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VOL.26 NO.1



contents checking in: CINDY SALTA

toolbox: conference marketing: GOING ABROAD


By Savannah Osbourn

ON THE COVER: Zebras graze during a Kenyan sunrise. Photo by Narvikk.




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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

18 32 casinos



42 city tours N O R T H E A S T

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.

perspective P U B L I S H E R ’ S


n my way to work this week, I listened to an interview with a woman who is involved in social services that are being offered to the hundreds of people displaced by the recent forest fires in California. At one juncture, she said something I couldn’t forget: “They just want to go home.”

That statement summed up the suffering that takes place when home doesn’t exist

anymore. Home will likely exist again at some point, but only after months of arduous work. Most of us still have places we call home, and they are vastly different depending on our circumstances. But we all know what “home” means. I took note as well of a statement made by President George W. Bush in his eulogy of his father during President George H.W. Bush’s memorial service at the National Cathedral. He said his father spent his last days on his back porch in Maine looking out at the magnificent Atlantic Ocean. In other words, he was home. Although it’s difficult to transition from something as tragic as a catastrophic fire to travel, it isn’t difficult to transition from travel to our feelings about home. For most of us, they go hand in hand. I’ve told countless friends and acquaintances that I always look forward to leaving on a major trip, and I always look forward to coming home. Travel to faraway places wouldn’t appeal much to most of us if we did not also look forward to coming home. Home in that sense is not only our favorite room in our familiar house, but also the United States, which remains, for all our differences, the single greatest country on earth. Home and travel complement one another, and as travelers, I know you all join me in wishing the best for those who feel right now like home is a distant memory.

Email me anytime with your thoughts at

Mac Lacy 6

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what are some of the ways you find new destinations for your group? SHELLIE SCHWANKE

DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI RELATIONS | EUREKA COLLEGE EUREKA, ILLINOIS “I am a huge fan of travel shows hosted by seasoned travelers like Rudy Maxa and Rick Steves. I also read travel publications and online blogs. I appreciate the personal experiences and insights of those who travel frequently.”


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DIRECTOR OF FIRST PRIORITY CLUB | FIRST NATIONAL BANK AND TRUST OKMULGEE, OKLAHOMA “My preferred way of finding new travel destinations is visiting with my club members. I usually get a lot of ideas on travel destinations from their responses. I take and keep a lot of notes. Then when I need travel ideas, I refer to their suggestions. I prefer to plan trips that some of the members are interested in. After all, the club is for them to enjoy.”


SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, RETIRED | CROSS KEYS BANK MONROE, LOUISIANA “Talk to someone who has been there. Often, the company reps are only repeating what they have been told, so seek out those who have traveled before you. The more recent travelers are the best.”


DIRECTOR FOR ALUMNI PROGRAMS AND ALUMNI GROUP TRAVEL | OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY ALUMNI ASSOCIATION CORVALLIS, OREGON “I love getting feedback from alumni and friends of the university about where they want to go. Talking to our clients directly helps to uncover trends and early preferences for certain destinations. I also pay attention to industry e-newsletters, magazines and nonacademic travel publications. Popular TV series and movies also drive certain locations. A good example is Dubrovnik from the ‘Game of Thrones’ book and TV series.”



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SPIRIT LAKE, IOWA “We are fortunate enough to partner with a couple of bank club directors in nearby towns. This gives us an opportunity to discuss travel destinations as well as to partner on some of our larger trips. This partnership allows us to get larger numbers of travelers, which helps us keep the trips affordable for our guests. “I also take some time to utilize the internet for travel ideas. I have come up with some great destinations based on some of this online exploration.”

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or a group travel planner, there’s no better way to be a star--with so little stress--than to book a cruise, says Wayne Peyreau. Peyreau knows all about the upsides of sailing the seas. He’s regional vice president, sales (U.S.A.) for MSC Cruises, a cruise line that might be new to many Americans but is the number one cruise line in Europe, South America, Southern Africa and the Gulf. The world’s largest privately owned cruise company, MSC sails the Caribbean from Miami and also has cruises from New York.


For a group tour planner, a cruise is an uncomplicated way to offer an inclusive trip. For the traveler, a cruise offers ease and good value as well as freedom, says Peyreau. “Cruising is self-contained. The stateroom is your hotel. You aren’t looking for dining, there is no motorcoach, the venues and the entertainment are included. You can explore different ports. Once you are on board, you could do everything, or nothing at all. The choice is yours.”


That ease, freedom and flexibility, combined with the cost of MSC’s cruises, con-

BY VICKIE MITCHELL vinces many planners to give a cruise a try. To illustrate the value of an MSC cruise compared to a land based or motorcoach tour, Peyreau suggests planners roughly tally the costs of their land-based tours--the motorcoach, meals, attractions, hotels, entertainment and then the per person cost of an MSC Cruise. MSC wins! One call, does it all.


Still, planners can be a little hesitant to commit to a cruise, often because they are nervous about getting the number of bookings required for group rates. That is one reason MSC has instituted a group rate guarantee. “It gives our clients a comfort level,” said Peyreau. “To get our group rate, the minimum is eight state rooms, 16 guests, but if a planner markets the trip and gets only one stateroom, we are not going to adjust that rate up. Doing that helps convince a lot of planners. They can promote with confidence. There’s no going back to travelers to say, ‘I’m sorry this rate was for eight state rooms so I have to adjust your rate.’”


MSC also makes it easy for group leaders to get travelers’ attention. The cruise line offers flyers, videos and other marketing pieces that a planner can easily access

and customize to market a specific trip by adding dates, rates and other information. “We have a lot of tools in the toolbox,” said Peyreau.


MSC Cruises offers 3,7,10-11 night cruises from Miami, with 4 ships, 2 year round and 2 seasonal. Itineraries include the Bahamas, Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean as well as Cuba.

FOR MORE INFORMATION Wayne Peyreau 954-958-3283

checking in CINDY SALTA





BANK OF NEW HAMPSHIRE LACONIA, NEW HAMPSHIRE Founded in 1831, the Bank of New Hampshire serves families and businesses with 24 banking offices and assets exceeding $1.6 billion. The bank is the oldest and one of the largest independent banks in the state. Prestige Plus membership is available for Prestige Checking Account customers 45 years of age and older who maintain a combined balance of at least $25,000.

Prestige Plus members stand in front of the dramatic sand dunes of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Born: Keene, New Hampshire Education: New Hampshire Technical Institute Employment: Salta began as a teller for the Bank of New Hampshire. She has worked at the bank for 22 years, with eight of those years spent with the Prestige Plus travel program. Family: Salta has been married for 33 years and has four children. Hobbies: She enjoys following her children’s college sports careers, traveling and spending time with her family.



ar from home in South Africa, Cindy Salta came very close to a trip disaster. Airport delays had caused the group to miss lunch and crunched the hotel check-in time to only five minutes before the group was scheduled to board the motorcoach. Salta had to think fast. “I thought, What are we going to do?” said Salta, assistant vice president of Prestige Plus for Bank of New Hampshire. “I went into the gift shop and bought every snack they had. We were all so hungry, so we had a picnic on the bus. We made the best of it.” Salta joked with the passengers about the situation as she handed out peanut butter crackers and other snacks. Soon, they were also wisecracking with each other about the snack rations and enjoying the experience, rather than grumbling to themselves.


This practice of inserting positivity into any situation has served Salta well. She emphasizes customer relationships above all else, and Bank of New Hampshire’s Prestige Plus travel program has thrived under her leadership.


Salta went to college with dreams of becoming a teacher. She ended up working as a teller at Bank of New Hampshire as a first job, then rose in the ranks to customer service representative. After taking some time off to raise four children and work mothers’ hours during their early years, Salta returned to the bank when her children hit middle school. “I went back to the bank because I had such a great experience there,” said Salta. “Then the job of the travel program came up eight years ago. That was when I started my travel and tourism certification.”

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Salta had taken bank courses throughout the years to supplement her banking knowledge and found the travel and tourism certification equally helpful. “Growing up, I didn’t travel much,” said Salta. “After I got married, I traveled through my husband’s company around the world. I felt completely ready to take on travel. It is exciting and really fun.” Salta organizes a day trip each month as well as numerous seminars and three long trips a year; the trips usually consist of one domestic or Canadian trip and two overseas options. “Next year, we are going to Croatia and Slovenia,” she said. “Then we are going to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. The last trip is Cuba. So, they are three very different tours. We really base our destinations on our customer feedback.”


Salta’s recent adventure in South Africa wasn’t the first time she had to act fast on a trip. Lost luggage, health issues and other travel issues come up no matter how much you prepare. She soon learned that keeping her customers happy went beyond detailed travel-planning expertise. “The experience of travel is not as important as the person running the program,” said Salta. “You can learn the travel part. If you don’t like travel, it probably isn’t the job for you. If you like that kind of adventure and you like people, then it’s a good fit. It’s more of a customer relationship job. You need to show you are having fun and handle the problems as they come up.” Serving the customers first has led to a highly in-demand travel program. “We luckily always have trips filled,” said Salta. “When we travel to the national parks or to the Canadian Rockies, we usually have two departures. When we went to South Africa, we had three departures.” The program engenders deep loyalty among members, with Bank of New Hampshire’s president and his wife traveling with the group on overnight trips. “The customers love getting to know our president,” said Salta. “It builds a great relationship. They see the fun side of the CEO of their bank. Our bank president is very supportive of the program, which I think is very important.”

ning add up to a substantial amount of work. Salta stays busy checking spreadsheets. “I’m planning all the time and loving it,” she said. “Everywhere I go is my new favorite place. I feel so lucky. It’s wonderful to be able to travel.” Over the years, Salta has made many once-in-a-lifetime memories, such as a trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. “It is a surreal experience when you see the sun rise over the canyon,” said Salta. “No one is talking. It is very quiet. It’s a beautiful experience that you are there with the customers. That relationship is the best part.”



• Listen and really get to know your customers. Treat them like family. • Have fun and laugh at yourself. A fun, positive attitude will translate to the group. • It’s your job to make sure that the customers have a wonderful trip. Be very organized and double check everything so that things run smoothly.


