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contents Vol. 20, No. 4

August 2010

COVER STORY

COVER STORY 18 THE ESSENCE OF ALASKA

by jeff gayduk

FEATURES 28

MIDWEST Midwest Casino Update

by nadia beidas

32

SOUTH Adventures in Arkansas

by jill m. rohrbach

39

NORTHEAST Playtime in Pennsylvania

by randy mink

COLUMNS 6

On Tour

ARKANSAS ADVENTURES

RE ADER’S ★ ICE C H★

On My Mind by jeff gayduk

8

CAST YOUR VOTE

18

AWARDS See Our Reader Service Page

by marty sarbey de souto

10

On Girlfriend Getaways by lisa kasanicky

12

On Adventure Travel

42

by christopher doyle

On Technology by john kamm

DEPARTMENTS 15

On The Record

26

Western Girlfriend Packages by lisa kasanicky

30

On Our Radar: MIDWEST

37

On Our Radar: SOUTH

41

On Our Radar: NORTHEAST

32

ON THE COVER:  Turnagain Arm at high tide, Chugach State Park, Alaska (Photo courtesy Alaska Travel Industry Association/ ©2007 Michael DeYoung)

Alaska Travel Industry Association/©2007 Michael DeYoung

Land tours showcase the best of America’s Last Frontier


Vol. 20, No. 4 August 2010 Editorial & Advertising Office

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NEWS AS IT HAPPENS • PERSPECTIVE • TOOLS

jeff@ptmgroups.com

Managing Editor – Randy Mink randy@ptmgroups.com

NEWS AS IT HAPPENS • PERSPECTIVE • TOOLS

Senior Editor – John Kloster john@ptmgroups.com

Need Instant Information?

Senior Editor – Elana Andersen elana@ptmgroups.com

e’ve just unveiled a brand new online planning tool for group travel organizers. Instant Info connects you directly with group-friendly suppliers to help you research and plan trips. From the home page of LeisureGroupTravel.com, click on the Instant Info tab. Search by state, keyword or category and choose how you want to receive information. It’s the quickest way to plan your next group getaway!

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Exclusively Online - Cruise Line Loyalty Programs s a group leader, it’s important to keep on top of who is offering what, and how the loyalty program on your selected cruise line might also benefit your group members individually. It does usually “pay to come back,” not just from the standpoint of perks but the recognition level as well. Click on Online Exclusives from the home page.

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AWA R DS

CAST YOUR VOTE BY SEPTEMBER 15! 4 August 2010

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Southern – Dolores Ridout P/F 281.762.9546 dolores@ptmgroups.com Florida & Caribbean – Prof Inc. P 813.286.8299 • F 813.287.0651 jimg@ptmgroups.com West/Midwest/Online sales

Theresa O’Rourke P 630.794.0696 • F 630.794.0652 theresa@ptmgroups.com The publisher accepts unsolicited editorial matter, as well as advertising, but assumes no responsibility for statements made by advertisers or contributors. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information published, but the publisher makes no warranty that listings are free of error. The publisher is not responsible for the return of unsolicited photos, slides or manuscripts.

Leisure Group Travel (ISSN-1531-1406) is published bi-monthly by Premier Tourism Marketing, Inc. 621 Plainfield Road, Suite 406, Willowbrook, IL 60527. The magazine is distributed free of charge to qualified tour operators, travel agents, group leaders, bank travel clubs and other travel organizations. Other travel-related suppliers may subscribe at the reduced rate of $12.00 per year. The regular subscription price for all others is $18.00 per year. Single copies are $4.95 each.

8th Annual Reader’s Choice Awards

RE ADER’S ★ ICE C H★

Director, Design & Production – Robert Wyszkowski

ote for your favorite travel companies in our 8th annual Reader’s Choice Awards poll. There are two ways to vote – either return this month’s Instant Info card, or visit LeisureGroupTravel.com and click on the Reader’s Choice icon. Cast your vote by Sept. 15!

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on my mind ❖

jeff gayduk

Standing on Our Own Two Feet THERE’S EVIDENCE THAT the travel industry is heading towards recovery. Hotels are raising rates as occupancy levels improve, airplanes are packed, theme park turnstiles are rotating with modest increases in attendance projected for 2011. Closer to home, tour operators are reporting strong numbers compared to a bleak 2009 and bus company yards are empty as coaches are on the road. It appears that better days are ahead for the travel industry. But take a look at cavernous state budget deficits and you’ll quickly realize that this is not just a dark cloud hanging over our industry, it’s a hurricane. The numbers are shocking. 46 states are in the red, with a total projected shortfall of $90 billion in fiscal 2011. My home state of Illinois has the dual distinction of having both the highest budget shortfall at $13.5 billion, but also the highest percentile of projected revenue shortfall @ 36% of our entire budget. Trust me, no one in Illinois is shouting “We’re number 1!” From California ($9 billion) to Florida ($4.7 billion) to most points in between, the list is as wide as it is deep. Why does this matter to tourism? It matters because tourism is the piggy bank that’s being raided to pay for years of mismanagement and misappropriation. We’ve heard horror stories of CVBs being folded into chambers of commerce in a “tax grab” or tourism budgets being siphoned off for road repairs. (The argument – tourists need roads, don’t they?) So now, as the industry starts to get back on its feet, higher ups are diverting 6 August 2010

tourism tax dollars instead of making the right decision – fix their own budget issues. BROKEN SYSTEM The problem lies with how most government budgets are spent. It reminds me of when I was 18. I’d start out the night with $50 in my wallet, and by gosh if it wasn’t burning a hole

When those funds are diverted, promises are broken and the system fails. As those funds dry up, visitor centers close, marketing and advertising expenditures cease, and tourism representatives who wave the flag for area businesses start collecting unemployment checks. With lack of promotion, service and marketing, fewer people are inclined to travel, which leads to a drop

Tourism is the piggy bank that’s being raided to pay for years of mismanagement in my pocket because by the time I got home it would all be gone. Such is the case here. When times are good, budgets inflate, which leads to binges. Instead of developing rainy day funds, many governments keep adding programs, staffing, this and that, here and there. If you got it, spend it was the motto. Bottom line – if a private company were forced to operate in the free-spending way that most governments do, we’d be out of business. That being said, we can’t fix the system that’s in place, at least not today. What we can do is stop the raiding that’s going on by protecting tourism tax dollars and ensuring they are not diverted. The reason justified for the exorbitant taxes being charged to tourists is that it goes back into tourism marketing. Convention & visitors bureaus receive a percentage of hotel, car rental and, in many circumstances, attractions admission prices to fund their operations.

in tourism, which of course leads to less taxes, only exacerbating the hole we’re in. It’s a vicious cycle that must stop. Tourism is a proven driver of our economy. If left alone, it produces jobs and tax revenue for the local, state and national economy. Tell your legislative representatives that as an industry we are perfectly willing to stand on our own two feet to support the economy, but cannot do so when our legs are cut out from underneath us. Let’s keep traveling,

Jeff Gayduk, Publisher jeff@ptmgroups.com

In May, Jeff visited Alaska, where last year each resident received a check for $1,305 from the state government’s oil stipend. LeisureGroupTravel.com


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© 2010 Buffets, Inc.


on tour ❖

marty sarbey de souto, ctc

Packing for Today’s Reality WITH MANY AIRLINES charging for luggage nowadays, airport security inspections and nary a porter to be seen in most rail stations and many hotels, it’s time we readjusted our clothing and packing advice for group tour members. Most of us who travel for a living have learned through trial and error what works and whittled down our luggage accordingly. Today I usually travel with a 14-by-20-by-8-inch “wheelie.” But many of our tour members are arriving with way too much luggage and often with incorrect clothing. I’m reminded of a friend who told me of her niece arriving on a five-day hiking trip with five pairs of blue jeans and five tops; she planned on one set per day. Most of us, whether we’re hikers or not, know that one doesn’t need a different pair of jeans for every day of the trip. COLOR COORDINATING For me, the learning curve began the year I graduated from college when my mother, sister and I embarked on an eight-month budget trip to Europe. Mom laid down the law – one suitcase each, no more. So my sister and I spent long hours trying on everything in each other’s closet. Since she was taller than me, we soon discovered we each had to bring our own pants, but we could share tops: blouses, T-shirts and sweaters. To simplify further, we decided to take only those tops and bottoms that could be color-coordinated. Out of that strategy came my 8 August 2010

lifetime commitment to a black and white wardrobe, livened up with accents like a red trench coat or a silversequined evening blouse. However, after eight months of togetherness on the road, we were both

only to find that they weren’t advised beforehand that their hotel provides ironing board and iron in each room. And while we as leaders can’t have a crystal ball, we can do some advance research as to what the weather may

Tour members need our advice on what to bring and what to leave at home sick of every item in our suitcases and on the last night, as we sailed into New York harbor aboard Holland America Line, we ceremoniously threw each item of clothing over the ship’s railing into the murky waters below as we said a fond farewell to each top and bottom of our now tattered and smelly wardrobe. Today the black and white system still works for me – not just for my travel wardrobe but for my entire wardrobe at home as well. For you and for each of your travelers, it may be khaki or navy blue or gray – we each have our favorite “backbone color” on which to base a travel wardrobe, but we need to teach our travelers the concept. Often the difficulty is not only teaching them what to take, but just as important, what to leave behind.

be, whether the theater night requires dressing up or if the captain’s welcome cocktail party on our cruise ship implies long dress or not. I recall leading a group on a Galápagos cruise when one of my tour members mortified me by turning up at the captain’s farewell dinner with her hair in rollers! I sent her back to her cabin to pull her hair back in a chignon-ofsorts with a tropical flower stuck in it. Sometimes when we assume our travelers have common sense and know what to bring, they haven’t a clue and need our guidance. So, use your best research skills, send them some online links that might be helpful, and insist that they stay within the luggage weight/dimension limits required. The trip will prove easier and happier for all.

