G . OR G

& w e n L L a

D e z I S KIng

’s Graceland y le s re P is lv E e c Experien ere are more h T . re fo e b r e v e n in Memphis like live events. re o M . s e ri to s t a gre attractions. More ever before. n a th re lo p x e d r, taste, an More to see, hea

GRACELAND.8C-O2M000 800-23

The Water Garden at Huntsville Botanical Garden Courtesy Huntsville Botanical Garden

© EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved. Elvis Presley™ © 2019 ABG EPE IP LLC

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© 2018 The Biltmore Company

EXPERIENCE TIMELESS INSPIR ATION Inspire your group with a visit to Biltmore, featuring acres of century-old gardens, the nation’s most-visited winery, and two distinct hotels.

JOIN US FOR A VANDERBILT HOUSE PARTY—GUESTS, GRANDEUR & GALAS February 8 —May 27, 2019 Biltmore offers a new perspective of America’s Largest Home® by bringing to life how the Vanderbilts entertained their guests through stories and clothing inspired by archival photos in the estate’s collection.

ASHEVILLE, NC

866-851-4661 groupsales@biltmore.com


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cenic cruises bring to light a destination’s hidden wildlife and history. The American South boasts a wide variety of scenic cruises, from airboat swamp tours to river and ocean wildlife adventures. When your travels take you along Southern waterways, plan to explore them with excursions aboard

some of these scenic cruises.

DAISEY’S ISLAND CRUISES CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND, VIRGINIA

Daisey’s Island Cruises takes visitors on an ocean journey unlike any other. The two-hour cruise takes visitors on the hunt for wild Chincoteague ponies that make their home on Assateague Island, Maryland, which sits off the coast of Virginia and Maryland. The horses, descendants of Spanish horses that were shipwrecked there in the mid-1750s, are the main attraction. Carlton Leonard, owner and operator of Daisey’s, has numerous sixpassenger boats and two large ones that can accommodate up to 100 visitors. The cruises takes guests along the shores of both islands to find

Ship Island Excursions take visitors to explore some of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s barrier islands, including Ship Island.

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Courtesy Ship Island Excursions

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SCENIC

CRUISES

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“anything that breathes air: dolphins, eagles and shorebirds,” he said. “Sometimes seals.” Since NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is nearby, Leonard will take guests out to see rocket launches as well. Every July, thousands of visitors flock to see saltwater cowboys round up the wild ponies and drive them to swim across the shallow channel between the two islands. The cowboys are volunteer firemen who manage the herd on Assateague. The herd is driven into pens on Chincoteague, where some of the ponies are sold off to raise money for the volunteer fire department. The pony swim was memorialized in the classic children’s book “Misty of Chincoteague.” W W W . D A I S E Y S I S L A N D C R U I S E S . C O M

AIRBOAT TOURS BY ARTHUR MATHERNE DES ALLEMANDS, LOUISIANA

Visitors to New Orleans or Baton Rouge who want to see alligators, snakes, birds and other Louisiana swamp wildlife up close can travel to Des Allemands, a small town on the Bayou Des Allemands, and take an airboat tour. Airboat Tours by Arthur Matherne takes visitors through both swamp and marshland, a surreal landscape surrounded by iconic moss-draped cypress trees. “Every day is a new adventure,” said Cathy Matherne, who owns the company with her husband, Arthur. “I think the guides have as much fun as the guests showing off what we take for granted every day. We get people from all over the world and all over the country. Most of them haven’t seen alligators or the swamp or the vegetation.” Airboat Tours takes its guests onto private swamp land that is usually reserved for duck hunting. The boats travel through dense vegetation in about four feet of water.