Instead of continuing the same types of trips on a loop, Salta works to grow the 28-year-old club by experimenting with various tour approaches, such as intergenerational tours. “We’re always trying to do better and try new things,” said Salta. “We are looking at a younger clientele than some programs, with 45-year-oldand-up members. We find that young people want to travel.” Salta also stays on the lookout for fresh seminar topics, since she helps plan bank seminars throughout the year. The bank helps put together moneyrelated talks, with topics such as identity theft and planning for retirement. But the talks don’t always revolve around finances. One past seminar offered tips on taking quality photos with a phone. The details involved in seminar and trip plan-

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318 Howard St reet • Greenwood, Mississippi 662.453.2114 •




going abroad means going prepared



ometimes, the most memorable trips require the most extensive preparations. International trips are at the foundation of many bank, chamber of commerce and university alumni travel programs, and offering your customers once-in-a-lifetime trips can help create incredible memories and engender long-term loyalty to your organization. But taking groups abroad is a much more complex mission than taking them on a domestic tour. To make your travelers’ international travel dreams come true requires a lot of preparation. Your tour operator partners will take care of the most difficult logistics of international travel, but there are several things you can do long before a trip begins to help prepare your customers to go abroad. As soon as you start promoting an international trip, make sure to walk your potential travelers through this checklist, especially if it will be their first time traveling out of the country.


PUSH PA SS P ORTS There’s no way around it: If your customers want to travel abroad or even take a cruise, they’ll have to have passports. So if you’re planning to take an international trip, it’s imperative to start talking to your travelers about their passports. If they don’t have passports, they’ll need to start the application process as soon as possible and allow up to two months to receive their passports. And even travelers who already have passports should check to see if they need to be renewed soon, since many countries won’t allow foreigners to enter if their passports expire in under six months. J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y

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E XPL A IN CA SH A ND CARDS Experienced travelers understand how foreign currency works, but some novices expect to pay for everything with dollars, no matter where in the world they go. And although some foreign merchants accept dollars, your travelers will be much more prepared if you arm them with some information about the local currencies in the places you’ll be visiting. Make sure they understand exchange rates, and advise them to change some American money to local currency upon arrival. If they use credit or debit cards, encourage them to notify their banks of their upcoming travel plans so that foreign charges don’t trigger fraud alerts.

S ET C U LTURA L E XPE CTAT IONS For someone making their first trip abroad, culture shock can be a real challenge. If the place you’ll be visiting has significant cultural differences from the U.S., do your best to prepare your travelers in advance so they won’t be taken aback by local customs. This can be especially helpful in places where travelers often encounter panhandlers or street vendors. And while you’re having the conversation, brief your travelers on how to best represent America while traveling abroad by being culturally sensitive, avoiding contentious political discussions and honoring the traditions of the host country.

A NS WER FAQS If some of your group members have never been out of the country, they’re likely to have a lot of concerns. You can help allay their fears and save yourself some time by preparing and distributing a list of frequently asked questions about the places you’ll be visiting. This can include answers to questions about safety and security, details about what sorts of clothing they should pack or information on using their mobile phones while abroad. You might also include an overview of what sorts of hotel accommodations


they can expect and how the group will navigate the language barrier.

Medical emergencies can turn even the best trip sour, and there are several ways you can help safeguard your travelers against medical problems while abroad. First of all, check to see if there are any vaccinations recommended for travelers to the place you’re visiting, especially if it’s a more exotic destination. If you know some of your travelers require prescription medicine or special medical equipment, make sure they pack a doctor’s note explaining their medical needs to foreign security officials. And when selecting your group’s travel insurance, look for a policy that covers international medical care and emergency medical evacuation. J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y

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ttendees of the 2019 Select Traveler Conference will enjoy a resort lifestyle during the three-day gathering February 10-12 in French Lick, Indiana. Located in rural southern Indiana and surrounded by the Hoosier National Forest, the French Lick Resort promises to inspire many conference attendees to bring groups of all kinds to this splendid property. “We felt that Select Traveler’s market is a great group to bring here, not only to see the resort, but that part of Indiana,” said Joe Vezzoso, the French Lick Resort’s vice president of operations and sales. “People will be really surprised at what’s there. We’re on 3,500 acres and have two magnificent properties dating back to 1845.” The resort includes two historic lodgings known as the French Lick Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel. The two hotels, just a short distance apart, were united into a single resort in 2015 following a massive $600 million restoration project spearheaded by the local Cook family, which owns a global medical device manufacturing company. Together, the hotels offer 686 sleeping rooms as well as a casino, impressive


An elephant encounter at Wilstem Ranch

event and meeting spaces, challenging golf courses and a wide assortment of attractions close to the resort. “Travelers have been coming to our area for more than 100 years to enjoy our luxury hotels, the gracious hospitality we offer, and to indulge themselves in all of the history and tradition,” said Kristal Painter, executive director of Visit French Lick West Baden, the local convention and visitors bureau.


The highlight of every Select Traveler Conference is a trio of marketplace sessions in which travel planners sit down with travel industry representatives to talk about bringing groups to their sites. There are hundreds of these six-minute meetand-greet interviews scheduled throughout the conference. Travel planners, who represent banks, college alumni groups and chambers of commerce, come away with dozens of ideas about where to take their groups. “I’ve seen so many options here I don’t even know where to start,” said John Bowler of Dixie State University in St. George,

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The Pete Dye Course at French Lick

West Baden Springs Resort

Utah, during last year’s Select Traveler Conference. Planners said they never stop searching for different trip destinations. “I’ve done this work for 50 years now but still want new ideas,” Nadean Meredith of Commercial Bank in Middlesboro, Kentucky, told Select Traveler Magazine. These loyalty program directors see the conference as a great investment in future business relationships and travel club membership. The conference begins with registration on Sunday morning. In the afternoon, delegates who are with banks and other loyalty programs will have their own breakout sessions to discuss issues of great importance to them. Delegates will be broken into groups so they can have input into the discussions of these issues that affect all such travel programs. Participants will find that the problems they encounter in their trip planning are often shared by other travel colleagues around the country. The conference’s first evening event is always memorable and highly rated. Delegates won’t be disappointed this year with the dinner, music and entertainment provided by their French Lick hosts. The dining hall will be transformed into

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Photos courtesy French Lick CVB

a combination club and speakeasy, according to organizers. There will be roaming characters in period costume, historic cars on display and lots of surprises and fun.


Outstanding speakers address delegates at the Select Traveler Conference. The speakers are wide-ranging: motivators, storytellers, humorists, corporate trainers and travel experts. The 2019 conference will once again offer many talented presenters, who each bring content that delegates can use. Occasionally, college athletes suffer career-ending injuries, but a woman who will address the Select Traveler Conference turned her athletic heartache into a fresh mindset and a deep passion. Amber Selking was a University of Notre Dame soccer player whose career ended prematurely. Rather than mope, she created a positive mindset for the future and now brings her mental training methods to improve the performances of others. She is the founder of the Selking Performance Group, an organization that strives to build championship mindsets.



connection Bob Pacanovsky

Amber Selking

French Lick Springs Hotel

Clients include employees of Fortune 500 companies, as well as athletes and coaches. Her energetic speaking style is coupled with an ability to take complex concepts and explain them simply. Selking will address delegates on the first day of the conference during what is known as the Super Session. On day two of the conference, the keynote speaker will be Bob Pacanovsky, who specializes in training business operators to improve their customer service. He will ask audience members whether they prefer to receive ordinary customer service or what he calls “black-tie customer service,” with the staff going above and beyond the usual. Pacanovsky will explain that doing the little things when presenting your product or service can reinforce the bigger things. He asks whether business operators are using a personal touch, such as asking customers good questions and then listening to their answers. Pacanovsky will emphasize that business owners need to create a mindset, a culture and an atmosphere that lets the customer feel that he or she is buying from a caring salesperson, not just a company. In addition, numerous travel experts will present trip ideas to the delegates during meal times, in between marketplace sessions and the entertainment offerings. Companies expected to present over the three days are U.S. Tours, Trips, Collette, Globus, Mayflower Cruises and Tours, and MSC Cruises, among others.


Because of the busy marketplace schedule for the Select Traveler Conference, there are no planned delegate tours of the area nor any formal FAM tours. However, the CVB will be glad to provide information on any of the attractions on the resort property and in the surrounding areas. While some attractions are available to visit during the winter months, the optimal FAM tour times of the year are spring, summer and fall, according to the CVB’s Painter. “For example, nearby Patoka Lake, which offers the scenic


boat cruises, the wine and lunch and dinner cruises, schedules April to October,” she said. “French Lick Scenic Railway operates March through December, ending with the running of the popular Polar Express. The up-close animal encounters with elephants at Wilstem Ranch runs March through November.” The same goes for Abbydell Hall, located on the former estate of basketball great and local native Larry Bird and now a dinner theater with Branson-style family shows March through December. Delegates may want to spend some time at one of the resort’s two spas. The Spa at French Lick is a traditional American facility, and the Spa at West Baden is more European in style and reminds visitors of some of the most elegant luxury spas in London or Paris. Guests can indulge in hydrating facials, mineral baths and aromatherapy, as well as a proper tea served in the spa atrium. In season and out, visitors to the resorts enjoy the restaurants, swimming pools, golf, shopping, bowling alley and arcade. Horseback riding is popular, so are the carriage rides and bike and walking tours. Groups can also use the resort as a jumping-off point for other fun activities in the greater region. There are hardworking and creative Amish communities with their distinctive lifestyles, foods and artwork to the west. Beautiful Spring Mills State Park is up north, and the famed limestone walls and cliffs are nearby and ready to scale. Speaking of heights, there is a 4,000-foot canopy zip-line tour to try. In addition, some visitors enjoy the thrill of an ATV adventure tour. Religious-history lovers might want to visit the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand for inspiration. The French Lick Winery and a distillery called Spirits of French Lick both produce delicious adult beverages that can be sampled on-site or purchased as souvenirs. Besides the resort’s magnificent hotels, visitors may choose to enjoy the nearby cottages, cabins and condos, which offer a variety of sleeping arrangements for families, larger family reunions or traveling groups.