GIVE SOME GUIDANCE Most travelers are fairly reasonable as long as they know in advance what to expect. They become irritable when they haul their travel iron and all its various plugs and converter along,

Marty is founder and chair of the travel industry training program at Berkeley City College in Berkeley, Calif., where she teaches all aspects of group travel. You can reach her by e-mail at josemarty@yahoo.com. For information on her latest book, How To Plan, Operate, and Lead Successful Group Trips, click on Premier Tourism Marketing’s educational website, groupuniversity.com. LeisureGroupTravel.com


on girlfriend getaways ❖

lisa kasanicky

Give ’Em What They Want: A Hassle-Free Girlfriend Package I WOULDN’T TELL MY husband this, but I like being told what to do. On vacations, that is. I realized this on a recent media trip to Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz. Before I left, I was emailed a complete itinerary of where I should be and when. My job was to simply complete a laundry list of work projects (along with actual laundry), charge up a tote bag’s worth of electronic devices, get my ragged nails done, pack, prep the family for my imminent departure and get myself to the resort. Exhausting! That’s when the thought struck me: At least once I get there, I can just do whatever I’m told. Ah, freedom. A woman’s life is complicated, and family and career obligations are the primary roadblocks in setting off on a girlfriend getaway. As group travel planners, you can help clear the road by creating itineraries that ease the minds of female travelers. The less planning they have to do, the more likely they’ll bite. Girlfriend getaway packages aren’t just about getting the best deal anymore, they’re about relinquishing control, being open to new experiences and creating lasting memories with close friends. When planning girlfriend getaway itineraries, here are a few tips that I picked up from my Sedona excursion: Suggest a getaway kick-off spot: Pinpoint a place where, at the outset of the trip, the group can convene after a day of traveling. If it’s a bar or restaurant, find out the signature cocktail or suggest a favorite dish. The icing on the cake would be to pre-arrange with the venue that each person in the group be 10 August 2010

given a token gift (such as a canvas tote filled with local coupons and area maps or reusable water bottle). Recommend a daily theme: By planning each day around a central activity, it’s easier for the group to know what to pack, wear and expect – a spa day, shopping day, adventure activity or sit-bythe-pool-and-do-nothing day. Spice up the itinerary with a few specific spots to hit each day in keeping with the theme.

knuckles jeep tour? How about a yoga class? Sprinkle in local flavor: With a little googling or friendly chat with the local visitors bureau, you can hunt down some off-the-tourist-map stops. For example, one day of our trip was spent exploring Sedona and its outskirts. Who knew that the town hid a small but thriving wine industry? Throw in a few local favorite haunts for pizza, vegetarian

Girls like their freedom but appreciate the structure of a well-planned trip

Create some easy op-outs: Pad the itinerary with options. Among the group on my Sedona trip, several were highoctane ladies (crack of dawn hike up the mountain, heck yes!) along with a few laid-back members (take me to the hospitality suite, stat). The solution was that our host identified alternative activities along the way. Not up for the white-

food, night life or whatever best fits the group’s demographics. Plan a “bond-voyage”: Girlfriend getaways are all about bonding, and a final round-up of the group punctuates the trip with an exclamation point. Whether it’s a morning hot air balloon ride or final evening of cocktails, suggest a spot that brings them together one last time. Maybe even throw in an extra trinket that reminds them of your awesome girlfriend getaway planning. Mancations may be gaining in popularity but girlfriend getaways are a travel phenomenon here to stay. Take them up a notch by creating custom, hassle-free itineraries. Just tell them what to do, and they will come! Lisa Kasanicky is author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Girlfriend Getaways (Alpha Books, 2009) and founder of ArizonaSpaGirls.com — a girlfriend-to-girlfriend guide to spas, salons, beauty and wellness. The book offers travel details on more than 70 destinations in the United States and Canada ideal for female-focused group travelers.

LeisureGroupTravel.com


on adventure travel ❖

christopher doyle

THE TOURISM INDUSTRY is in serious transition. And, the rate and complexity of such change furrows eyebrows and is forcing industry execs worldwide to re-tool, re-invent and re-structure. A whole new era of leisure tourism has arrived; the rules of engagement are changing; technology is upending the very foundation of travel; legends in the industry are retiring, enabling a whole new wave of innovative thinkers to build on their predecessors’ successes; and expectations for responsible practices from both trade and consumers are at all-time highs. Driven in part by sea changes in the ways which people become aware of and access information, coupled with complex global social, political, economic and environmental factors – and the way in which the media treats and delivers it all –tourism professionals must adjust and conduct business differently to realize sustainability. The buzzword of the day, “sustainable,” is

P. Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint

Adventure Travel Emerges as a Vital Force in the Industry

A group of winter walkers explores Cairngorms National Park in Scotland.

in which we might conduct ourselves for the good of the people and places we send our clients. So, for those who are selling packaged leisure tours for traditional destinations and attractions with traditional (proven) approaches, we share here some of the developments, observations and experiences from within the adventure tourism industry. Adventure

Know that “adventure” is a truly subjective concept—one that doesn’t have to strike fear into potential clients likely (and rightly so) here to stay. In the adventure tourism community, despite our forward leaning and oft-progressive approaches to responsible and sustainable tourism development, we must continue to investigate new ways 12 August 2010

tourism, like the very products we sell, tends to reside at the fringes and ahead of what’s new, different, real, unusual and transformative and may be telling of what leisure travel can anticipate in the future.

Because distinctions between adventure tourism and the mass travel industry in terms of products and services are blurring, it may prove useful to provide background about adventure travel and to convey what we at the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) are tuning into these days. And, as traditional leisure and luxury travel increasingly migrates toward the “adventure” travel spectrum, it’s important to have the proper context and for our two sectors to share learnings along the way. “Adventure travel,” at its core, includes a combination of physical activity, cultural immersion and engagement in nature. And, know that “adventure” is a truly subjective concept – one that doesn’t have to strike fear into potential clients. What’s adventurous to one Christopher Doyle is vice president of Seattlebased Adventure Travel Trade Association (adventuretravel.biz). Christina Heyniger, of Xola Consulting, contributed to this article. LeisureGroupTravel.com


on adventure travel ❖ person may be a “walk in the park” for another; it’s simply the notion of extending beyond one’s comfort zone through special activities. Adventure tourism, once considered a “niche,” is becoming a more powerful factor in the overall travel and leisure market because: • It’s resilient when other sectors flux… and rebounds faster • It’s bigger than most people realize, so it has real impact ($52 billion in 2009) • It’s transformative and turns customers into passionate evangelists and advocates • It’s a driver of economic development where it’s often needed most – It’s the life system for the non-urban areas, propping up multiple industries • It’s focused on nature, activity and culture; it focuses on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit The lead indicators we’re monitoring closely these days to help us further pursue creative, collaborative and diverse approaches to serving travelers include the: • Continuous evolution of micro-segments of consumers and markets • Emergence of the global middle class • Increasing importance of “sustainable tourism” and climate/environment • Agri-, rural, community-based, indigenous, culinary and arts/crafts tourism • Pricing pressures and the value equation • Expansion of the number and types of source destinations, many offering more structured and higher quality of adventure tourism products • Growing awareness/recognition of entrepreneurship and small business’ importance to markets • Increasing adoption of new technologies, social networking tools, channels to access news, information, products, services & resources 14 August 2010

2 010

A D V E N T U R E T R AV E L WORLD SUMMIT

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orking together to influence the manner in which adventure travel is introduced, executed and sustained in any given destination worldwide will drive the core content of the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s (ATTA) seventh Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS), the annual global assembly of adventure tourism executives Oct. 4-7 in Aviemore, Scotland. For the 2010 ATWS, the gathering is themed “Share & Inspire” to stimulate further partnership throughout the industry and to inspire innovative ideas and future leaders to build for the industry’s sustainable future. The event is brought to tourism industry leaders by the Seattle-based ATTA (adventuretravel.biz), a privately held, global membership organization dedicated to unifying, networking, professionalizing, promoting and responsibly