A wild pony on Assateague Island

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SHORELINES

The airboat tour guides lure out the largest gators with raw chicken. They are allowed to do that only because they operate on private swamp land, said Matherne. Airboat Tours can accommodate up to 40 passengers at a time. The best time to come out and see the gators is February through mid-June, he said, when the gators are digging themselves out of the mud and coming out to soak up some sunshine. W W W . A I R B O A T T O U R S . C O M

SOUTHERN BELLE RIVERBOAT CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE

The Southern Belle Riverboat was built in 1985 to take tourists on scenic cruises from Chattanooga along the Tennessee River. “It has been a landmark here in the downtown riverfront since then,” said Daniel Paul, a spokesman for the Southern Belle. The 136-foot boat resembles a stern-wheel boat, but it is driven by two diesel engines. Visitors come for dinner cruises that feature live entertainment and a buffet-style meal, or midday cruises that feature narration and a history lesson about what the boat is passing along the route. The midday cruises can be done with or without a meal. The third deck of the riverboat is reserved for passengers who just want to lounge and watch the scenery. The Southern Belle can also host weddings, family reunions and business functions. It can hold

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about 450 people, but the riverboat company likes to keep it under 300 so visitors have a better experience on board. The cruise takes visitors past the downtown Chattanooga skyline, numerous bridges, Maclellan Island, a wildlife sanctuary in the middle of the river and the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. Some of the views along the river are the same as they were during the Civil War. “There are a lot of wonderful sights,” Paul said. Passengers can also take a pilothouse tour while aboard. “We encourage everyone to go up and meet the captain,” he said. W W W . C H A T T A N O O G A R I V E R B O A T . C O M Southern Belle Riverboat Courtesy Southern Belle Riverboat

SHIP ISLAND EXCURSIONS

GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI

Airboat Tours by Arthur Matherne

Courtesy Kennyn Productions

From March to October, Ship Island Excursions takes passengers 11 miles off the coast of Mississippi to Ship Island in the Gulf Islands National Seashore, where people can lounge on the white-sand beaches or take a tour of the Civil War Fort Massachusetts. The ride to and from the island allows guests to scout for schools of fish and lots of dolphins. Ship Island Excursions offers sunset cruises, dolphin-watching cruises and even DJ-led dance cruises, but its most popular is the cruise out to the barrier islands. “People really enjoy getting away,” said Kevin Buckel, director of marketing for Ship Island Excursions. “When you go out there, from the time you leave to the time you go back, you are away. There is no cellphone service that far out, so people really feel like they are getting away from it all.”

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The dolphin cruise can take up to 75 people. “We could do more, but generally we don’t like to overcrowd the boat,” Buckel said. For that tour, the company uses the wooden boat built by Buckel’s grandfather in 1932. “We still keep it in service and keep it in the family. It is our backup boat to Ship Island.” It takes about an hour to get from Gulfport to Ship Island. Ship Island Excursions has a concession with the National Park Service to ferry people out to the undeveloped island. Hurricane Camille split the island in two but the Corps of Engineers is putting it all back together, Buckel said. W W W . M S S H I P I S L A N D . C O M

Sunset cruises are very popular because dolphins are still out and about, but guests get to see St. Augustine from the water at night. Once a month, the company offers full-moon tours. “It’s cool to get out there in the night and see the stars,” said Jessica Jadick, owner of Florida Water Tours. “We bring you up close to the bay front to see everything lit up.” Florida Water Tours has been in business for four years. “We just started doing wine-tasting tours on the water,” Jadick said. “Guests get six samples of wine and then one full glass of wine. While they are tasting wine, travelers get the same wildlife and history tour as the company’s other daytime cruises. W W W . F L O R I D A W A T E R T O U R . C O M

FLORIDA WATER TOURS ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA

Florida Water Tours takes advantage of its location in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in America, to offer historical tours of the waterfront, along with dolphin and wildlife adventures. The dolphin and wildlife adventure is a daytime cruise that is great for all ages. A marine naturalist onboard talks about the wildlife passengers are seeing along the way, as well as the history of the city and the downtown riverfront area. Visitors see manatees, ospreys, dolphins, bald eagles, egrets and herons. A family of manatees lives in the marina, and guests can also gawk at sea turtles and pelicans. The 45-foot pontoon boat is covered by an awning so visitors can sit in the shade with the windows open or closed. The cruise can take 38 passengers at a time. SelectTravel_StCharles _March_April_19.pdf