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SPONSORS FRENCH LICK RESORT Host City Padfolio Opening Dinner Travel Industry Report Best Practices Handbook Delegate Registry Ad VISIT CHEYENNE Final Dinner COLLETTE Luncheon GLOBUS FAMILY OF BRANDS Luncheon U.S. TOURS Breakfast Marketplace Booth Signs TRIPS Breakfast MAYFLOWER CRUISES & TOURS Icebreaker Reception Keynote Address AVENTURA WORLD Buyer Breakouts EXPERIENCE COLUMBUS Delegate Orientation EF/GO AHEAD TOURS Marketplace Kickoff #1 Floor Graphics GO NEXT Destination Showcase MSC CRUISES (USA) INC Marketplace Kickoff #2 BRANSON’S BEST RESTAURANTS Sponsor Auction JIM BEAM COUNTRY/SHEPHERDSVILLE, KY Registration CHEROKEE NATION CULTURAL TOURISM Name Badges HARRISON COUNTY IN CVB Floor Graphics VIRGINIA BEACH CVB Stepping Stones LOUISVILLE TOURISM Hotel Key Cards Phone Charger Station

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The dress worn by Shirley Temple in “The Little Colonel� will be one of many film costumes on display at the soon-to-open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.


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Courtesy Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

these are not your mother’s museums BY PAULA AVEN GLADYCH


usty, drafty museums with stodgy, cramped exhibits are a thing of the past. Modern museums not only incorporate art, history, architecture and landscaping but also take advantage of media like virtual reality and film. Five North American museums put those principles to work in 2018 as they expanded their facilities or began building new ones that are expected to open this year.


Visitors to the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, experience the museum through a seamless blend of art, architecture and landscaping. They park in a grove of trees about a seven-minute walk from the museum so their experience begins the moment they step out of their vehicles. Once they’ve checked in at the newly constructed arrival hall, they travel along beautifully landscaped trails peppered with outdoor art before arriving at the original museum building, the Gallery, and the latest addition, a 204,000-square-foot building called the Pavilions, which opened to the public in October. The Gallery opened in 2006 on 100 acres. It was the brainchild of Emily Wei Rales and Mitchell P. Rales and showcases their vast modern and contemporary art collection. The recently completed expansion added 130 acres of streams, woodlands and undulating meadows, as well as a bookstore and two cafes. The Pavilions looks like a collection of 11 or 12 buildings upon approach because each of its exhibition rooms has a different look and feel. It is only after entering the museum that visitors realize they are walking through one very large building connected by a water court. “That is a really important part of orienting yourself. The idea is that between each of these rooms, exhibitions, you have a brief return to nature,” said Emily Grebenstein, communications manager for the Glenstone Museum. Everything exhibited at Glenstone comes from its own collections. Guides are stationed throughout the museum to help enlighten guests about the various artworks. “It is a nice, intimate way to experience the art and helps to ensure that each visitor’s experience here is different,” Grebenstein said. Groups are welcome, but the museum wants them to experience the museum in the same intimate way as its other guests. It doesn’t offer large guided tours. WWW.GLENSTONE.ORG

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The late senator and former astronaut John Glenn was the driving force behind the nation’s first National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio. He wanted a place where veterans could tell their stories and remember their experiences. The museum is not a war memorial or a military museum, said Amy Taylor, chief operating officer for the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, the organization tasked with developing the museum, which opened in October. Instead, it tells the story of 25 individuals who served in different branches of the military, from how they got into the service, through basic training, their service and their homecoming. The 50,000-square-foot concrete building was constructed on seven acres across the river from the Columbus downtown business district. The building itself is an architectural wonder, with 28 million pounds of concrete interrupted by a glass curtainwall that spirals its way up to a beautiful, grassy rooftop amphitheater. A 2.5-acre Memorial Grove that features American elm trees and a 325-foot-long stone wall with three waterfalls cascading into a reflecting pool is the finishing touch on a museum that was first dreamed up in 2012. “It is a really reflective place,” said Taylor. “You learn that people are willing to put their lives on the line, why they served and why that has been important since the beginning of our country.” Even if visitors haven’t served in the military, Taylor said she hopes they will leave the museum inspired to serve their country and communities in other capacities. The museum offers group tour opportunities. WWW.NATIONALVMM.ORG


The Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto recently relocated to a former aluminum factory in an industrial corridor of Toronto. Along with the new location, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art also got a new name that better reflects its mission. MOCA Toronto now embraces contemporary art from around the world, not just the works of Canadian artists. “The notion was to then expand our vision and the footprint of our vision by taking this space, and in doing so, we were looking to cre-


Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto

Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto

National Veterans Memorial and Museum Glenstone Museum

ate a new cultural destination in the city of Toronto and reframe the cultural map of the city to include an area that is a little bit west of the downtown core,” said Rachel Hilton, director of communications and visitor engagement. The new museum covers five floors of the 10-story building, boosting the museum’s square footage from 10,000 square feet at its previous location to 50,000 square feet. The building itself is part of the overall visitor experience “because it is such an unusual setting for a museum,” Hilton said. It was built of concrete slab architecture with large pillars featured prominently on each floor. As the building rises, the pillars get smaller. “It’s a really interesting building in which to have art,” Hilton said. Most of the art is not hanging on walls but takes up space between the pillars. There are sculptural installations and video exhibitions. WWW.MUSEUMOFCONTEMPORARYART.CA


An expanded Statue of Liberty Museum has been in the works since the events of September 11, 2001, when, for security reasons, the National Park Service reduced the number of visitors allowed inside the Statue of Liberty. Of the 4.5 million people who visit the monument each year, only about 20 percent of them are able to access the statue itself, said Suzanne Mannion, director of public affairs for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. The original museum was built inside the statue’s pedestal in the 1980s when the foundation began restoring the statue for its 1986 centennial. Since the original space was small, the museum didn’t have much room to tell the monument’s story. The new 26,000-square-foot museum, which broke ground in October 2016 and is scheduled to open in May, will allow everyone who visits the opportunity to experience it. “The goal of the museum is to celebrate the story of Lady Liberty, and it will invite visitors to explore how the statue has evolved from a national monument to a global icon,” Mannion said. “That will be achieved through the use of artifacts and film, and it will touch on why the French decided to gift the statue to the States in the 1880s.” It also will detail how the statue was constructed, how it was brought over to the U.S., how Bedloe’s Island was selected as the statue’s home and how Americans participated in one of the country’s first crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for the statue’s pedestal. The $100 million project also includes islandwide beautification and


Courtesy Glenstone Museum

Courtesy Aerial Image Solutions

a secondary security screening facility. The architect wanted to have the new buildings “fade into the landscape of Liberty Island park,” she said. Groups can book passage on the ferry to Liberty Island, but group tours of the island won’t be offered. Instead, all visitors have the opportunity to take a self-guided audio tour once they arrive on-site. WWW.LIBERTYELLISFOUNDATION.ORG


For 90 years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has dreamed of opening a museum dedicated to the art of filmmaking. About 10 years ago, the organization began searching for the perfect Los Angeles location. It settled on a historic Art Deco retail building on Wilshire Boulevard that is part of an area dubbed the Miracle Mile or Museum Row. In 2018, the Academy restored the facade of the former May Company building, including an iconic gold-tiled cylinder that anchors the corner of the building, to its 1939 brilliance. The museum is expected to open in late 2019 and will feature everything from screenplays and movie posters to art pieces, costumes and props from some of Hollywood’s most famous movies. The immersive and interactive museum will tell the history of motion pictures through augmented reality, virtual reality and film. The lower level of the museum will house a 288-seat theater, an exhibit gallery, a restaurant and a retail area. It will have three floors of exhibition space, both permanent and temporary. The former department-store tearoom was converted to special event space with a beautiful view of the Hollywood Hills. The new wing features a 1,000-seat theater that is “the heart of the entire museum, where our art form will be shown in its truest form,” said Rowena Adalid, director of sales for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The Academy hopes to host movie premieres and other Hollywood events in the space. The third floor will house temporary exhibitions. One of its first exhibits will celebrate the work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. “It is very important for us because by starting off our first exhibition with him, we convey that this museum will be a global experience and not just about Hollywood,” Adalid said. The museum will offer group guided tours and packages. WWW.ACADEMYMUSEUM.ORG

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RACING TO FOR OVER 140 YEARS Grab your group and get away to a city that is reignited and bursting at the seams with group-friendly hotels, authentic experiences and iconic favorites like the historic Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby Museum. For your group’s next unforgettable getaway, visit


Only in Africa















Groups can see giraffes and other African wildlife up close at the Buffalo Springs National Reserve.




came to Kenya looking for the big five: lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard and cape buffalo. I found them all and so much more. Kenya is home to some of the planet’s most diverse and vibrant landscapes, from the tropical broadleaf forests along the Indian Ocean to the mountainous highlands of Mount Kenya and the sweeping grassland of the Masai Mara. These rich ecosystems host abundant wildlife, attracting nature lovers from around the globe in droves each year. Beyond Kenya’s natural treasures, visitors will discover so many cultural highlights throughout the country, such as tasty African cuisine, beautiful handcrafted beads and woodwork. Last October, I had the pleasure of experiencing some of these incredible sights firsthand during a group tour hosted by the travel company Trips. Here are a few of the unforgettable highlights of that journey.

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All photos by Savannah Osbourn

Giraffe Centre Karen Blixen Museum

Karen Blixen Museum clothing exhibit


Upon arrival in the capital city of Nairobi on a late Sunday evening, our group was escorted from the airport to the historic, fivestar Fairmont Norfolk Hotel, where we enjoyed a private welcome reception with our Trips safari director before settling in for the night. After breakfast the next morning, we gathered for a presafari briefing and then set out to explore some of the city. Driving past rows of eucalyptus trees and quaint houses encircled by stone walls, we traveled to the outskirts of Nairobi to the trendy suburban neighborhood of Karen, named after Karen Blixen of “Out of Africa” fame. The centerpiece of the neighborhood is the Karen Blixen Museum, a beautiful estate and farmhouse where the renowned Danish author and her Swedish husband, Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke, managed a coffee plantation for many years. Later in life, Blixen wrote a bestselling memoir about her life in Nairobi titled “Out of Africa,” which was eventually adapted into an award-winning film of the same name. Animal lovers will appreciate a visit to the nearby Giraffe Centre. Managed by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, the center was founded during the late 1970s to educate the public about the

An elephant at the Shaba National Reserve

Kazuri Bead Factory demonstration

endangered Rothschild giraffe, one of three giraffe subspecies based in Kenya. Visitors can meet and hand feed some of these remarkable creatures at the center, which currently houses seven females and three males at its Nairobi location. Next, our group stopped by the Kazuri Bead Factory. Kazuri means “small and beautiful” in Swahili. The Kazuri Bead Factory employs more than 400 single mothers and disadvantaged members of the local community, who handcraft a rare clay harvested from the foothills of Mount Kenya into stunning ceramic beadwork and pottery. Groups can tour the facility and watch the workers as they work and sing in unison. That evening, our group concluded its first full day in the country with dinner at the iconic Carnivore Restaurant, a meat lovers’ paradise that serves a true taste of Africa with exotic meats such as crocodile, ostrich and camel.