Changing lifestyles and values among the U.S. populace also are figuring prominently in how we address the industry with their: • Increasing importance of “green” products and services • ”Enlightenment” …more mature and informed views emerging on sustainability, climate change, environmentalism • Increasing demand for immediacy and customization • Change in personal and household consumption spending patterns (shift from material to experiential purchases) • Increasing emphasis on health, wellness and recreation • Shift toward more education, experience and global perspectives • Emphasis on taking control, assuming responsibility for personal impact on the world, increasing self-reliance,

growing the adventure travel market. ATTA’s Summit programs connect delegates (primarily tour operators, destination marketing organizations, tourism boards, media, agents, adventure lodges and service organizations) with speakers, journalists and sessions designed to help adventure travel organizations turn challenges and opportunities into results-oriented endeavors. Delegates participate in executive-level networking, business and professional development programs, educational seminars and emerging adventure destination product review opportunities. Host destination of the 2010 Adventure Travel World Summit is Scotland. Major Sponsors include Eddie Bauer, Global Rescue, Cairngorms National Park Authority and VisitScotland. (adventuretravelworldsummit.com)

thinking small, local and sustainable • Fragmentation into “micro-segments” as a result of pronounced shifts in demographics, attitudes and behavior patterns, with both trading-down and trading-up changes in spending patterns So, on behalf of the ATTA, well supported by our 600-member network of tour operators, destinations, agents, journalists, and accommodation and service providers, we share these insights to help our industry as a whole. We’re working to establish industry best practices and ethical standards across our operations, across continents. And, in the broader context of industry efforts, we view ourselves as a vital part of a global community of businesses proactively working to solve local economic-development issues. Perhaps our shared experiences here might offer the overall leisure travel market some ideas to ponder. LGT LeisureGroupTravel.com


on the record ❖

How Do You Get Your Travelers to Mix and Mingle? FOLLOWING ARE ANSWERS from Leisure Group Travel readers who responded to the question: How do you get a busload of strangers to mix and socialize? What are your techniques for promoting group camaraderie on tours? As an ice breaker for motorcoach groups, we jumble our name tags. So John Doe may become Jane Goodgal by receiving her name tag. Part of the ice breaker is for individuals on the trip to find their own name tag and switch with the person who has it. One individual may have the name tags of several different people before they are able to find their own. Name tag switching is not allowed on the coach (or other mode of transportation). So, switching is done at rest stops, food breaks, layovers and tour stops. This is particularly fun on trips that involve several different modes of transportation and more than one motorcoach! Our travelers enjoy becoming different people…we have seen men act like women (accidentally going to the women’s restroom because of the name tag)…and people acting like the person they have the name tag for, if they know them real well. Sometimes travelers will turn over the tag to make it difficult for others to find their name. This is a great happy note to start the trip on. We also start and end each day with a joke to keep laughs and smiles on our bus! So, as long as the group is laughing and smiling…that means they are having a good time. On holidays, we try to have a “meet & greet/hotel reception” in conjunction LeisureGroupTravel.com

SUSAN WHITLEY

JEANNE SLEETH

with the holiday. We were traveling on Halloween and the hotel provided our reception on Halloween night so we could have a Halloween party…this was a huge success. Travelers were told ahead of time that we would have a party and to bring their costume. We did games and costume awards. Travelers put a lot of thought into what they wore. We even made an unplanned stop where they could buy masks (really cheap)! This particular year we had several “Bill Clintons” and only one “Monica Lewinski” (a guy dressed as a lady). They acted the part and poor “Monica” didn’t know what to do! The whole group partied for hours and everyone was laughing the entire trip! It really made for great stories (and pictures) when we returned home! Susan Whitley Activities Coordinator Stanly County Senior Center Albemarle, NC One of the best ways I’ve found to get a tour group to mix is to have members introduce themselves and tell why they chose that particular tour/destination. I usually get a great variety of interesting answers. On an Orient tour one

TINA HORLEY

passenger had been told as a child that if she dug a hole deep enough, she would end up in China and was always fascinated with the prospect of visiting this country. Others may have been to the destination many years prior and want to see the changes that have taken place or had relatives that came from the area and were tracing their roots. Whatever the reason, serious or silly, it’s a great conversation starter! Tina Horley Product Manager/Tour Manager Senior Tours Canada Toronto, ON It depends on the trip as to what I do. On trips greater than three days, I have the “People Bingo” game that we play. It has blocks just like bingo. In each block is a description for a person – blue eyes, brown eyes, wears a gold wedding ring, first bus trip, name begins with the letter “S,” etc. I copied this game from one of the group magazines. They have to ask questions about each other and get their names. Something else that I like to do, especially on longer trips, is have each passenger come up to the microphone and give their name, information about themAugust 2010 15


on the record ❖ selves as to family, where they work or retired from, and anything they want to tell the group. At the end of the trip I have them come up and say what they liked about the trip. Jeanne Sleeth Classic Club Officer Empire Bank Springfield, MO My favorite game—and this one works for complete strangers or a full load of church folks who’ve known each other for years—is “2 Truths and a Lie.” It only requires a pencil, small pad of paper and microphone with a long stretchy cord. After explaining the game, draw seat/row numbers from a prepared drawing bag and ask one person in that row to volunteer to participate. Once the rules have been explained, almost always one or more in each row of 2-4 seats is ready to participate. Here’s how it’s played: The challenger has to tell us three things about himself or herself that they don’t think we already know. Two must be true and one must be a lie. They jot down the lie and hand it to the escort who is bringing the mike. The crowd listens and then discusses what they think is true and what they think is a lie and why. The group must then come to a consensus (or vote) on which tall tale is the lie. If the crowd correctly guesses the lie, the teller has to admit it. But if they don’t, they get to sit down and reveal nothing. Believe me, it gets the interaction moving on the coach and opens opportunities for chit-chat at every pit stop, restaurant and attraction along the way. At the end of the day, they’re all laughing together about who is the best liar as well as about the newly exposed truths their friends have revealed. This game is so much fun—and such a great interaction tool—that sometimes it’s 16 August 2010

the only road game we play on a oneday trip. By the end of the day, even the shyest ones have come up with three whoppers to tell. Of course, depending on the group and funds available for prizes, you can have a run-off for best overall liar (requiring an additional reveal challenge) and you can vote on the participant with the most surprising or unbelievable truths. Or you can give the winners during the first leg the first seating option on the second leg.  Linda Logsdon, A.C.C.  Von Bears Travel Tulsa, OK Our company, which has primarily urban/suburban travelers, recently purchased another company with predominantly rural customers. On the first trip I escorted with the new combined clientele, I used a unique trick to get them to mingle. I waited until folks were getting off the coach for our morning rest stop to hand out the name tags. I gave each person someone else’s name tag and while we were stopped everybody had to find the rightful owner and also find their own name tags. The passengers enjoyed the activity and it was a good way to introduce everyone on the first day of a multi-day trip. When escorts pass around the microphone on the coach and have people introduce themselves, often the other passengers can hear but not see them. I think face-to-face introductions with the name tag game make it easier to remember names and faces. Shannon Murray, Tour Coordinator Crossroad Tours Olathe, KS Ask everyone for a picture they carry in their wallet. Child, grandchild, mate, parent, dog... it doesn’t matter. While the group is off the motorcoach, scotch

tape the photos in random order above the seats. As they go to re-board, explain they must find their relinquished photo, have a seat in that location, and explain who is in the photo to their new seatmate. Reassure them it’s only temporary. At the next stop they can move back to their assigned seatmate and take their photo. I had one gentleman who carried no photographs so became Andrew Jackson on his $20 bill! Another declared to the group, “I think I’ll try her husband again... he talked to me!” Great laughs and conversation were created for the balance of the trip! Anita Judd-Jenkins Vice President, Heritage Club Director Home National Bank Arkansas City, KS My favorite way to get people to mix is to put all the name tags in a basket and have them draw out one. At the first rest break, I tell them to “find yourself,” introduce yourself and tell each other something about yourself. We have a lot of fun teasing the guys wearing girls’ names. They wear the tag until they are “found.” Lots of fun and a very quick way to get them chatting! Sandy Jamison, Tour Coordinator Green River Lines/Hansen Tours Peru, IL I give four people the title of being “It.” These people have to be interviewed by the other passengers. All this proves is that they are really speaking to one another. Also, you have to get their autograph, so they are given paper and pen. They must have the person they are introducing themselves to write down their name and get the answers to the following questions like: Where are you from? How often have you traveled by motorcoach? How many children or grandchildren do you have? Before you know it, they LeisureGroupTravel.com


are laughing and talking among themselves. The one who meets the most people, has the most grandchildren, or so on, wins a gift card from Cracker Barrel. They have only until dinner time on the first day of travel to break the ice.   Elaine Johnson Cross Country Tours-Trailways Spartanburg. SC

In order to get people to mix or socialize, you may want to do games like bingo or trivia, or just let people meet each other on their own. Richard Fisher Coast to Coast South Holland, IL For more reader responses on how group leaders get passengers to socialize, go to LeisureGroupTravel.com.