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Florida Water Tours

Courtesy Florida Water Tours

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S

HE T U O

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TRAVEL GUIDE

H I ,

TEA! B Y

P A U L A

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A V E N

G L A D Y C H

ith its sense of gentility and refinement, it is not surprising that the South is home to some of the most quaint and historic tearooms in the country. Visiting groups can enjoy a traditional high tea experience complete with tiny tea sandwiches, scones

with Devonshire cream and delicate pastries. Many also include historic tours and other experiences. Make time for a traditional afternoon tea at one of these tearooms on your next adventure in the South

LAURA’S TEA ROOM

RIDGEWAY, SOUTH CAROLINA Laura’s Tea Room opened in an abandoned general store on Main Street Ridgeway, South Carolina, in 2008. When the tearoom moved in, only one other Main Street business was in operation. Fast forward 11 years, and the area is thriving. Carol Allen, owner of the tearoom, says she always loved Ridgeway.

Guests can dine on mini vanilla scones with their tea at the Flour Box Tea Room and Cafe.

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Courtesy the Flour Box Tea Room and Cafe

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SOUTHERN

TEAROOMS

She would always bring visitors to see the beautiful architecture of the nearly empty main street. “It had such a feeling about it,” she said. “It still had such a small-town feel, a Southern town, you just wanted to come and walk the streets. It is like stepping back in time. I can’t explain the feeling of this town.” Allen had had her eye on the old mercantile building for years. She had approached the owner of the building numerous times, and he finally agreed to lease it to her. She purchased it last year. She opened a gift shop, a cafe and a tearoom. Offering afternoon tea and high tea, Laura’s serves its delicacies on antique china, with real silver and linen napkins. Because it is the South, Allen serves sweet tea along with a pot of hot tea at all her tea services. She has 120 different teas from which to choose and, of course, homemade scones with Devonshire cream and homemade lemon curd. All patrons at high tea get a bowl of soup and a three-tiered tray packed with miniature sandwiches, savories and pastries. W W W . L A U R A S T E A R O O M . C O M

FLOUR BOX TEA ROOM AND CAFÉ WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA

Milla and Mike Ranieri lived in England for a while and were enchanted by the many tearooms they sampled there. When they came back to North Carolina, they decided to open a tearoom in Old Salem, a historic village in Winston-Salem. As they were preparing to take over a vacant bakery space, a restaurant space opened up down the block, and they decided to make the jump. That was more than three years ago, and the Flour Box has grown a dedicated tea-drinking clientele from all over North Carolina. The Flour Box offers three tea services: cream tea, which is a pot of tea and a scone with clotted cream and jam; light tea, which includes the cream tea and a tray of tiny desserts; and full tea, which includes the cream tea, a tray of pastries

ARE

COMING

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and a tray of savory options like miniature tea sandwiches and tiny meat pies. “She has really put her heart and soul into the tearoom,” Mike Ranieri said of his wife, Milla. “She bakes the best scones in North Carolina.” This month, the tearoom is moving to the historic Shaffner House, which was built in 1907 and is two blocks from the Flour Box’s Old Salem location. “The house has museum quality,” Mike said. “When you walk into the house, you speak a little softer and your eyes get a little wider, and it is just very beautiful.” It is also bigger than the Old Salem location, allowing it to accommodate even more people who have become entranced with Milla’s cooking. W W W . T H E F L O U R B O X T E A R O O M . C O M

ECKHART HOUSE

WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA In a grand Victorian townhome that was built in 1892, the Eckhart House exudes elegance and charm. Guests of this tearoom are seated in the original dining room, with overflow seated in the adjacent men’s parlor. Gretchen and Joe Figaretti, owners of the historic home, offer tea luncheon at noon and afternoon tea at 3. Tea luncheon includes assorted tea sandwiches, fresh fruit, scones with cream and jam, confections and a choice of 20 gourmet teas.