The next morning, we departed Nairobi and embarked on a threehour drive north through lush tea and coffee plantations. About

Aberdare Country Club’s patio

Kazuri Bead Factory


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A peacock at Mount Kenya Safari Club

Aberdare Country Club

Mount Kenya Safari Club

midday, we arrived for lunch at the picturesque Aberdare Country Club, a heritage property and resort nestled atop Mweiga Hill in the Aberdare Highlands. In addition to enjoying a sweeping view of the Great Rift Valley, guests can often catch a glimpse of wildlife such as zebras, peacocks, antelopes and baboons roaming the grounds. We continued our journey into Aberdare National Park for an overnight stay at the Ark, a one-of-a-kind “tree hotel” overlooking a floodlit watering hole and salt lick. From a distance, we could make out the vessellike outline of the hotel, fashioned after Noah’s Ark in the Bible. The Ark offers a front-row seat to wildlife viewing at the watering hole just outside, which attracts wild elephants, rhinos, leopards, cape buffalos, hyenas and more from the surrounding national park. Guests can take advantage of numerous viewing decks throughout the facility, including an open-air observation deck, a glass-enclosed lounge and a ground-level bunker. Many members of our group stayed up late into the night to watch these animals interact in their natural habitat. At one point, a rival elephant herd showed up and faced off against the elephants already gathered around the water, leading to an animated display of trumpeting and tossing trunks. Later, a group of hyenas tried to sneak closer to the watering hole, only to be chased away by a few of the territorial elephants.


After our unforgettable night at the Ark, our group headed another hour north to the Mount Kenya Safari Club at the foot of Mount Kenya, the country’s largest mountain and the second-largest mountain in Africa after Kilimanjaro. Along the way, we stopped in the town of Nanyuki to visit the PCEA Nanyuki girls’ boarding school, a top-performing all-girls school. While there, we had the chance to tour the school grounds, learn about the education system in Kenya and watch several student choir groups perform. We also stopped by Nanyuki Spinners and Weavers next door to learn about the fine craft of spinning, dying and weaving wool products. Soon after, we arrived at the Mount Kenya Safari Club and enjoyed several hours of downtime to rest and explore before dinner. Directly over the equator, the Mount Kenya Safari Club encompasses over 100 acres of beautifully manicured grounds, where guests will often spot a roaming peacock or a long-necked wading bird in the ponds.

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The resort offers a number of guided activities throughout the day, including a high tea, a traditional song-and-dance demonstration and a mountain-biking expedition through the bush. In addition, visitors can take a turn wandering through the labyrinthine hedge maze or pay a visit to the club’s phenomenal animal orphanage.


The following morning, we gathered in the Mount Kenya Safari Club gardens to watch a narrated demonstration of water circulation patterns on either side of the equator, which cause the water to rotate in opposite directions. Next, we drove about two and a half hours northeast to the Sarova Shaba Game Lodge in the heart of the Shaba National Reserve just east of Samburu National Reserve. This majestic arid landscape was made famous by the best-selling nonfiction book and subsequent film adaptation “Born Free,” about the attempts of a British couple to reintroduce a rescued lioness into the wild. The luxurious Sarova Shaba Game Lodge is an oasis getaway along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River with towering palm trees, shaded seating areas by the water and a large swimming pool that

A bongo at Mount Kenya Safari Club


Preparing the hot air balloon

Samburu tribal dance

Masai Mara National Reserve balloon ride Samburu Tribe

A lion at Masai Mara National Reserve

winds through the center of the property. Travelers strolling down the stone pathways that lead to the guest houses often spot baboons and vervet monkeys lounging in the trees and grass. After settling into our rooms and cooling off in the pool for a few hours, the group piled into four safari jeeps to embark on our first game drive of the trip through Buffalo Springs National Reserve. No number of photos or videos can prepare visitors for the sheer abundance of wildlife that exists in Kenya’s sweeping grasslands and arid terrain. During our brief afternoon excursion across the reserve, we encountered elephants, reticulated giraffes, Grevy’s zebras, Beisa oryxes, Grant’s gazelles, impalas and gerenuks, which all seemed relatively unperturbed by our presence. At one point, a herd of several dozen zebras casually trotted around our stopped vehicle. As the day ended, we watched the sun set over the golden grasses of the savanna.


After breakfast the next day, we climbed back into the jeeps for an early-morning game drive through Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Samburu National Reserve. We came across various new animal species, including black-and-white Somali ostriches, charming little antelopes called Kirk’s dik-diks and vulturine guinea fowl birds with vivid blue stripes. We also saw our first lion when our jeep happened upon two young lionesses in a standoff with a crocodile in the river. The drama heightened as the lionesses lost interest in the crocodile and began stalking a family of warthogs farther down the river, with one lioness taking the high ground by our jeep while the other crept along the


riverbank. Just before our morning adventure came to an end, we caught sight of a young male leopard lounging amid the scrub brush, allowing us to check off another of the Big Five on our list. For our next stop, we paid a visit to one of the local Samburu settlements. The Samburu people are a semi-nomadic tribe of Kenya that live in groups of five to 10 families and continue to uphold many of their ancient customs. Upon our arrival, the tribespeople treated us to a traditional song and dance and then took us on a tour around the mud huts, which are all built by the women using mud, animal hide and grass mats. Afterward, we had the chance to purchase some of their stunning beadwork, baskets and wood carvings.


The next morning, we bid farewell to Kenya’s northern region as we checked out of the Shaba Sarova Game Lodge and headed to a local airstrip. Our 30-passenger plane took us south over the mountainous terrain of the Great Rift Valley to the sweeping savanna of the Masai Mara near the Tanzania border. Once we landed, we were greeted at the airstrip by staff from the Fairmont Mara Safari Club bearing fresh juice and hot hand towels. On our way to the resort hotel, we spotted an enormous herd of hippos dozing on the banks of the Mara River. Rated one of the world’s top 20 luxury resorts by Travel and Leisure magazine, the Fairmont Mara Safari Club is an upscale tented camp perched above the deep ravine of the Mara River. Each of the resort’s 50 tents includes a four-poster bed, a three-piece bathroom and a veranda overlooking the river, where guests can often spot a crocodile or a hippo. Visitors can also take advantage of an indoor restaurant, a bar and a library with internet access in the main lodge. After lunch, we set out on an afternoon game drive through the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya’s crown jewel of wildlife viewing. Home to more than 95 species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles and over 400 species of birds, the breathtaking grasslands of the Masai Mara span more than 100,000 acres along Kenya’s southwestern border by Tanzania. It is a principal viewing area of the Great Wildebeest Migration, a spectacular natural event that occurs each year as more than 2 million wildebeests, zebras and gazelles circle the Serengeti and Masai Mara regions in search of greener pastures. During our excursion, we enjoyed new wildlife sightings of beautiful animals like black-streaked wildebeests, striped Thompson’s ga-

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zelles and star-patterned Masai giraffes. At one point, we even spotted a small litter of baby lions tucked away beneath the underbrush as their mother stood on guard nearby.


TRIPS 888-558-7477 WWW.GOTRIPSINC.COM A cheetah at Masai Mara

Masai Mara National Reserve jeep tour

On the final day of our incredible journey, we woke up in the early hours of the morning for a sunrise hot-air-balloon ride over the plains of the Masai Mara. As the sun cast a golden-red hue over the horizon, we could see small hunting packs of lions and herds of wildebeests running across the savanna. Later, as we made our descent onto the yellowed grass of the Mara, we startled a quartet of Masai giraffes in a run. We closed out the exhilarating experience with a delicious champagne breakfast right on the veldt. Afterward, we set out on a late-morning game drive and came across a massive male lion, which lumbered past our trucks without a single glance in our direction. During one of our more dramatic wildlife encounters, we watched two black-backed jackals take down a baby Thompson’s gazelle while the mother frantically circled the scene. That afternoon, our guide surprised us with a trip to the Mara Ol Chorro Conservancy to see the only two southern white rhinos in the entire region; named Kofi Annan and Queen Elizabeth, they are kept under 24/7 armed guard. Keeping our voices low and using slow movements, we were able to walk within about 15 feet of the gentle giants as they grazed. And with that memorable visit, we finally checked off the last of the big five from our list.

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orried that there’s nothing new under the sun in group travel? Relax, says Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, the new president of Collette, the country’s longest-operating tour company. “There’s plenty of world left out there,” she said assuredly.


Take Finland. When Leibl-Cote and the Collette team saw how popular the company’s tours to Iceland had become, they ventured into Finland. No other tour company was showcasing the country. In Finland, Collette’s travel experts found igloo hotels and Finnish log cabins for overnight stays and added

dog sledding, reindeer encounters, Northern Lights viewings and other experiences a traveler would wish for on a trip there.


Colombia has been another pleasant travel surprise for Leibl-Cote. Collette has a new 10-day tour of the South American nation. “There’s still the stereotype of Colombia that everyone remembers from the ‘80s, but I was there last year, designing and developing our program and the country is amazing, a wonderful place to travel and visit,” she said.


Leibl-Cote is no newcomer to travel or to Collette. She grew up in the business,

the daughter of Dan Sullivan Jr., CEO, and granddaughter of Dan Sullivan Sr., who bought Collette from founder Jack Collette in the 1960s. Collette turns 101 years old this year and has some 700 employees around the world.


Leibl-Cote’s first job with Collette was in the mailroom at the company’s headquarters in Rhode Island, when she was just a teen. Over school breaks and summers, her experience with the company grew. She graduated from college, earned an MBA and returned to Collette full-time 13 years ago. Although she’s led tours, designed itiner-





aries, worked in customer care and inside sales, much of her recent focus has been on product development, tour management and marketing. “I have a broad perspective because I’ve been a part of the business in different ways,” she said. She knows that Collette must anticipate what travelers and travel planners want, delve into destinations and create itineraries that hit a chord. Not every group wants the same kind of tour, she realizes, which is why Collette has developed options like Explorations, its line of tours for 19 or fewer people. “There are destinations that should be traveled with fewer people if you want to bring the experience to life,” said Leibl-Cote.