IN THE OCTOBER ISSUE of Leisure Group Travel, our On the Record column will look at holiday travel. Please send us your response to this question: What challenges do you face in planning and executing holiday season trips? What have been some of your most successful holiday trips? Along with your comments, please include your name, company name and location. Also for publication, send a high-resolution photo of yourself. A selection of responses will be printed in the October 2010 issue. Thanks in advance for your valuable opinions. Send to: Randy Mink, randy@ptmgroups.com

Superior Value | Customized Service Get the best prices and service in group travel today. Every tour is totally customized to the needs and budget of your group. Ask for a free quote! • Book it all – air, hotels, motorcoach, sightseeing, activities, guides, meals, shows, meeting space, exclusive events, insurance – even a tour manager.

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Customized Groups: Tel: 800-808-9547 | Fax: 800-808-9548 | Groups.tb@gta-travel.com LeisureGroupTravel.com

August 2010 17


on location: west ❖

jeff gayduk

Package tours showcase the best of America’s Last Frontier

The majesty of tidewater glaciers enthralls ferry and cruise boat passengers in Prince William Sound.

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sk your travelers what destinations are on their bucket list, and certainly Alaska is going to rank at or near the top. And the vacation most typically associated with Alaska is a cruise. This was definitely my mindset before I had traveled to our 49th state, and while I enjoyed the cruise on my first visit, it wasn’t until I got off the ship that I experi18 August 2010

enced the essence of Alaska. Likewise, many Alaska vacationers feel they’ve tackled the state after they’ve taken that Inside Passage or Gulf of Alaska cruise. What a surprise awaits them when they too get off the boat. I recently had the opportunity to travel back to Alaska, courtesy of the Globus family of brands and their Platinum Producers conference, an

exclusive event for their top group customers. The trip was hosted by Premier Alaska Tours, Globus’ land partner, with support from DMOs, hotels, attractions and restaurants. It was 11 years since my last visit to the Land of the Midnight Sun. The first trip was courtesy of Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam when we took the last cruise of the season from LeisureGroupTravel.com


Jeff Gayduk

Alaska Travel Industry Association/©2007 Michael DeYoung

Excursions in Prince William Sound provide close encounters with glaciers and wildlife.

Vancouver up through the Inside Passage, disembarking in Seward. On the cruise, we experienced great scenery, first-class entertainment, delicious cuisine and port calls that provided a glimpse of Sitka, Juneau, Wrangell and Ketchikan, places that are now welcoming thousands of cruise passengers per day. When our cruise was finished, we picked up our rental car and commenced on our journey to Alaska’s inLeisureGroupTravel.com

terior, taking in the most spectacular fall foliage scenery imaginable (note that it was early September). Reflecting back on that trip, my most vivid memories are not of the midnight buffet or Lido deck, but of the unspoiled vistas that awaited around nearly every curve. Mike Schields, director of group sales and emerging markets for the Globus family of brands and a former cruise industry executive, commented,

“While the most common way for most people to see Alaska for the first time is on an Inside Passage cruise, the most comprehensive and exciting way to see this great state is on the land packages. On the many programs that the Globus family of brands offers, the opportunities to see wildlife and incredible scenery are all magnified. You can see and touch Alaska close-up and also have the opportunity to customize your experience with things like flightseeing over glaciers, jet boats on the many rivers, fishing and hiking, and more. From 8 to 80, Alaska has something for everyone, and its potential, especially as a family destination, is unmatched.” The comment was echoed by Tim Worthen, CEO of Premier Alaska Tours. “The vast majority of our Alaska guests travel on a cruise ship. Many add on extensive pre/post land tours in order to get off the ship to touch and feel more of Alaska.They want to see the animals in Denali or get up closer to the mountains with a nice hike. Alaska is twice as big as Texas so it is hard to experience it without traveling inland on a land tour.” (Worthen should know. A 25-year veteran of Alaska tourism, he’s seen the industry grow up before his eyes.) August 2010 19


on location: west ❖ to go explore. Anchorage is also the epicenter of Southcentral Alaska and the jumping-off point for day tours to places like Prince William Sound, Valdez, Eagle River and Wasilla, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race headquarters. Departing on morning two, our group traveled to Girdwood, then took the short drive to Whittier, where we embarked on the 26 Glaciers Cruise on Prince William Sound. As lunch was served onboard, our catamaran sped toward College Fjord, with glacial sightings and U.S. Forest Service ranger commentary en route. Wildlife sightings are never guaranteed, but our group was fortunate to encounter hundreds of seals while they frolicked in the chilly waters. We also had a close encounter with a glacier not ever experienced on large cruise ships. Our ship navigated deftly through the ice with its reinforced hull – we could almost touch the passing glacial melt. The Kenai Peninsula is a popular trip from Anchorage. In Kenai Fjords National Park, glaciers, earthquakes and ocean storms are the architects. Ice worms, bears and whales make their home in this land of constant change.

Alaska Travel Industry Association

Cruise excursions reveal the splendor of Kenai Fjords in Southcentral Alaska.

HOME BASE: ANCHORAGE Fast forward to May 2010, I land in Anchorage at 10 p.m. (yes, the sun is still shining, somewhat disorienting). Anchorage is Alaska’s hub of passenger air traffic, with non-stop service to West Coast gateways and seasonal service to Chicago, Dallas and Minneapolis. The airport is also a worldwide hub of air cargo due to its unique global location. 20 August 2010

For its size (just under 300,000) Anchorage is remarkably cosmopolitan. Retailers like Nordstrom, performing arts centers, live theater and a wide variety of upscale restaurants rival that of a city three times its size. With its relatively flat terrain, Anchorage is simple to navigate, but the views of six mountain ranges provide motivation

Camera-toting tourists are always on the lookout for whales and other entertaining marine life on Kenai Fjords cruises. LeisureGroupTravel.com


GLOBUS & COSMOS PROGRAMS oth Globus and Cosmos have a variety of tour programs in Alaska. According to Stephanie Parr, director of contracting for Globus, “Alaska is so much more then the ports of call visited by those traveling on cruise ships! Our interior packages help travelers experience the destination and learn about the incredible strength and humor of the Alaskan people, their unique way of life, their connection to the beautiful landscape and their pride in their state. Globus family of brands partners with so many wonderful Alaskan companies to ensure that you have an opportunity to experience bits of real Alaska! “Globus is pleased to partner with incredible companies in Alaska, and as a result of these partnerships is able to offer

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authentic experiences for those wishing to uncover Alaska. Whether it’s on one of our Globus or Cosmos touring vacations, or independently with Monograms, we provide memorable opportunities. For groups wishing to incorporate different experiences, we can also customize a land tour making it unique to your group.”

Here’s a rundown of the current Globus & Cosmos product:

on location: west icebergs that are so close you can touch them. Groups navigate the Placer River through Class I and II rapids that are fun but mild. As Worthen points out, “Many guests are now doing jet boat rides, flight-seeing, hiking, and I am amazed how many 65-year-olds do whitewater rafting. The baby boomer generation is a lot more adventurous and wants time to explore.”

GLOB US Spectacular Alaska! 10 days from $2,579 land only; air-inclusive pricing available Anchorage, Valdez, Fairbanks, Denali National Park

Nature’s Best: Alaska 7 days from $1,949 land only; air-inclusive pricing available Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Anchorage

Ultimate Alaska & the Yukon Alaska Travel Industry Association

13 days from $3,109 land only; air-inclusive pricing available Anchorage, Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Dawson City, Whitehorse, Tok, Valdez

C OSM OS Alaskan Adventure 14 days from $1,409 land only; air-inclusive pricing available Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali National Park

Alaska & the Yukon 12 days from $2,219 land only; air-inclusive pricing available 12 days from Anchorage, Tok, Whitehorse, Dawson City, Fairbanks, Denali National Park

Discover Kenai Fjords via a cruise and wildlife tour, or if your group desires to get up close and personal with a glacier, try glacier hikes or helicopter hikes. Guests need to be physically fit and dress appropriately for this oncein-a-lifetime experience, so it’s not for everyone. 22 August 2010

There’s a variety of float trips and whitewater expeditions available throughout the area. Glacier Discovery Tour includes a ride aboard the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Spencer Lake. After a brief transport, your group is served lunch and then launched in rafts. Spencer Lake is full of crumbling

Keep an eye out for wildlife on bus tours of Denali National Park.