So much to see, so much to do!

Laura’s Tea Room Courtesy Laura’s Tea Room

VISITNATCHEZ.ORG 800.647.6724

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Eckhart House

Courtesy the Eckhart House

The house was built by George Eckhart, an up-and-coming banker who wanted to show off his wealth with a home on what was then called Millionaire’s Row. He wasn’t allowed to purchase property on the river side of the street, so he bought a duplex across the street, knocked it down and built a “rather spectacular house, not quite the size of the grand houses across the street but over-the-top stupendous with all the latest technologies and amenities they didn’t have in their houses over there,” said Joe Figaretti. Eckhart hired a newspaper reporter to write an article about the wonders of his home. It had electricity, a telephone and gas heat. The Queen Anne home has some of the finest woodwork in the country and is “quite a spectacular house to have tea in because its history is pervasive,” he said. The Figarettis also offer historic walking tours of Wheeling and do a presentation of the home’s history to tearoom patrons. W W W . E C K H A R T H O U S E . C O M

BELLE GROVE PLANTATION BED-AND-BREAKFAST

Titanic Tea at Belle Grove Plantation

KING GEORGE, VIRGINIA

Courtesy Belle Grove Plantation

In 2013, Michelle and Brett Darnell opened a bed-and-breakfast at Belle Grove, a plantation home. The birthplace of U.S. President James Madison, the house was built in 1797 of limestone quarried on the property. The site is run by a nonprofit that continues to restore buildings on the plantation. The house was restored in 2003 but sat vacant until Darnell took it over. She spent six months outfitting the house with furniture and accessories from the 1790s to the mid-1800s.

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“That’s what people want to see when they come to a historical location like this,” said Michelle. The big difference between Belle Grove and other historic homes is that people can sit on her furniture. “We want our home to feel like you are living in it, not standing and observing it,” she said. The B&B is not only a wonderful place to stay but also a historic site, a tearoom and an event venue. Visitors who come for tea are presented with a three-tiered tray of miniature goodies that includes two flavors of scones, three different tea sandwiches and a selection of petite desserts. The menu is constantly changing. Groups can also take tours of the home. “Our teas are specially blended for us,” said Michelle. “It took me about two months with our in-house chef to work with another lady who does the blending for us. We have 10 different flavors that are very popular. They are exclusive to us and are not sold anywhere else.” The tearoom is known for its themed teas, including Elvis, Civil War, Titanic and Mad Hatter’s teas. W W W . B E L L E G R O V E P L A N T A T I O N . C O M

Between the dessert and the sandwich course, guests are presented with lemon-scented finger bowls and towels to dry their hands. The Gothic Queen Anne-style home is decorated as it would have been in the 1880s. It has 14-foot ceilings and multiple levels of friezes and moldings, all painted different colors. The Empress has been open as a bed-and-breakfast and a tearoom for 24 years. Visitors recognize it as the home in the opening credits of the television show “Designing Women.” “We make our own tea,” said Sharon Welch-Blair, who owns the Empress with her husband, Robert Blair. It is a raspberry zinger with orange, cinnamon and cloves. “We try to do things a little different,” she said. “People don’t want the same old thing all the time. We make everything ourselves. None of this comes out of the store.” W W W . T H E E M P R E S S . C O M

EMPRESS OF LITTLE ROCK LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS

Grand high tea at the Empress of Little Rock is quite the production, with food served on crystal, silver and china, and servers dressed in long skirts and Victorian aprons. Patrons are taken on a tour of the former Hornibrook Mansion, which was completed in 1888, and are then taken into the tearoom, where they sample Irish cream scones with clotted cream and lemon curd, as well as tea sandwiches and homemade pastries, like johnnycakes and oatmeal tea bread with apricots and brandy.