Group leaders who have planned trips abroad appreciate having a knowledgeable company handle the details. “We take a lot of the burden away from the

travelers having to create this themselves,” said Leibl-Cote. “People can go online and look things up, but that can be overwhelming. They might not have any clue about going to Vietnam — where to go there, what to see, how long to stay, where to stay. It is very complicated if you don’t have the time to really understand the area to which you are going.”


Collette’s teams go into destinations and work directly with prospective hotels, restaurants and attractions. “We handcraft the experience and are doing research all over the globe,” Leibl-Cote said. “We don’t buy through a local operator because we want to own our brand, own the experience. We have boots on the ground going in to experience these other cultures. That sets us apart. It is how travel should be developed. “In Vietnam, our team has gone to all

those cities and asked, ‘Which are the best hotels?’ and ‘Does it meet our brand’s expectations?’ We go into the hotels and contract everything with them, so we can put trust behind the product we develop.”


A company doesn’t thrive for a century without a popular product, and Collette has always monitored group leaders’ needs and desires and adapted its tours to meet those needs. Today’s groups want authentic experiences, Leibl-Cote said. “Expectations are changing and people want to really be a part of the experience. They want off the bus. You can’t just stop for 30 minutes anymore. They want to be able to connect.”


A good example of that authenticity is the street food tour on Collette’s trips to Vietnam. “Our street food experience is optional but most people choose to do it and love it,” said Leibl-Cote. “Our team vetted it, curated it and picked the vendors. Going local like that requires research, collaboration and due diligence.” Finland is another example of how Collette’s boots-on-the-ground approach enriches the travel experience. A tour group never forgets the feeling of flying across the snow in a dog sled, for example. “You aren’t sitting on a bus; you are getting out and connecting with what Finland is all about,” said Leibl-Cote. “You probably

have a big smile, a frozen smile, on your face. It’s one of those things that you didn’t know was on your bucket list until you did it!”


Collette is among the few major tour companies with a woman at the helm. And, as Leibl-Cote points out, Collette is also a rarity because it has had only three leaders in 100 years, unlike many public companies, where CEOs change every few years. “With Collette,” she says, “there’s stability. But, looking forward, I can assure our customers that we will also pivot and change as needed, to stay relevant to an ever-changing market.”



acyln Leibl-Cote grew up with suitcase in hand. Her dad, Dan Sullivan Jr., often brought the family along as he traveled the world for the family business, now known simply as Collette. Now, Leibl-Cote is doing much the same with her three young children, as she steps into her role as Collette’s president and prepares to succeed her dad in the next few years as CEO and president. She will assume the reins of a tour company that is more than 100 years old. So what does such a world traveler suggest to tour planners looking for new travel destinations? “Vietnam, Morocco, Japan, Iceland and South Africa,” she recommends. “The exotics are trending.”


She is also enamored of Colombia, South America, after traveling there last year to create Collette’s 10-day Experience Colombia tour. “Colombia is one of those places where I was like, ‘Wow, I had no idea!’” Each city and region has its own flavor, she says: the colorful markets of Bogota; the hills and valleys of the coffee region; Cartagena, a tropical port with “unbelievable Mediterranean style food”; and Medellin, where travelers visit the neighborhood Comuna 13. “It used to be a gang area with lots of issues,” says Leibl-Cote, “and it has reinvented itself through art and music. You go there and see how an area that seemed to have no opportunity for the future has turned itself around.”







ravelers always rave about Collette’s Italian Vistas tour! “It was the snapshot of Italy we wanted.” “We would have never seen everything included in the tour on our own.” “How lovely the hotels were!” “We saw more sights and learned more history than I thought possible.” In 2020, one group travel planner, and their guest, will have the chance to experience Collette quality as the winner of Collette’s Italian Vistas Familiarization Tour. Planners can enter the giveaway by signing up online at www.selecttraveler. com through February 11. The winner will be announced February 11 at the 2019

Select Traveler Conference, to be held February 10-12 at French Lick Resort in French Lick, Indiana. (The winner does not have to be present to win.) The eight-day tour takes place February 27-March 5, 2020, and includes land, roundtrip air travel, and taxes and surcharges from New York. Most meals are included. The tour includes two nights in Rome, one night in Sorrento, two nights in Florence and one night in Venice. Iconic sites like the Colosseum in Rome, Michelangelo’s David in Florence and numerous other well-known landmarks are included, and the tour includes local experiences for its travelers at shops, restaurants, wineries and other authentic stops.




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








CONNECTICUT Courtesy Las Vegas CVA

FOR GAMING, VEGAS is the granddaddy of them all, the first place in the country to open casinos and home of “The Strip,” a four-mile stretch of road lined with themed hotels that feature elaborate displays, among them the Eiffel Tower, the canals of Venice and an Egyptian pyramid. So-called Sin City is a 24-hour, nonstop gaming and nightlife hub famous around the world. From games to entertainment and world-class dining and shopping, Las Vegas has it all. Sports fans will want to check out the UFC and prizefights, rodeo events and annual NASCAR triple headers. Las Vegas is unparalleled when it comes to entertainment, from Cirque du Soleil to residencies from music greats — this year, Aerosmith, Lady Gaga and Smokey Robinson are among the greats taking the stage. The LINQ Promenade is an outdoor dining, shopping and entertainment complex with the world’s tallest observation wheel, the High Roller. The Viva Vision canopy runs an hourly light and sound show and features two zip lines. Stratosphere Casino features several hair-raising amusement park rides, and the Big Apple Coaster zips through the New York-New York Casino. Car lovers will love Dream Racing and SpeedVegas, racetracks that feature luxury cars like Porsche and Lamborghini, and the Richard Petty Driving Experience, with NASCAR vehicles. Get a bird’s-eye view on a helicopter tour, or stay grounded on a Venetian gondola ride.

Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

CONNECTICUT FEATURES two giant casino resorts — the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun — which also sweeten the pot with dining, golf, spas, live entertainment and luxe accommodations. Within Foxwoods, there are plenty of ways to entertain groups when table games and slots are no dice. Pequot hiking trails make a nice outdoor experience, leading to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, the largest Native American museum in the U.S. Other on-site activities include Thrill Tower and the High Flyers zip line, vintage arcade games at the Tree House arcade and a luxury bowling lane. And guests love to stop at the Sugar Factory, a mindblowing old-school candy shop. At Mohegan Sun, the sports arena and multiple venues offering nightly entertainment are a good bet. Among the wide variety of performers are comedy and musical acts, DJs and the New England Black Wolves lacrosse team. The Mohegan Sun golf course offers golf clinics and was rated one of the state’s top10 courses. At the Mandara Spa, guests can relax in sumptuous luxury while enjoying massages, wraps, facials and scrubs in the 16,000-square-foot space. Beyond the casinos, in the nearby town of Mystic, visitors will want to check out Mystic Seaport, home to the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whaleship. WWW.CTVISIT.COM



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MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST Courtesy Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional CVB

THERE ARE 12 CASINOS ACROSS the Gulf Coast near Biloxi, Mississippi, most overlooking the bay. Guests will be on a roll at any resort, where gaming options range from penny slots and table games to poker and high-limit salons. The resorts feature headliner entertainers, pool and bar areas, shopping, luxurious spas and dining. You can bet that one of the dozen will be a good fit — from the Hard Rock to Harrah’s, the Gulf Coast’s gaming scene is thriving. Beyond the casinos, this coastal destination features 13 regional golf courses on a variety of landscapes. “You can play 18 holes on the beach, on a course in the bayou and in a pine forest,” said Anna Roy, public relations manager for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. “They’re a 30-minute drive max away from each other, and they’re open year-round, so it’s possible to hit several courses in one day.” Beachgoers will want to take advantage of kayaking, boat, steamboat and schooner tours such as the Biloxi Shrimping Trip, where shrimpers drag nets aboard the boat and talk to passengers about things they have caught. The Gulf Island National Seashore is home to pristine, clear water and untouched islands. Fishing tours are popular, as are tours to the barrier islands. Biloxi was once a major seafood producer, and its commercial history is commemorated at the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum. The area’s dining scene is also top-notch, from seafood shacks pulling straight from the harbor to farm-to table fine dining.


ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY Courtesy Casino Reinvestment Development Authority

FOUNDED IN THE 1800S as a health resort, Atlantic City, New Jersey, is known for having inspired the Monopoly board game and as the home of the Miss America competition. Most recently, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino opened after $500 million dollars in renovations that included a spa/salon, a fitness center and live nightly music. The Ocean Casino Resort has a luxury spa and dining and the country’s largest Topgolf Swing Suite. The remaining seven resorts are thematic — Tropicana is based on Old Havana, Caesars is Roman Empire-themed and Borgata resembles Tuscany, for example. Atlantic City is known as the “Entertainment Capital of the Jersey Shore” and features top acts and sporting events in venues large and small. Beyond casino resorts, groups can go for broke at the Tanger Outlet Stores, with dozens of shops from a wide range of brands including the upscale Michael Kors and everyday-wear chain The Gap. Atlantic City’s Boardwalk is famous as a place to stroll and shop, dine and visit attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Steel Pier, an iconic local landmark, offers restaurants; rides; games; helicopter rides; The Wheel, a 227-foot-tall Ferris wheel; and a custom-made carousel hand-painted with historical scenes. The Abescon Lighthouse is the state’s tallest at 171 feet; a 228-step climb rewards visitors with unparalleled views of the Jersey Shore. WWW.ATLANTICCITYNJ.COM


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Photos courtesy Detroit Metro CVB

MOTOR CITY IS HOME to many attractions, and casino gaming is just one of them. The city features three casinos: the Greektown Casino-Hotel, with table games, slots and live poker; the car-themed MotorCity Casino Hotel, with a 24-hour casino, restaurants, a spa, live entertainment and a fitness center; and the MGM Grand, with all the amenities, plus a Top Golf Suite. In Detroit, entertainment options abound for groups interested in cultural attractions. The city’s rich history offers museums like the Detroit Institute of Arts, known for Diego Rivera’s famously controversial murals; the Motown Museum in the record label’s former studio; and for car fans, the Henry Ford Museum and Plant Tour. The Historic Fox Theater has hosted some of the biggest names in showbiz; the Fisher hosts Broadway-bound musicals; and the Detroit Opera House is home to the Michigan Opera Theater, among other performances. Sports fans will have no problem cheering on the home teams: Tigers baseball, Lions football, Red Wings hockey and Pistons basketball. Live music is practically a religion, and fans will find a range of venues, from big name acts at Ford Field to outdoor performances like the Detroit Jazz Festival at Hart Park. Foodies will be right at home in Detroit. In Hamtramck, where dive bars are the norm, the craft cocktail, brewery, urban winery and distillery movements have taken hold. Check out speakeasies like Sugar House for unique cocktails. The city is home to a handful of breweries like the Liberty Street Brewing Co. and distilleries like the Detroit City Distillery, in a former slaughterhouse in the popular Eastern Market. WWW.VISITDETROIT.COM


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y r o t S r ou

OUR BOARDWALK A world of entertaining and exciting experiences awaits in Atlantic City. Up and down our world-famous Boardwalk, and throughout your entire Atlantic City stay, you’ll experience the ultimate in tax-free shopping, award-winning dining for every taste, fun


amusements and great local attractions. Atlantic City offers the perfect setting to experience an exciting getaway and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Atlantic City Expert Heather Colache is available at 609-449-7151 or to make sure you enjoy Atlantic City as it was meant to be experienced. Call today to book your Atlantic City Experience.