HEADING NORTH Alaska’s Interior is the next stop for most groups, including ours. This region is home to Denali National Park and Fairbanks, the state’s second largest population center and epicenter of the Alaskan Gold Rush. Getting to Denali takes a half-day and you can either coach or take the train. We coached up and saved the best for last as our return trip aboard the Alaska Railroad was a memory maker. Our GoldStar (an upgrade for tour groups) service included plush seating in an upper-level dome car, priority seating in the lower-level dining room and a private outdoor viewing LeisureGroupTravel.com


deck. There’s simply no better way to take in the mountain vistas, rivers and lakes, flowers and fauna than from the comfort of the Alaska Railroad. Denali is home to Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America at 20,320 feet. Consider yourself lucky to see the peak, as we were on our visit. “The Great One” (or “Denali” in the native tongue) shows off its summit just 20% of the time. Some 400,000 visitors experience Denali National Park each year, mostly from May through September. Although the park is vast (roughly the size of Massachusetts), automobile access is limited to the first 15 miles for tourists. After a stop at the welcome center, groups hop aboard the four-hour Denali Natural History tour, or the eight-hour Tundra Wilderness excursion. Both programs are operated by the National Park Service aboard modified school buses. Certified driver/naturalist guides provide rolling commentary on the history of the park while keeping a keen eye out for wildlife. Several interpretative stops along the way enhance the experience, including the Wilderness Access Center, where the film Across Time and Tundra is shown. Worthen said, “When I started in the travel industry 25 years ago in Alaska, all tours operated with just one night in Denali National Park with the Tundra Wilderness bus tour. Recently many of the tour patterns have changed to two nights in Denali because of so many great activities, and this is one of the highlights of a land tour.” It Pays to Live in Alaska – Literally laska’s rich oil reserves and small population base pay big dividends for its residents. Alaska takes care of its residents with perks like free college tuition and the annual oil stipend. From oil funds in 2009, a check for $1,305 was cut for every man, woman and child in the state sans felons, proving once again that crime doesn’t pay!

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ALASKA Vacations begin here.

The Alaska Railroad showcases adventure with a full summer schedule of day tours and vacation packages including stops at two National Parks. Travelers journey through alpine forests, coastal regions, and traverse two major mountain ranges – in a land twice the size of Texas. Ask about 10% discount for groups. For information call 1-800-544-0552 or (907) 265-2494. AlaskaRailroad.com

ADVENTURE A DVENTURE IS IS EEVERYWHERE VERYWHERE

If you’re looking for a vacation experience that you will never forget, go deep inside Alaska, where the unparalleled meets the unexpected. Come experience the light, energy and warmth of Fairbanks that is found nowhere else on Earth. It’s the unexpected Alaska. For your free Visitors Guide and more information on Fairbanks and Interior Alaska contact 1-877-551-1728 ext. 3771

W W W . E X P L O R E FA I R B A N K S . C O M LeisureGroupTravel.com


on location: west ❖

Groups in Fairbanks enjoy the Riverboat Discovery sternwheeler cruise.

THE RUSH TO FAIRBANKS Although our group didn’t make it to Fairbanks, it’s a regular stop on Globus’ Alaska itineraries. In 1902 Italian immigrant Felix Pedro struck

gold just 16 miles north of Fairbanks. This event coincided with the building of a trading post on the banks of the Chena River. The rush to Fairbanks was on, with prospectors flooding the

ALASKA FAST FACTS • 586,000 square miles • Equal to 20% of the entire U.S. land mass • More wilderness than the other 49 states combined • 47,330 miles of coastline on two oceans and three seas • The highest mountain peak in North America (McKinley) • 17 of the 20 highest mountains in North America • 3,000,000 lakes and rivers

area to pan for gold. History lives on today with visitor attractions and modern-day mining operations celebrating the quest for gold. Groups can see the largest display of gold at the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North, visit the Pedro Monument in tribute to that first discovery and try their hand at gold panning. Fairbanks is also one of the best viewing spots for the aurora borealis, commonly referred to as the northern lights. These mysterious yellow, green and red lights brighten the nighttime skies in a colorful display as curtains of colored light in the upper atmosphere, caused by magnetic disturbances from the sun, collide with atoms. While intensity varies, the most common yellow-green glow occurs heavily between late August and April. Popular touring options in Fairbanks include a visit to the El Dorado Gold Mine. Guests ride the Tanana Valley Railroad for an adventure into the gold fields, a two-hour guided tour that takes you through a permafrost tunnel. Meet and talk with Alaska miners, and after a short course in gold mining, grab a “poke” and try panning for gold. Groups enjoy the Riverboat Discovery sternwheeler cruise, a threehour journey into the heart of Alaska. See a bush floatplane taking off, visit the home and kennels of the late fourtime Iditarod winner Susan Butcher, and gain insight into the ancient Athabascan Indian culture.

• Most (and largest) glaciers on earth • 1,800 islands • 70 volcanoes (biggest volcanic eruption in recorded histor y) • Longest sheltered waterway on earth • Largest temperate rain forest in North America (Inside Passage) • Most Northern, Western and Eastern state in the U.S. * Courtesy Alaska Travel Industry Association

I DID A WHAT? When I first heard we were headed to a dog kennel I was less than enthused. I’m a big fan of pooches, but hey, we’ve all been to the humane society once or twice, right? Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennel is far from a dog kennel. It’s more like a crash course in Alaska’s famous sled race, the Iditarod.

Alaska Travel Industry Association/©2007 Michael DeYoung

24 August 2010

LeisureGroupTravel.com


GLOBUS WELCOMES PLATINUM PRODUCERS TO ALASKA Jeff Gayduk

Visitors to Happy Trails Kennel learn all about the Iditarod sled dog race. ard work does pay off, at least if you’re one of the Globus family of brands top group producers. The company hosted 18 of its best customers in Alaska this May for its 2nd annual Platinum Producers conference. According to Mike Schields, director of groups and emerging markets for the firm, “Three

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“The event has three main purposes. First, we want to reward top producers and thank them for a job well done. Second, obviously these groups are doing something right, so we sought to create an environment where they could share ideas that would collectively grow their businesses. Third, it gives our best customers a chance to personally experience one of our top destinations, and bring their groups back.” —Mike Schields

Our host for the day was Martin himself, a three-time winner of the 1,150mile race from Anchorage to Nome. Martin and 40-something of his furry companions welcomed us. He explained the history of this celebrated event, outlined the preparation needed by both racer and the team of dogs, and shared some course strategy. As he sadLeisureGroupTravel.com

years ago, we did a careful analysis of our top producers and started to see patterns emerge. From this initial study we conceived the idea of Platinum Producers.” During the conference, participants gathered for a half-day roundtable business forum where they discussed sales and marketing strategies. Topics included direct mail, travel presentation tips, website development, e-marketing, customer service techniques and social networking. This unique forum allows participants to learn from each other in a non-competitive environment. The list of attendees at this year’s event was as diverse as the group market. Customers represented radio stations, religious groups, banks, park districts, alumni groups, schools and independent travel clubs. “It really indicates the growth and diversity of the group marketplace,” said Schields.

dled up a demonstration team, there was a cacophony of “pick me” howling and barking as every member of the pack tried to grab his attention for the jaunt around the ground. We left there with a great appreciation for this event, and a team to root for next March! The Globus family has added more of these up-close-and-personal-type

experiences for their groups. Other encounters include meeting an actual mountain climber who has ascended Mt. McKinley, a bush pilot who delivers mail in Alaska, or an Inupiat (Eskimo) who lives on the edge of the frozen ocean. “The guests have appreciated the special programs where we have lined up interactions with locals who tell of their lifestyle,” according to Worthen. “They can help bring Alaska alive.” Alaska is truly a place where even seasoned travelers are humbled. Stephanie Parr manages the contracting department for Globus. She’s on the road constantly, discovering new destinations and refining itineraries. “Each visit has provided me with unique opportunities and experiences. Rafts of sea otters in Prince William Sound or a mama black bear and cubs. Time spent with an Iditarod champion at his kennel, a talk with a naturalist in Denali, awe-inspiring flight-seeing. It’s just such a dramatic, bold landscape and a humbling place to visit!” Photos don’t do Alaska justice. They can show the tall mountains, a grizzly bear or a winding river, but they don’t put you there to experience it. They don’t get you up close and personal with the Alaskan people who share their stories and love for this land. And they don’t help you capture the vastness of this land where seemingly around every corner another 50mile-long valley stretches out in front of you. That’s the Alaska land tour experience that awaits. LGT —————————————— For more information, contact the Alaska Travel Industry Association, 800-667-8489; travelalaska.com.

Obtain Alaska visitor guides and itineraries – and contact groupfriendly suppliers directly – at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info August 2010 25


on location: west ❖

lisa kasanicky

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rom sunsets framed by craggy mountains to dusty trails that harken back to a simpler time, the road West is paved with fun and memorable getaways for female travelers. Rates often vary by season thanks to the drastic weather changes brought on by arid air, so off-season values are usually available. As diverse as its landscape, the Great American West offers group travelers a potpourri of unforgettable experiences.