Empress of Little Rock Courtesy the Empress of Little Rock

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marketing Y O U R

P R O G R A M

PLACE MATTERS WHEN BY ELIZA MYERS

I

magine a potential traveler browsing your website and noticing a loyalty group travel program listed on the site. Intrigued, he clicks on the travel program’s link. What he finds is a vague description of the program with only a phone number buried at the bottom of the page. If this potential traveler receives an email, needs to make a grocery list or just wants to find the score from last night’s game, your travel program has already lost his attention. Though loyalty group travel programs do not sell tours from a retail location, the place where they do sell tours matters. Whether travel planners sell tours in person, at events or online, the process requires constant evaluation to make sure potential customers can easily sign up for tours. Place is one of the Seven P’s of Marketing. For travel planners, place can mean both the location of where trips are sold or the method of selling tours. Last issue, we explored the “product” marketing strategy to narrow down the types of tours a travel planner wants to sell. By exploring “place” marketing techniques, planners can learn how to apply their chosen product plan to how and where they sell tours.

IN PERSON

Marketing strategies for loyalty group travel programs vary from intense campaigns designed to reach people across the country to mostly in-person sales. Planners that rely on in-person travel sales should still consider how to optimize their selling process. Some planners still receive a lot of personal calls from interested travelers. On these calls, the planner should always ask the caller to sign up for the trip while they are on the phone. Though callers

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may want to wait, asking them to register right then eliminates some potential for confusion and encourages them to commit to the trip. Similarly, an email conversation between a planner and a potential traveler should begin with a link to sign up. For example, if someone calls about a trip and simply receives information on what form to fill out and mail in, that person will have to take extra steps that could result in the caller’s losing interest or forgetting about the trip. However, encouraging the interested traveler to let you reserve a spot at that moment adds a sense of ease to the process. Another way planners sell trips in person is through a preview party or a trade show. Some bank travel programs host large preview parties that promote the coming year’s trips. The events’ bells and whistles attract hundreds of people and result in mostly sold-out tours for the year. Potential travelers will assume that the level of professionalism and enthusiasm that is displayed at a preview party or a booth at a trade show will mirror what they will experience on tour. Reach out to tour operators for high-quality photos, posters and other materials to elevate the appearance of your event. Also ensure that interested people can easily sign up for your tours at the event, instead of encouraging them to sign up somewhere else. If people think they may miss out on an opportunity to travel because the tour will fill up, they will feel a greater urgency to sign up immediately.

FUNCTIONALITY FIRST

Most loyalty group travel planners rely at least somewhat on their websites to promote and sell tours. Planners using websites as points of purchase should see their sites as virtual shopfronts. A website that is difficult to navigate will quickly deter travelers. Focus on creating a user-friendly page

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Tour

SOUTHEAST INDIANA

SELLING TRIPS

with detailed information about the travel program. To create an interactive online experience, websites often include a call to action that prompts users to sign up for either a mailing list or individual tours. Place these calls-to-action links or boxes in noticeable locations or create a pop-up that asks website visitors to register for more information. To gauge your site’s accessibility to visitors, ask a few people to browse the program’s web page and give you feedback on their experience. A pair of fresh eyes can help pinpoint website issues that you might not notice. Research the analytics of the travel web page to see whether users most commonly view the page on a desktop, a tablet or a mobile device. Then check the page with each method to ensure that mobile users aren’t leaving the site frustrated by the lack of readability. Finally, no one can see the online shop they can’t find. Research or hire a search engine optimization company to make sure your website is easily searchable by Google and other search engines.

Dine With History

Twilight Tour Progressive Mansions Dinner

Costumed Guides; Catered Dinner, Delicious Desse

rts.