Meet AC received funding through a grant from the New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism.


Groups imagine themselves transported back in time with living history demonstrations at the Alamo.

Photos courtesy Visit San Antonio



BY ELIZA MYERS hether it’s seeing ancient Texas cave drawings at the Witte Museum or tasting a sample of the city’s culinary scene with San Antonio Detours, groups can experience culture old and new in San Antonio. The River City celebrates the variety of people who helped shape the charming-yet-modern destination with a variety of historic sites, museums, shopping experiences and tours. The city garnered global recognition for its historic preservation efforts in 2015 when the Alamo and the San Antonio Missions National Park were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Groups


can explore the city’s past at these intriguing and beautiful Spanish colonial missions. San Antonio’s colorful past and present comes to life at the following cultural attractions.


Catholic religious groups came to Texas in the 17th century to spread their faith among the local indigenous groups. Five of their stone mission churches remain in San Antonio. “People domestically don’t know we have a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” said Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio. “Our five Spanish colonial missions are among the most historical and cultural icons around the world. They are on the same list as the pyramids of Egypt, so their importance is internationally recognized.” Visitors to the Alamo Mission can discover its early history and learn about the famous Battle of the Alamo that took place there. The site is one of the most popular historic attractions in the United

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States, with over 4 million visitors each year. Groups can tour the chapel and long barracks to see weapons, artifacts and a large diorama that re-creates the compound as it was in 1836. Each of the four missions at the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park tells a different piece of the Spanish colonial mission story. At the well-preserved Mission Concepcion, groups can examine original fresco paintings and awe-inspiring stone architecture. Mission San Jose paints a more complete picture of mission life, with Indian quarters, workshops, a granary, a visitors center and a bookstore. Groups can attend a ranger-led program or watch the park film. Mission San Juan grows historical crops with a 300-yearold watering system, and the Mission Espada showcases brick-lined structures and woven arts.

Mission Concepcion


Bright colors, spirited music, handmade crafts and a tradition reaching back to the 1820s make Market Square much more than a simple shopping destination. One of the largest Mexican markets outside Mexico, it features over 100 locally owned shops and restaurants in a three-block section of downtown San Antonio. “Market Square is really fun,” said Matej. “You have mariachi bands roaming around and playing. There are stores there that have been passed down in the family for seven generations. It is a lively place with the best-tasting food in the city.” Groups can shop for authentic Talavera pottery, leather goods, jewelry and other handmade crafts. Working artists not only showcase their skills but also give demonstrations for shoppers, who can watch them create pottery, paintings and other crafts. Mexican aromas also tempt visitors at traditional restaurants and other eateries. Mariachi and Tejano musicians perform year-round, and visitors will find folklorico dancing frequently taking place during the weekends.


Though one might expect festivals featuring Mexican dancing in San Antonio, the Texas Folklife Festival at the Institute of Texan Culture also showcases the folk traditions and foods from Ukraine, Scotland, Lebanon and over 40 other countries. “We have a lot of Spanish and Mexican influence in our culture,” said Matej. “People do not realize we also had a lot of German settlers as well as immigrants from many other countries. When you mix in all those cultures, it makes for interesting culinary and art.” The Texas Folklife Festival runs for three days each June to honor the many cultures represented in the state of Texas. Groups can attend internationally inspired concerts, dances and craft demonstrations. They can also participate, with opportunities for working alongside basket weavers, leather workers, potters and much more. The event is sponsored by the Institute of Texan Cultures, which celebrates the state’s cultures throughout the year with 65,000 square feet of interactive exhibits. Groups can learn about Texas’ Native American tribes, as well as Irish, German and other immigrants who played key roles in Texas history.


Many visitors take photos before they sample the dishes offered on a San Antonio Detours food adventure. The tour company’s Taste San Antonio Food Tour offers a progressive dinner across the city to sample both classic dishes and newer favorites.

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Market Square

The three-hour tour touches on San Antonio’s growing culinary scene, cultural food traditions and history. Local seafood, classic Mexican dishes and handmade desserts make frequent appearances on the tour’s lineup. In addition, the company offers a BBQ and Brews tour that highlights some of the city’s dozens of barbecue joints. The tours also stop at various craft breweries for samples of the city’s nationally acclaimed brews. San Antonio Detours also takes groups beyond the city limits for wine tastings in the nearby Texas Hill Country.


To see how San Antonio began, groups can examine cave man paintings and dinosaur bones at the Witte Museum. “The Witte Museum is a combination of a Texas heritage museum and a science museum,” said Matej. “There are a lot of interactive aspects in the museum. They have invested a lot of money into the facility. It sits on the banks of the San Antonio River. It is just beautiful.” Established in 1926, the museum tells the stories of Texas from prehistory to the present. Historic artifacts, photographs, Texas art and textiles cover the human history, and dinosaur bones and Texas wildlife dioramas reflect the state’s natural environment. Among the favorite displays are a skeleton of the meat-eating Acrocanthosaurus, 4,000-year-old cave art and videos detailing interesting stories from the state’s history. The museum invites guest participation with regular demonstrations on various topics, including cooking activities, live animal encounters and replicated traditions of Texas’ prehistoric hunter-gather tribes.


Mississippi Museum of Art


BY ELIZA MYERS Old Capitol Museum

Photos courtesy Visit Jackson

A Jim Crowe law exhibit at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

Mississippi Civil Rights Museum exhibit

discover mississippi’s contemporary capital


n June 12, 1963, civil rights activist Medgar Evers was shot by a white supremacist in Jackson, Mississippi. Rather than hide from this ugly moment in the city’s history, the city opened the acclaimed Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in 2017 to shed light on the sins of the past and celebrate the incredible figures who fought to right injustices in the state of Mississippi. The museum is in good company, since Jackson offers numerous other enlightening museums, including the Old Capitol Museum, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Museum of Art. These and other quality museums prove a town can embrace both old-fashioned charm and culturally informative attractions. Groups can combine Jackson’s soul food restaurants, music venues and festivals with some of these top museums.


The first three sections of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum feature a cramped physical environment to give the visitor a sense of the constraint of slavery. At one point, a lynching exhibit gives a disturbing but frank view of the atrocities committed in Mississippi. After the dark exhibits depicting slavery, guests welcome the welllit, spacious exhibits that represent the civil rights era. One sculpture in this section, titled “This Little Light of Mine,” features a chandelier that grows brighter and brighter as more visitors enter the room, demonstrating how all people can help brighten the world. Opened in December 2017, the museum is the first state-sponsored civil rights museum in the country. “The first three months of 2018 surpassed their expectations for attendance, drawing the amount of people they had predicted for the entire year,” said Kim Lewis, communications and destination development manager for Visit Jackson. “It has changed the face of tourism for us because it is new and people are so interested.” Several civil rights activists and other museum critics have praised the museum’s riveting and honest portrayals of the state’s civil rights past. “You have to allow yourself hours,” said Lewis. “I’ve been there three times, and I still haven’t seen everything. There is so much to take in.” The museum focuses on Mississippi’s role in civil rights, and the connected Mississippi History Museum reflects the rest of the state’s 15,000 years of history. Groups often package them together.

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Mississippi Civil Rights Museum exterior


When a group first enters the Old Capitol Museum, guides usher the group together into the center and then instruct everyone to look up. Viewers often gasp in awe at the building’s copper rotunda dome that rises 94 feet above the first floor. “The building is stunning,” said Lewis. “It was stunning for its time, and it still is. The dome is a sight you don’t expect to see. It takes your breath away.” The National Historic Landmark preserves the Greek Revival building that served as the state’s capitol from 1839 to 1903. Touring groups learn about Mississippi’s political history and architectural history, as well as the design techniques used in the building. Groups can see the governor’s office, the Senate and the High Court, all restored to their 19th-century appearances. Guides reveal some of the most significant legislative actions passed in the building, such as the 1839 Married Women’s Property Act. In 2006, the Mississippi Legislature appropriated $14.2 million to restore the Old Capitol after severe damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The hurricanes peeled off sections of the building’s roof with rain damage. The museum reopened in 2009.


Braving alligators, venomous snakes and other natural elements, Fannye Cook gathered and documented a thorough collection of Mississippi’s flora and fauna in the 1930s. Because of the biological researcher’s hard work, groups can explore the collection and more at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences.


Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science dinosaur exhibit

Guides can lead groups through the museum’s 73,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor complex overlooking 305-acre LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. Life-size displays of the state’s habitats, a native plant garden and a 100,000-gallon aquarium educates visitors on Mississippi’s natural environments. The Swamp houses a 1,700-square-foot greenhouse for a safe way to experience the state’s marshes. “The indoor alligator swamp is amazing,” said Lewis. “You walk out of the building into an enclosed sunroom. It stays humid in there. It looks like a natural habitat. Until I went there, I had no idea there were so many different types of turtles.” Groups can explore beyond these exhibits with a behind-the-scenes tour, a scuba diver interactive experience or up-close encounters with alligators, turtles, snakes and other Mississippi creatures. The museum customizes group experiences and grants special group rates. The museum sits within 50-acre LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, so a guided tour can easily pair with a scenic nature hike.