ARIZONA The Scottsdale and Phoenix metro area may be spa central but just less than two hours north sits one of the world’s top relaxation havens. Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, caters to women looking for a getaway that takes wellness to a new level.Tucked in a red rock canyon dotted with juniper and cottonwood trees, the resort’s crowning spot is the 24,000-square-foot spa complete with a cafe and demo kitchen, indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpool, indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, and fitness studio. Guests can stay in the Mii amo spa village for a full wellness immersion or in Enchantment’s casita guest rooms and visit the spa as day guests.The “Girlfriends Getaway”(from $1,239 per person) includes two nights at Enchantment Resort, breakfast each day, one spa service, one private group session (yoga, guided hike, tennis clinic or tarot card reading) and a welcome bottle of wine and cheese plate. Suggested side trips include Pink Jeep Tours, Verde Valley wine country tour, shopping at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village or psychic reading at the Center for the New Age. (miiamo.com) CALIFORNIA While the southern beaches and northern vineyards are among California’s superstar destinations, Alisal Guest 26 August 2010

West

Go West, Girlfriends

Resort packages in the Great American West lure ladies looking for spa indulgences and outdoor activity California’s Alisal Guest Ranch offers the “Cowgirl Bootcamp” package.

Ranch and Resort in Santa Barbara County offers female travelers a trip to a simpler time laced with cowboy hospitality. Once the site of a working cattle ranch, the 10,000-acre property is dotted with charming, ranch-style cottages tucked among shaded meadows with a spring-fed lake, golf, fitness and riding trails all nearby. A getaway for the adventurous crowd, “Cowgirl Bootcamp” is a women-only, all-inclusive package available at predetermined dates throughout the year or privately for groups of 10 or more. Bootcamp includes three nights accommodations, welcome gift basket, evening cocktails, three meals daily including wine with dinner, a massage, wine maker’s presentation, lakeside picnic lunch, daily horseback rides, activities such as line dancing and barrel racing lessons, and nightly entertainment ($2,800, double occupancy). Outside the ranch, a must-do day trip is the Danish village of Solvang, where the girls can pose with a giant wooden clog or indulge in a fresh-made strudel. (alisal.com)

UTAH For women looking for adventure with a side of serenity, Red Mountain Spa is a fitness and health destination where adventurous outdoor programs for all levels are tempered by a menu of spa treatments, luxury accommodations and savory cuisine. The property is about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas and is nestled in the red rock bluffs of Snow Canyon State Park in southwest Utah, near Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. A playground of activities awaits – from self-guided hikes and back-country wilderness treks to stargazing, cooking demos and creative expression classes. The sevennight “Fitness Boot Camp” package answers the call of women looking to jump-start their fitness regimen with the support of comrades. Starting at $299 per person per night (based on double occupancy), the package includes accommodations, three meals daily, guided morning hikes, fitness LeisureGroupTravel.com


CASINO SHOWCASE Sky Ute Casino Resort The Southern Ute Indian tribe is proud of its cultural, artistic and military heritage—and the new Sky Ute Casino Resort. This premier Colorado property hosts national and international groups drawn to the splendor of the San Juan Mountains’ picturesque rivers, valleys and abundant wildlife. The Aspen Dining Room, with 70-foot windows, is one of four dining options. Walk away a winner and discover a new type of Las Vegas casino offering everything from slots, craps and roulette to high-stakes gaming. Millions have been spent on air purification. Just steps from the casino floor are over 20,000 square feet of space for conferences, weddings and banquets. The June 2011 opening of the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum is fast becoming the ideal casino partner regarding heritage tourism. It will feature a 52,000-square-foot structure in a living culture museum containing more than 12,000 square feet of permanent and temporary exhibit space. (skyutecasino.com)

consultation, metabolic profile, personal training session, heart rate workshop with take-home heart monitor, boot camp classes, massage at Sagestone Spa, cooking demos and welcome gift. (redmountainspa.com) COLORADO Located in Southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, Telluride is a skiing destination beloved for its Old West charm. The walkable town

square offers a variety of dining options, unique shops and galleries. Telluride Ski Resort offers terrain for every level – from wide, groomed trails to challenging mogul runs in remote areas. Connected to Telluride by a free gondola transportation system, the high-elevation town of Mountain Village offers a bevy of ski-in, ski-out rental houses with ample room for girlfriend getaways. (tellurideskiresort.com)

Tulalip Resort Casino With 370 luxurious guest rooms, rejuvenating spa and award-winning dining, the AAA Four Diamond Tulalip Resort Casino is the premier gaming destination in Washington State. The 192,000square-foot casino features the best selection of games and the most cash back of any Northwest casino. Enjoy some 2,000 slot and video poker machines, 50 gaming tables, bingo, live keno and the well-appointed Slehal Room. Guest rooms in the 12-story hotel feature floor-toceiling windows, Italian tile and granite countertops. Standard amenities include 47� HD televisions, pillow-top beds, walk-in showers with three body sprays, and complimentary local calls and Wi-Fi. Tulalip Resort Casino offers five restaurants to suit any taste. Headlining the culinary offerings is Tulalip Bay, featuring sophisticated cuisine by James Beard House invitee Chef Dean Shinagawa. The full-service, 14,000-square-foot T Spa boasts native-inspired treatments in addition to a full range of skin and body therapies. (tulalipresort.com)

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Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino The Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino, located in Lemoore, is in the heart of Central Californiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s San Joaquin Valley, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco/Sacramento and only 20 minutes from Interstate 5 and Highway 99. Guests of the crescent-shaped, 255-room hotel enjoy beautifully appointed rooms, valley and pool views, and a vast array of amenities. In addition, there are a variety of dining options and lounges, a conference center, a full-service spa, outdoor swimming pools, Jacuzzis and poolside cabanas. Private rooms for special events, with over 6,000 feet of banquet space, accommodate small and large groups. Casino gaming features 2,000 of the newest slot and video games as well as the best classics. Try a hand at one of 42 table games or play bingo in the 1,200-seat, state-of-the-art Bingo Hall. The Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino offers ways to win beyond your wildest dreams. (tachipalace.com)

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E A S I LY A C C E S S I B L E + E V E N T S & F E S T I VA L S + 9 M I L E S F R O M A S P E N + S U R P R I S I N G LY A F F O R D A B L E = Y O U R N E X T B E S T M E M O RY


on location: midwest ❖

nadia beidas

Wisconsin’s Menominee Casino Resort

MIDWEST

Casino Update Gaming meccas across the region entice players with flashy new features

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roup travelers will find this an exciting time to travel to Midwest casinos and experience all kinds of new developments, from expansions and upgrades to brand new facilities. ILLINOIS Groundbreaking for the new casino in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines took place in April. Located near O’Hare International Airport, the casino is scheduled to open in spring or summer 2011. The 147,000-square28 August 2010

foot facility will have a 43,000-squarefoot casino floor. The name has not been determined. Empress Casino in Joliet had a fire in March 2009 that destroyed the property’s exterior, entertainment pavilion and back offices. Soon after the fire, the casino underwent major reconstruction and added new carpeting, lighting, wall finishes and ceiling treatments. There is a new high-limit gaming area on the lower level, with slots, tables twice as large as before

and a VIP players lounge. The property will be renamed Hollywood Casino Joliet after it unveils a new shore-side structure joining the casino boat and parking garage at the end of 2010. The exterior will sport the 1930s Art Deco design found at several new Hollywood properties of Penn National Gaming. Groups can experience new dining options at the Final Cut Steakhouse, Epic Buffet and the sports bar Hollywood Stadium. (empresscasino.com) LeisureGroupTravel.com