Dinner at Heritage Farms at Willow Creek

DRESSED UP

Retailers want their shopfronts to not only serve a useful purpose but also look visually appealing. The same goes for planners’ online sites. Aim for a site that leaves visitors with a positive, memorable impression of the travel program. Many loyalty group travel planners use the confines of their company’s website to contain a page or two on the travel program. Planners can still dress up these pages with large photos and modern designs. Go to some similar travel program web pages to make notes of what features you like and don’t like. Think about your travel program’s product plan and apply those goals to the design of your web page. For example, planners selling luxury tours should create a travel program web page that looks sleek and impressive. Planners targeting budget-conscious travelers can highlight their travel deals. Connect the page to branding images from your company. For example, an alumni travel program should highlight that its tours aren’t generic, that they are tied to the mission and values of the traveler’s alma mater. Some planners simply link visitors to a page created by a tour operator. This can disconnect potential travelers from your company. Since building loyalty is a top goal for a lot of travel programs, this may not serve the program long term. If you’re using a tour operator’s web page, work with the company to include your organization’s brand. Include your logo, your color scheme and your contact information to create a one-on-one connection that will last beyond the current trip and into the future.

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1853 Hay Press Barn; All American Meal OHIO Indianapolis

INDIANA

1

Cincinnati

KENTUCKY

Louisville

Lexington

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C A R E E R

C O R N E R

STRATEGY & LEADERSHIP

here are 10 great principles for travel planners BY BRIAN JEWELL

“F

ailing to plan is planning to fail.” This adage, often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, has endured for centuries and inspired countless leaders. And its truth is self-evident. Great things don’t happen by accident; they require intensive planning and attention to detail. But a lack of preparation leaves the door open for disaster. For affinity travel leaders, planning is important on a number of levels. You already know how important it is to plan well for the trips your group will take. But for your club or travel organization to thrive in the long term, you need to put some time and effort into planning your program’s future. Here are 10 tips to help you plan for the future of your travel program.

1) START WITH YOUR MISSION.

Your plans for the future should dovetail with your program’s core mission, as well as the mission of the greater community organization of which it is a part. So when you begin long-term planning, don’t reinvent the wheel. Start with the broader mission, and then begin to think about ways you can better accomplish it. Understanding your core mission will go a long way toward helping you ascertain the next steps for your travel program.

2) GET COMMUNITY INPUT.

Your travel program exists to create a sense of community among your constituents, so it is wise to get input from that community when planning for your program’s future. This can include asking your most loyal customers where they’d like to go, what new types of trips they’d like to take or what sort of initiatives would be effective at reaching more people like them. But don’t limit outreach just to travelers. Your

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co-workers and organization’s leaders might also offer some valuable insight and would appreciate having a voice in your planning.

3) LOOK FOR ROLE MODELS.

Chances are there’s an organization similar to yours somewhere in the country whose travel program you would like to emulate. If you know what that institution is and who heads up its loyalty initiatives, reach out and ask for some advice; people working in this field are usually friendly and love to share success stories. And if you’re not sure where to find a role model, spend some time at an event like the Select Traveler Conference or other industry gathering where your peers from across the country gather for professional development.

4) THINK LONG TERM.

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is getting so bogged down in the day-to-day operations of their organizations that they forget to think about long-term strategies. Immediate concerns are necessary tasks, but they’re not the same as strategic planning. To plot a path to success, carve out some time to think about where you’d like to see your travel program five — or even 10 — years from now. Then begin plotting the steps that will get you from here to there.

5) IDENTIFY OBSTACLES.

Many strategic plans fail because they’re compiled with unrealistic optimism. Yes, you should have a positive outlook on the future of your program, but you shouldn’t ignore the challenges in your way. Instead, confront them head-on. Your long-term plans should take obstacles and challenges into account. Identify them, figure out how they’re likely to affect you, then put some plans in place to overcome them. Top: Planning future trips at the NTA Travel Exchange, courtesy NTA Bottom: Team building at Dave and Busters, courtesy Kansas City Kansas CVB

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6) PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS.