Photography by Jackson native Eudora Welty sits in the same building as paintings by nationally renowned artists such as Mary Cassatt in the Mississippi Museum of Art. The largest museum in the state, it includes works by American, British and Mississippi artists. Groups can explore the permanent exhibits, as well as numerous rotating exhibits. One ongoing exhibit features pre-Columbian art, and another showcases the pottery of Mississippi artists Lee and Pub McCarty. Topics for rotating exhibits in 2019 are wide-


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ranging, among them such selections as contemporary Chickasaw art and the history of the silhouette artform. In 2018, the National Endowment for the Humanities gave the museum a grant for the reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection, “The Mississippi Story,” which originally ran in 2007 with more than 5,500 pieces from 1865 to the present. Mississippi natives such as James Tooley Jr., George Ohr and Eudora Welty will once again appear in the exhibit, due to open in June. Groups can wander through the museum on their own or with a guide, or they can attend a gallery talk with a curator. Packages for groups can include boxed lunches or catered meals with the museum cafe. Patrons love taking home books, jewelry, home decor or other souvenirs from the museum store. “The museum has an amazing gift shop,” said Lewis. “If we have a group looking for local products or shopping ideas, we refer them to the Mississippi Museum of Art’s gift shop.” Outside, groups can walk through the 1.2-acre art garden past sculptures, native plants and water features.


Mississippi Museum of Art’s garden

MS Civil Rights Museum

District at Eastover

Eat, drink and be soulful in Jackson. The City With Soul.

Iron Horse Grill

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here’s no denying the allure of the Northeast’s trove of historic sites, from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to Boston’s Old North Church. But as much as the region celebrates and honors its history and heritage as the site of the nation’s founding, it’s also full of vibrant communities, each alive with its own unique, modern allure. Led by locals who know and love the area, city tours offer a great way to enjoy an overview of some of the Northeast’s most iconic and appealing destinations. From history-rich cobblestone alleyways in Boston and Philly to farm-to-table food in Providence, Rhode Island, and craft beer in Portland, Maine, these unusual urban tours showcase some of the best stops the region has to offer.

Courtesy Boston Freedom Trail

Top: The Boston Freedom Trail’s Walk Into History tour introduces guests to the city’s Revolutionary War-era sites. Bottom: Historic medallions mark the path of the Boston Freedom Trail.


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BOSTON Considered a must-do during any trip to Boston, the iconic Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile red-brick trail that connects 16 of the city’s most historic sites including Paul Revere’s House, the site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill, all of which played formative roles in the early days of the American Revolution. The Freedom Trail Foundation’s experienced, costumed tour guides can lead groups of several hundred or more in customized walking tours of the Freedom Trail, offered 362 days a year. “No group is too large,” said Freedom Trail executive director Suzanne Taylor, since larger groups are typically broken into smaller subgroups of 40 or so. Known as the Freedom Trail Players, the guides, outfitted in faithful reproductions of 18th-century clothing, not only relay the history of the historic sites along the trail, but also share personal anecdotes that reflect their historic characters’ individual roles in revolutionary Boston. Guides assume personas such as Isaiah Thomas, a prominent antiBritish newspaper publisher, or Prince Hall, abolitionist and father

A Rhode Island Red Food tour Courtesy Rhode Island Red Food Tours

Beef tartare in Providence

of black Freemasonry, who encouraged African-American support of the Colonial revolt. “Our guides share anecdotes on what life was like in Colonial times, what they might have endured and how they were involved in the American Revolution,” said Taylor. Custom group tours typically include the same 11 stops featured on the trail’s public, 90-minute Walk Into History tours, which run from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall. Group planners can also opt for “extended tour options, one of which lasts two hours and 15 minutes and goes from Boston Common to Old North Church, or a three-hour tour that includes all 16 sites,” Taylor said. Additionally, planners can work with Freedom Trail staff to incorporate site visits into their tour, allowing their group access inside some of the trail’s historic buildings, such as the Old South Meeting House, where the Boston Tea Party protest began. WWW.THEFREEDOMTRAIL.ORG


PROVIDENCE Rhode Island’s capital city dubs itself “The Creative Capital” thanks in part to its high concentration of art galleries, public art murals, live performance venues and eight college campuses, including Brown University and the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where youthful creativity abounds. “We’re a college town, so there’s a lot of young energy here,” said Paula Silva, owner of Rhode Island Red Food Tours, which offers customizable walking tours that highlight Providence’s burgeoning culinary scene. “A new restaurant pops up here every few weeks,” Silva said. “In addition to Brown and RISD, we also have Johnson and Wales University culinary school, which has had a huge influence on the Providence food scene. Most of our chefs here are either graduates of that program or have trained under a chef that is.” Silva’s roughly three-hour, 1.7-mile-long walking tours allow guests to visit and do food tastings at six or so sites chosen from their growing list of restaurant partners. “Guests learn about the specialties of the restaurants, as well as the food philosophy of the chefs there,” Silva said. A popular stop is Oberlin, a farm-to-table restaurant. The restaurant’s head chef, Ben Sukle, is a 2018 James Beard Foundation nominee for Best Chef of the Northeast; he focuses on sustainable cuisine. “He has his own plot of land in Providence where he sources his own vegetables,” Silva said. Another popular stop is the recently opened Yoleni’s Greek market, the first of its kind in the United States, where visitors can enjoy authentic Greek yogurt, wines, pita, baklava and more. While walking groups through the city spotlight Providence’s food culture, guides also share insights into the community’s history and artistic side. “We’ll point out historic architectural buildings, art murals and the history of the neighborhoods we’re passing through,” Silva said. “I think of our guides really as food and culture ambassadors.” WWW.RHODEISLANDREDFOODTOURS.COM

Courtesy Rhode Island Red Food Tours

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PORTLAND The craft brew scene is booming in Maine, with no sign of slowing down. “When we started offering tours six years ago, there were 46 breweries in the state, and now there are roughly 140,” said Greg Klein, group sales coordinator for the Maine Brew Bus, which offers guided tours of the city’s breweries, wineries and distilleries. “In Portland alone, there are currently 22 craft breweries in operation.” The tour company’s fleet of three lime-green minibuses can convey 14 passengers each, but Klein and his team can work with partner companies to secure charter bus transportation for larger groups, when needed. Their tours typically last three and a half hours and include stops at three different breweries, with beer tastings and behind-the-tap access to see how the beer is made. “Our tours are more than just a tasting room experience,” Klein said. “We get to go behind the scenes at one or more of the stops to actually see the brewing process. Our clients get to talk to the owners, brewers and tasting room staff so that we’re offering a more guided experience than they’d be able to get if they were to just visit the breweries on their own.” Tour tickets include the cost of a flight — three or four pours, typically — at each stop. A snack on board is provided as well. During the tour, guides share insights into Maine craft brew history, from its 19th-century origins to the current brew scene’s leading innovators. Planners can either select from the company’s preplanned tour routes or opt for customized itineraries based on the group’s interests. Additionally, thematic add-ons such as curling lessons, an escape-room visit, go-carting and axe-throwing are also available. From IPAs and lagers to more avant-garde, trending sour beers, the breweries in Portland offer a match for practically any palate. “When it comes to craft beer in Maine, there’s something for everybody,” Klein said. WWW.THEMAINEBREWBUS.COM

A glass at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery

Maine Brew Bus

Courtesy Maine Brew Bus


FINGER LAKES REGION, NEW YORK New York’s Finger Lakes region is renowned for both its natural beauty and its wine; approximately 130 wineries, plus roughly 80 breweries, cideries and distilleries, operate there. Crush Beer and Wine Tours offers guided tours of wineries surrounding four of the Finger Lakes — Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca and Cayuga — plus the city of Rochester. Its most popular offering, its half-day Crush on Canandaigua Tour, includes stops and tastings at four wineries, from large-scale operations like Casa Larga to the smaller, family-run Inspire Moore. The full-day version of the tour also includes lunch at New York Kitchen, overlooking the lake, plus a fifth winery stop. The company’s vehicles can accommodate up to 14 passengers each, but chartered motorcoaches are available for larger groups. “We like to offer a good mixture of new and older wineries and of sweet wines and dry wines,” said Russell Russo, owner of Crush Beer and Wine Tours. “We try to hit the whole gamut, so people can get a good feel of what the Finger Lakes has to offer.” Another tour company, Finger Lakes Winery Tours, has its own fleet of motorcoaches and offers transportation to the Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka lakes wine trails. Seneca Lake, the largest of the region’s wine trails, is home to more than 35 wineries. But Finger Lakes Winery Tour president Mike Fitzgerald advises visitors to not overlook the west side of Keuka Lake, home to award-winning Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery. “They are our No. 1 winery, in terms of the awards that they win,” Fitzgerald said. “They have fantastic wines there.” WWW.CRUSHBEERWINETOURS.COM WWW.FINGERLAKESWINERYTOURS.COM

Dr. Konstantin Frank

Keuka Lake Wine Trail

A couple on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail

Photos courtesy Finger Lakes Wine Region


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PHILADELPHIA Home to Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, and the nearby Liberty Bell, Philadelphia is one of America’s great historic cities. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be toured in a thoroughly modern way. Philly by Segway offers a fun and unusual way to experience the City of Brotherly Love, with an array of tour options that include one- or two-hour overviews of the city’s historic sectors, iconic neighborhoods and modern city center, or more thematic tours that spotlight Philadelphia’s art murals and signature food item: the Philly Cheese Steak. Think riding a Segway might be intimidating for your group? Maybe think again. “Age shouldn’t be a barrier,” said Barry Marrow Jr., Philly by Segway’s business manager. “I have given Segway tours to a lady celebrating her 70th birthday. My oldest Segway client so far was 87 years old. A 30-minute instruction and Segway practice session precedes all tours. With 35 Segways in its inventory, the company can handle groups of about 30; larger parties can be broken into smaller groups that alternate Segway rotations with integrated walking itineraries. Traditional, non-Segwaybased walking tours are available through the company’s partner, Philly Tour Hub. The popular one-hour Segway tour leads guests through the Historic Old City, along the Delaware River, past the iconic Italian Market and into the historic Society Hill neighborhood, concluding near the Betsy Ross House. “We talk about the history, but we also like to show things that are happening now, today — things that show a little bit of Philadelphia’s modern culture as well,” said Marrow. WWW.PHILLYBYSEGWAY.COM

Philly by Segway Courtesy Philly by Segway

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Southern Indiana is home to Abbey Road on the River, the world’s largest Beatles-inspired music festival. We’re a day ’s drive from 2 / 3 of the US population, so grab the keys, get a ticket to ride, or hop aboard a yellow submarine to see what makes our music scene SoIN.


marketing Y O U R




ome loyalty group travel programs sell out every trip, raise nondues revenues and grow to become key branding vehicles for their parent organizations. Others peter out after planners offer a few tours they find enticing but that gain no interest from members. What makes the difference? Many successful planners treat their travel program as a business in its own right rather than as an afterthought. Knowing the ins and outs of business marketing can help this goal. One popular marketing theory that can help travel planners create and market their tours is known as the Seven P’s of Marketing. These seven tactics can enhance tour programs in broad, conceptual ways down to the minute execution details. Throughout 2019, we will cover each of these strategies. The first of these tactics is product. Product refers to what you are selling and whether that product is something customers want. Examining this business strategy can allow planners to step back and rebuild their tours from the ground up.