The architecture reflects the 1904 INDIANA MINNESOTA Seven Clans Casino Red Lake World’s Fair and Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse Travelers will experience the taste of opened its doors in December and has is in the style of Judy Garland’s home chef and TV host Paula Deen’s cook300 machines, four blackjack tables and in Meet Me in St. Louis. (rivercity.com) ing at Horseshoe Southern Indiana. two poker tables. Its hotel has 40 rooms The new restaurant, Paula Deen Bufwith master suites that have balconies, OHIO fet, will open Sept. 3. Seating 525, it New casinos will open in 2012 in whirlpool tubs and fireplaces. (sevenwill feature her Southern culinary clanscasino.com) Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo. delights accompanied by Colonial Hollywood Casino Toledo is Southern touches reminiscent set for the first half of 2012, and of Deen’s hometown, Savannah, Hollywood Casino Columbus Ga. Casino goers can purchase the last half of the year. cookware, aprons, cookbooks The Cincinnati casino, at and selections of her furniture the Broadway Commons site in line at a Paula Deen retail store, the designed after the kitchen seen northeast corner of downtown, will anchor a new enteron her Food Network show. tainment district. In Cleveland, (horseshoe-indiana.com) a casino will open in 2013 on Hollywood Casino in the banks of the Cuyahoga Lawrenceburg upgraded its River adjacent to Quicken steakhouse, renamed Final Cut Loans Arena (Cleveland CavSteakhouse; it replaces Bogart’s. aliers) and Progressive Field Next door, the H Bar lounge just (home of the Cleveland Indiopened. Also new are Marquee ans). The Cincinnati and Café restaurant and Hollywood Cleveland sites have yet to be & Grind coffeehouse. The twonamed. In November 2009, the level Boogie Nights nightclub is state passed a constitutional in the connector of the casino’s amendment to authorize casino old barge and has bright decogambling. rations of retro furniture, movie posters, disco ball and lava Newly refurbished Empress Casino in Joliet, Ill. will soon be renamed Hollywood Casino Joliet. WISCONSIN lamps. (hollywoodindiana.com) Menominee Casino Resort in MISSOURI Keshena, located on the tribal reservaMICHIGAN Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas tion, plans to expand. In the first phase FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek of construction, the hotel will add a opened in August 2009 with a 107,000City will add 80 deluxe rooms, 20 suites pool, cabana bar and a conference censquare-foot casino floor and 2,680 slot and a fitness center by the end of 2011. ter with a ballroom (capacity of 600 to machines. Popular selections include The property has a 140,000-square-foot 1,000) and five smaller meeting rooms casino, full-service hotel, nine dining Wheel of Fortune, Jaws, Wizard of Oz each seating 50. Construction should venues, entertainment, an 18-screen and Monopoly Money Grab.The casino be completed in November. (menommovie theater, video arcade, children’s has 78 table games, including roulette, ineecasinoresort.com) LGT entertainment complex and a 15,000craps, blackjack, big six and baccarat. A square-foot event space. (ameristar.com) high-limit table game area has special On the Mississippi River near St. service for VIP players. In the Poker Obtain Midwest Room, game selections include Omaha, Louis, River City Casino opened its casino information and contact Texas Hold ’Em and Stud. Bingo playdoors in March. The gambling area is group-friendly ers will enjoy high-stakes bingo sessions 90,000 square feet and features over suppliers directly at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info held daily. (firekeeperscasino.com) 2,000 slot machines and 55 table games. LeisureGroupTravel.com

August 2010 29


Planners organizing group tours will find many new itinerary brighteners in the region

The hit musical Wicked returns to Chicago for the holidays and beyond.

from the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, which is National Trail Site #1 on the Lewis & Clark Trail. The Lewis & Clark Expedition departed from Camp River Dubois in 1804. Built in commemoration of the historic expedition, the 180-foot tower has three viewing platforms at 50, 100 and 150 feet connecting two towers that represent Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Each level tells stories about the area’s history, including the

Kansas City CVA

ILLINOIS Broadway in Chicago’s fall season will be highlighted by return engagements of Disney’s The Lion King (Sept. 29-Nov. 27) and Wicked (Dec. 1-Jan. 23, 2011). Also on tap is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (Dec. 15-Jan. 2, 2011). The new holiday musical, direct from Broadway, tells the story of two showbiz buddies putting on a show in a Vermont inn and finding their perfect mates in the bargain. Berlin hits include “Blue Skies,” “How Deep is the Ocean?” and the classic title song. Billy Elliot The Musical, a hot ticket since opening March 18, runs through Jan. 15, 2011. Early 2011 Broadway in Chicago shows include 9 to 5: The Musical (Jan. 18-31), based on the hit movie and featuring Dolly Parton’s Tony Award- and Grammy-nominated score; Burn the Floor (Feb. 1-13), starring 20 champion dancers doing everything from the Viennese waltz to the tango, samba and salsa; and Hair (March 8-20), a revival of the hippie-era rock musical. (312977-1710, broadwayinchicago.com) The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower just opened in the Alton area. Located in Hartford, about 25 minutes from St. Louis, the tower is two miles

Joan Marcus

Take a look at what’s happening in the Midwest:

Midwest

The new Kauffman Center will energize Kansas City’s performing arts scene. 30 August 2010

on our radar

village of Hartford, the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, Lewis and Clark and the confluence of two great rivers—the Mississippi and Missouri. On a clear day, visitors can see the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis. A byway visitor center in the north tower has exhibits and videos. (618-465-6676, confluencetower.com) INDIANA The Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) has opened 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. Located on 100 acres of woodlands, wetlands, lake and meadow adjacent to the museum’s 52-acre campus, it is one of the largest museum art parks in the country and the only one to feature the ongoing commission of site-specific artworks. The park has a LEED-certified visitor center and numerous walking trails that highlight the indigenous landscape. As with the IMA galleries, admission to the park is free. Inaugural installations include Free Basket, a Surrealist-inspired sculpture in the form of a basketball court LeisureGroupTravel.com


that invites recreational play, and Indianapolis Island, a floating island in the lake that will serve as an experimental living structure inhabited by one or two art students. Bench Around the Lake is a series of serpentine, vivid yellow benches. (imamuseum.org) MISSOURI The $414-million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, destined to change the downtown Kansas City skyline forever, is set to open in fall 2011. Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, famous for his use of dramatic curves, simple geometric patterns, and abundant windows and open spaces, the building will sit on a hill just south of the Kansas City Convention Center. It will be the home of the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera and other arts organizations. The facility will contain a 1,800-seat ballet, opera and theater hall; a 1,600-seat symphonic concert hall; and a multipurpose

LeisureGroupTravel.com

facility called Celebration Hall. OHIO Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, home of Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest indoor water park, recently unveiled its new Africanthemed Safari Outdoor Adventure Park, which features a zip line tour, ropes course and climbing walls. Known as an under-one-roof getaway, the resort marked its fifth birthday with its fourth major expansion. Safari Adventure Animal Park, which opened last summer, offers encounters with African animals including giraffes and zebras. On the zip line tour, guests sail 40 to 60 feet above the outdoor water park. The three-story ropes course, themed to resemble an African tree house village with thatched huts, spans over 750 feet of rope and includes 48 climbing elements. The two 32-foot climbing walls feature auto belaying and race timers for competitive adventurers. (kalahariresorts.com/oh)

August 2010 31


on location: south ❖

jill m. rohrbach

Adventures Spelunkers get down and dirty on the Wild Cave Tour at Blanchard Springs Cavern in Mountain View, Arkansas.

Take it up a notch in the Natural State’s great outdoors

A

ctivities in Arkansas match your adventure meter whether it cranks to high, low, or somewhere in between. Groups will find a range of options, from canoeing and caving to dune buggy rides and zip line tours. A new zip line canopy tour opened in the Arkansas Ozarks in July. At the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca, the Buffalo River Canopy Tour offers adventurers a treetop view of the lush Ozark terrain as they glide along a cable like a bird in flight. Harnessed to the cable on a zip pulley, participants are guided through a course of 12 zip lines 32 August 2010

reaching platforms on each tree. Set on a mountain overlooking Ponca Creek, the course is the equivalent of about nine football fields (or half a mile).The longest zip line is 400-plus feet, and the elevation ranges from 40 to 60 feet above the ground. Tours are two-anda-half to three hours with guides providing interpretation along the way. Gokart4wheeling in Northwest Arkansas now offers two- and four-seat dune buggies. The company, located in Winslow, provides guided dune buggy tours in which you drive your own buggy on designated trails. Private,

group, team-building and party tours are available. If cycling is more your style of adventure, Arkansas’ mountain biking opportunities are amazing. The Natural State is quickly gaining a foothold as one of the nation’s premier spots for mountain biking. Trails include the state’s two IMBA Epics: The Womble Trail, a single-track route across the Ouachitas maintained by mountain bikers since the 1980s, and the 50-mile Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail System in Mountain View. Each year the International Mountain Biking AssociaLeisureGroupTravel.com


Experience an adrenaline rush on the bike trails at Cane Creek State Park and rapids of the Cossatot River.

tion, IMBA, selects a handful of trails around the world that receive this special “Epic” status. The Ouachita National Recreation Trail, running east to west through the Ouachita Mountains, is also popular. From day hikes to multi-day backpacking across the Ouachita or Ozark mountains, Arkansas offers more than 250 hiking trails totaling more than 1,500 miles. Arkansas also offers equestrian facilities and guided horse riding trails. StoneCreek Ranch and Resort near Mountain Home caters to groups. Here you’ll find highly-trained cutting horses. The guest ranch focuses on

LeisureGroupTravel.com

horseback riding vacations with its indoor and outdoor arenas and trail riding. There’s no merely plodding along with horses nose-to-tail at StoneCreek, where guests can also experience cattle sorting, the cutting horse experience or even a cattle drive. Horseshoe Canyon Ranch near Jasper and the Buffalo National River also offers trail rides, but it has become increasingly known for its excellent rock climbing opportunities. With more than 300 routes for all levels of climbers, the ranch is known for some of the finest sandstone sport climbing anywhere. Certified and experienced guides will show you how to climb

safely. Most of the quality rock climbing and bouldering in Arkansas is in the western and northern regions of the state, where the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges are located. With several show caves in the state, there are plenty of options for underground exploration. But adventurous souls will want to experience a Wild Cave Tour at Cosmic Cavern in Berryville or Blanchard Springs Cavern in Mountain View. The tour at Blanchard Springs offers visitors an introduction to spelunking in a structured environment where Forest Service interpreters guide the tours. Participants should be in good physical shape, wear