In much the same way that your long-term plan should account for your obstacles, it should also account for your strengths. On a corporate level, your organization probably has some things it does well: perhaps marketing, customer retention or operational excellence. So it makes sense to lean in to those strengths, relying on them to be key engines driving your program toward its long-term goals. And if you expect to be involved with the program for a long time, you should make your personal strengths part of your plan, too. You’ll achieve a lot by taking advantage of the things you do best.

THE HEARTLAND’S

HEART OF ADVENTURE

7) PLAN FOR PEOPLE.

Conversely, you may not be involved with the travel program for a long time. If you’re coming to the end of your career or expect to make a professional transition soon, your longterm plan for the travel should include a succession strategy. Getting the right leader on board will help secure the longterm success of your program, so you should invest considerable time and energy into finding and preparing this person.

8) SET ACHIEVABLE GOALS.

A long-term plan is of little use if you don’t put intermediate goals in place to keep that plan on track. The most effective goals are specific, incremental and achievable. So, instead of saying you want to increase membership in the next year, for example, plan instead to invite two new members to a club function each month. The goals should be big enough to inspire you but not so big that they intimidate you. By breaking your long-term plans into a series of short-term steps, you can make consistent, sustainable progress toward the future you envision.

9) WRITE IT DOWN AND SHARE IT.

Finally, keep in mind that even the best plans are never perfect. There are too many unknowns in the world for you to account for all of them. The business environment may change, or your organization’s mission may evolve. When those things happen, you need to allow yourself the flexibility to adapt your long-term plans to the new reality. Flexibility will also help you pursue exciting new opportunities for your program when they arise.

10) KEEP IT FLEXIBLE.

Your long-term plans shouldn’t live in your head; you need to write them down. Putting things on paper is an act of commitment. It creates a sense of permanence, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your plans if you can refer to that document regularly to keep you focused and motivated. Writing your plans down also allows you to share them with others, such as your team members, bosses or key customers.

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RIVERSPORT OKC | BRICKTOWN NATIONAL COWBOY & WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM For all you adventure lovers out there, Oklahoma City is the place to try something new. Give your group unique slices of adventure, like an indoor tropical oasis, dragon boating down the Oklahoma River or walkable canal-side dining, all in the heart of downtown OKC. If they’re craving a unique experience, we have custom group tours available to make your trip stand out, and that we think you’ll love.

READY TO SEE MORE? FREE ONLINE GROUP TOUR PLANNER AT VISITOKC.COM/GROUPS

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B E E N

jackson county bank BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN TRIP: New York City TOUR OPERATOR: Philipps Bus Service and Tours DATE: May 2018 For seven days, the Jackson County Bank’s Prime Time Club explored the highlights of New York City, including Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center. The 51-person group stayed on Times Square at the Edison Hotel. “This was a first-time adventure to New York City for most of the travelers. We had a spectacular view from the Top of the Rock. The 911 Museum and Memorial Park was a quiet, heartfelt stop for most of us to take in. Our hotel location was right in the heart of the city in Times Square. All the action was right outside our door. We hadn’t arrived back home before members of our group were asking to go back.”

— TAMMY STEIG, PRIME TIME CLUB COORDINATOR

cornell university ITHACA, NEW YORK TRIP: Astounding Antarctica TOUR OPERATOR: Orbridge DATE: January 2019 A group of 25 members, friends and family of the Cornell Alumni Association Travel Program voyaged on a small ship from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the Antarctic Peninsula. The 11-day cruise also went through the Drake Passage to the South Shetland Islands. “Our group hiked on an active volcano, camped overnight in the snow and got up close with seals, penguins and whales. The travelers gained an in-depth understanding of the ecology of Antarctica, its history and the magnitude of its significance in the global context. For many on the trip, it was a bucket-list destination and a life-changing experience.”

— ANNA POLLOCK, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVES 58

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Profile for The Group Travel Leader, Inc.

Select Traveler March April