Travel planners who choose trips based on their own travel bucket lists make a crucial mistake. Though a trip to Nepal might sound incredible to a bank travel planner, the retired bank customers might not feel ready to leave the state, much less the country. All businesses must determine if their products or services line up with what their customers want. As such, customer feedback is vital to group travel programs. Find out what type of program to offer by communicating with your potential travelers as often as possible. Conduct surveys at events, by email and even during trips. These surveys should ask about preferred trip length, price, destination, theme and other details. Some planners regularly hand out surveys at the closing dinner of each trip to get feedback on the tour that is wrapping up and to find out what types of tours these proven travelers might want to book next. Take time to talk with travelers in person to gather even more details about their preferences. Make notes afterward to record the data. Some planners with well-developed programs designate frequent and reliable travelers as board members for the group. These members regularly meet with the planner to discuss their ideas for future trips.


Another way to generate ideas is to look at a similar organization’s travel program to see what types of tours they offer successfully. Many travel planners are eager to share which types of tours sold well for their customers. Before you copy another organization’s trip skiing in Switzerland, ensure that the organization reaches customers of similar ages, budgets and preferences. Tour operators can also prove a wealth of information that you can collect as part of your market research. Just using your customers’ age ranges, work status and yearly income, many tour operators can help you select tours that generally sell well for them in corresponding demographics.


Once you have market research about your members, begin your investigation by imagining yourself as an independent marketing consultant. You need to look at your tours with fresh eyes to see if they suit your customers. Ask yourself if your tours are appropriate for your customers today. Are the travel experiences you’re offering better or more enjoyable than what your customers could find elsewhere? If you don’t see your program standing out from the competition, think about how you might improve it. After jotting down some ideas, clarify the vision of your travel program by using another marketing strategy that separates each product into core product, actual product and augmented product. Core product looks at the intangible benefits of your product. For example, if you are selling a car, you want to determine if the car’s core product is a status symbol or a value for money. Apply this to your travel program by deciding if your market research suggests you should create mostly exotic trips, domestic trips, day trips or another type of trip. Actual product comes after you’ve decided your core product philosophy. If you need upscale tours to satisfy your members, research how to create tours with this stipulation and what branding, quality and other details to strive for. Augmented product looks at what other byproducts come from your tours. Nail down what insurance, cancellation policies and other extras you would like to offer with your trips.


Once you know the types of tours you want to develop, come up with a resource development strategy for turning your ideas into reality. A resource development strategy is a plan for how to

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REQUIRES REFINEMENT invest your time and your organization’s money into enhancing your tour product. This plan for long-term improvement in your travel program means thinking past short-term profits and toward investment in your program’s lasting appeal. Every travel program’s map to success will look different depending on the results of the program’s market research and product goals. Many loyalty travel planners find there are certain destinations or types of tours that sell out every year. If your members will fill a motorcoach to Ireland each year, offer this destination regularly but with varying themes or cities. For example, one tour can focus on the history of Ireland and another can explore mainly its natural wonders. Come up with several of these go-to destinations to keep your program viable from year to year. In addition to these tried-andtrue trips, always include strategies for new product development to create tours that anticipate trends. To achieve this, some planners offer a certain percentage of popular tours with new destinations. For example, they may dedicate 20 percent of their tours to testing new products and focus the remaining 80 percent on trips that predictably sell well. These market strategies will allow you to carefully experiment to discover what will turn your program into a success.


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mission statements force you to focus BY BRIAN JEWELL


efore you get to “what,” you have to start with “why.” For many people working at banks, universities and chambers of commerce, running travel programs is something of an inherited job. There’s a good chance you didn’t start your organization’s affinity club, and managing it might not have been among your job responsibilities when you were originally hired. If someone else started your travel group and established its procedures before handing you the reins, you might find yourself in a tricky situation. Yes, traveling with clients can be fun and rewarding, but since you weren’t the creator of the program, it can be difficult to know what our program should accomplish or how you can grow it. And in an era when many institutions are closely scrutinizing — and sometimes closing — their travel programs, uncertainty about your purpose can pose a significant threat to the future of your club and perhaps even your job. To solve these problems, you need a mission statement.


If you’ve been in the corporate world awhile, the term mission statement might make you roll your eyes. But don’t turn the page just yet. Yes, corporate mission statements have been badly abused over the past few decades, stripped of any real meaning and stuffed with high-concept words like “synergy,” “disruption” and “catalyst.” But that’s not the kind of mission statement you need. Think of this mission statement less like a plaque that hangs on your office wall and more like the set of orders a military leader gives his troops on a specific


assignment. A good mission statement clearly and concisely states the key purpose of the assignment. The soldiers know exactly what they’re there to do and, equally as important, not to do. They know what success looks like, and every member of the team understands their role in accomplishing that mission. And under the best circumstances, the team members also understand why the mission is taking place. A good mission statement provides clarity and accountability to everyone involved in a program or project. And a great one helps them understand the “why” behind the “what,” so they can buy into the concept and take ownership of it.


A solid mission statement will benefit your travel program or affinity club in a number of ways. First of all, it will help you and your organization’s leadership get on the same page about the purpose of your program and what it’s meant to accomplish. Many travel clubs of the past have closed because senior leaders didn’t understand why they were created or how they worked. But with a clear and simple mission statement, you can easily demonstrate your program’s value to your leaders. If the institution’s leaders agree about the key purpose of your program, it will be easy for them to give you goals and objectively measure your success. So instead of a new vice president’s knowing only that you lead a travel group because Jane started it before you got there, for example, you can say your program’s mission is to increase high-value deposits among customers over the age of 55. Then, you can show a list of new deposits you have received from travelers in the past 12 months. That’s something the VP will immediately understand. A clear mission statement will also help you more easily determine Top: Kayaking in Virginia, courtesy Southeast Expeditions Bottom: Mission statements provide a clear direction for travel programs.

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how you should prioritize your efforts. If travel opportunities are attracting more new customers than in-office potlucks or educational presentations, you can choose to jettison those initiatives that aren’t performing as well. And if anyone complains about that decision, you can simply explain that the events you cut weren’t meeting your program’s mission objectives.


There are a thousand ways to write a mission statement, and the right approach for you will depend on a host of factors: the kind of organization you work for, the financial incentives at play, the size of your membership, etc. But no matter what template you choose, there are some key things you should do in crafting any mission statement. First, start with the overall mission of your institution. If you work at a bank, your organization has a profit motive, and you can bet that anything you do will require a clear financial return on investment. At a university, though, the institutional mission is mostly educational. So while your program can’t be a money pit, you might focus your efforts more on community-building and continuing education. Next, consult with your organization’s leaders. Ask them how they see your program working well now and what you could do to contribute more to the overall success of the organization. If you give your leaders a chance to contribute to your mission statement, they’re more likely to feel a sense of ownership in it. They may even want to participate in it more, attending your events and perhaps going on some of your trips. As you work, make sure that your mission statement clearly reflects priorities. Does your program exist to retain existing customers or attract new ones? Are you looking to directly increase deposits or donations? If you work at a chamber of commerce, are you trying to generate revenue through trip fees or simply build affinity and connections among business members in your community? Finally, ensure that your mission statement is future focused. Your travel program may have enjoyed some glory days in the past, but don’t aim at re-creating those times. Instead, look forward to how your program can be successful in the years to come. Your future and present customers come from a different generation than your past travelers, and they’re living in a different world. So set yourself up for success by defining a mission that will serve the present and the future well. Top: Useful mission statements take time to plan. Bottom: A flag in Tennessee, courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y

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w e ’ v e


clinton national bank CLINTON, IOWA TRIP: Italy TOUR OPERATOR: Gateway Travel DATE: June 2018 To take in the charms of Italy, 32 members of Clinton National Bank’s Prime Time Club spent 14 days exploring Rome, Florence, Sorrento, Naples and the Amalfi Coast. “Our group thoroughly enjoyed our Italian adventure. Rome is filled with so many spectacular historic sites, including the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Vatican. Our travelers also enjoyed the delicious food, including the pasta, the pizza, limoncello and, of course, the wine. The small, winding cobblestone roads were also a sight to behold as our bus driver navigated the route. It was a wonderful, unforgettable trip in every way.”


west bend area chamber of commerce WEST BEND, WISCONSIN TRIP: Legendary Blue Danube River Cruise TOUR OPERATOR: Mayflower Tours CRUISE COMPANY: Luftner Cruises DATE: September 2018 The West Bend Area chamber members cruised for 10 days along the Danube River with Luftner Cruises and Mayflower Tours. The tour explored Salzburg, Austria; Prague; Vienna; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Budapest, Hungary, among other destinations. “I have traveled extensively but had never visited Prague, Bratislava and Budapest. To say the least, I was astounded by their beauty, uniqueness and the charm of their people. These countries were a wonderful surprise and helped make our tour a huge success. You can’t beat a river cruise for providing ambiance and comfort. And, best of all, not having to pack and unpack over and over is a real blessing.”


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Fall in love with the rhythm of the waves with hands-on experiences and uncommon access offered exclusively for groups. Plan your group’s Live the Life Adventure at

Profile for The Group Travel Leader, Inc.

Select Traveler January February 2019  

Find trip ideas for Kenya, Casinos, city tours in the Northeast, new exhibits and museums and tips for planning an overseas trip in the Janu...

Select Traveler January February 2019  

Find trip ideas for Kenya, Casinos, city tours in the Northeast, new exhibits and museums and tips for planning an overseas trip in the Janu...