August 2010 33

Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

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on location â?&#x2013; south sturdy boots, and come prepared to get dirty and have fun. Tour participants should expect to climb very steep slopes, crawl on hands and knees, pass under low ceilings, and travel through red clay. The tour ends at the Titans, a group of tall spectacular columns. Hard hats, kneepads, gloves, lights, and belts are provided, along with a souvenir T-shirt. Plenty of fun canoeing, rafting and kayaking Arkansas waterways awaits. The Natural State has more than 9,000 miles of streams, and a good deal of this mileage is perfect for floating. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find rugged whitewater rafting and peaceful float trips ideal for firsttimers. Designated a National Wild and Scenic River, the Cossatot River offers adventurers the most challenging whitewater in Arkansas. The

Groups enjoy the cowboy lifestyle at StoneCreek Ranch near Mountain Home.

stream snakes over and between upturned Ouachita Mountainsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; strata to create Cossatot Falls, with rapids and drops rated up to Class V in difficulty. North Arkansasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Buffalo National River was the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first national river, is roughly 150 miles long and includes nearly 95,000 acres of public land along its corridor. Perhaps the most famous of all Buffalo River floats are those that take place between Ponca

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and the Arkansas Highway 7 crossing. Something for everyone can be found in this 25-mile section: class I and II rapids; the highest waterfall in midAmerica (at Hemmed-in-Hollow); the 11,300-acre Ponca Wilderness; towering cliffs; and an excellent assortment of swimming holes. No matter your outdoor preference, a mild climate coupled with four beautifully distinct seasons brings a fresh adventure each time. For example, hike the same trail in the spring and winter and the experience is totally different. LGT Obtain Arkansas visitor guides and itineraries â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and contact groupfriendly suppliers directly â&#x20AC;&#x201C; at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info

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South on our radar

From Louisiana to Tennessee, new attractions provide group travel planners with fresh itinerary ideas

These are just a few of the developments creating a buzz in the South: and into an attic and onto a roof where they can view the flooded city surrounding them. They’ll hear a firsthand account of a St. Bernard Parish family’s rescue. Artifacts range from music legend Fats Domino’s baby grand piano found in his flooded Ninth Ward house to a Coast Guard rescue basket to seats from the Louisiana Superdome. The forensics of Katrina unfold in Gallery Three, where visitors discover how the levees failed in a display with digital animation. The

New Orleans Metropolitan CVB

LOUISIANA The Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans will remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and showcase the renewal with a new exhibit that opens Oct. 26. Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond, a $7.5-million installation on the ground floor of the historic Presbytere in the French Quarter’s Jackson Square, will tell the stories of people caught in the hurricane’s wrath. Combining eyewitness accounts, historical context,

Guests on Mississippi River cruises will have time to enjoy New Orleans.

immersive environments and in-depth scientific exploration, Katrina and Beyond enables visitors to understand the 2005 storms’ impact on Louisiana, the Gulf Coast and the nation. In one gallery visitors will move through the “Evacuation Corridor,” overhearing residents’ voices as they weigh their options as Katrina approaches. A state-of-the-art “Storm Theater” shows Katrina’s full fury with moving and dramatic footage of the hurricane’s onslaught. Another gallery takes visitors past a leaking floodwall LeisureGroupTravel.com

fourth gallery will celebrate recovery and showcase the ingenuity of Louisianans in rebuilding their lives and communities. (800-568-6968, katrinaandbeyond.com). LOUISIANA/TENNESSEE Cruise West, a leading small-ship cruise line, has announced two new itineraries sailing on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in spring of 2011. The overnight voyages, with eight departures from March 19-May 7, will take place aboard the

Spirit of America, formerly the Spirit of Glacier Bay. Highlights on the sevennight Mississippi River itinerary between New Orleans and Memphis will include Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, La.; the antebellum and Victorian architecture of Natchez, Miss.; Vicksburg National Military Park, scene of the Civil War battle that gave the North control of the Mississippi; and historic Helena, Ark. The second new river voyage, a sevennight excursion between Memphis and Nashville, follows the Mississippi north to Cairo, Ill. at the confluence of the Ohio River, then cruises upriver to the Tennessee and Cumberland. Stops will include New Madrid, Mo.; Paducah, Ky.; Fort Smith, Ark; Clarksville, Tenn.; and Fort Donelson National Battlefield in Dover, Tenn., site of the first major Union victory. (800-296-8307, cruisewest.com) NORTH CAROLINA Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel, 50 miles west of Asheville, has opened a new Motorcoach Lounge, enabling it to accommodate greater numbers of group visitors. It includes a comfortable waiting area for motorcoach guests, state-of-the-art digital arrival and departure screens, and a large Driver’s Lounge with TV monitors and a desk for computers. The lounge connects to the first floor of the casino’s new eightlevel parking garage containing five motorcoach bays for pick-up and dropoff of customers. Other elements in the casino’s $633-million expansion, set for completion in 2012, is a 21-story guest room tower that was topped out in April and an events center for concerts that opens Labor Day weekend. New restaurants for 2011 include a 150-seat food court, 600-seat buffet and Ruth’s Chris August 2010 37


on our radar: south Steak House. Paula Deen’s Kitchen opens at the end of this year, and BRIO Tuscan Grille debuts in early 2012. (828-497-7777, harrahscherokee.com) TENNESSEE Ole Smoky Moonshine, Tennessee’s first legal moonshine distillery, just opened smack in the heart of Gatlinburg’s Parkway. Ole Smoky offers a variety of products, including original unaged corn whiskey moonshine, apple pie moonshine, sweet tea moonshine and peach moonshine. The recipes are from local families who have made moonshine in the mountains for more than a century. Dave Pickerell, formerly the master distiller for Maker’s Mark, assisted with the refinement of the recipes. A highlight of the facility is the authentic working moonshine still where visitors learn the science of the distilling process as well as the history

and lore of moonshining in East Tennessee. (olesmokymoonshine.com) Also in the Smokies, Bush’s Beans Cafe & Visitor Center just opened in the company town of Chestnut Hill, the home of Bush’s Beans factory. A Sevierville-area fixture since its founding by A.J. Bush and his sons, Bush’s Beans gained new-found popularity in recent years with a spate of television commercials featuring A.J.’s greatgrandson, Jay, and his trusty recipeblabbing dog, Duke. The center consists of an extensive gift shop, a detailed replica of the general store that operated on the site from 1897 until its closing in the mid-1990s and a restaurant that serves an array of down-home specialties, including dishes containing beans. One of the most intriguing of these is Pinto Bean Pie, which tastes like a cross between chess and pecan pie. A hightech museum has a theater featuring Jay Bush and his dog in a History of Grilling movie, a walk through a giant replica can of Bush’s Baked Beans showing a bean’s journey from beginning to end, interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn their weight in beans and photo kiosks that let them create a picture with Duke and tools from Bush’s original canning process in 1908. (bushbeans.com) VIRGINIA The Newport News Tourist Development Office offers groups the “Paranormal Tour” for the upcoming Halloween season. The twonight tour begins with a

38 August 2010

Newport News’ “Paranormal Tour” visits several plantation homes.

ranger-led “Owl Prowl” through Newport News Park. Start the next day with a ghost tour of Ferry Plantation in Virginia Beach, which holds stories of a native Indian tribe and Grace Sherwood, Virginia’s only convicted witch. Groups venture back up the Peninsula to hear stories and battle cries of sailors past at the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News. After lunch, groups travel to Endview Plantation to see video and listen to actual electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) recordings from investigations conducted by RTL Paranormal, a local investigation group. The adventure continues with a visit to Lee Hall Mansion and a candle-lit, Civil War-themed evening at The Boxwood Inn, a gracious 1896 Southern mansion. Tour members feast on a traditional plantation dinner, followed by an actual paranormal investigation with team members from RTL Paranormal. They will teach the group about the tools and methods used to capture evidence of ghosts. (Contact Trista Attoh, 757-926-1442 or 888-493-7386; tattoh@nngov.com; newport-news.org) LeisureGroupTravel.com


on location: northeast ❖

randy mink

Playtime in

Though hardly a Nevada, the Keystone State in recent years has become a top East Coast gambling destination, taking a chunk out of Atlantic City’s gaming revenues. Pennsylvania legalized gaming in 2004 as a way to raise money for property tax relief, authorizing slot machines at a maximum of 14 locations. The first casino opened in 2006, and the 10th will open this fall. To augment revenues from slots, state lawmakers in January approved live table games—dozens of blackjack, craps and roulette tables have been installed this summer at all the casinos. Pennsylvania already is No. 1 in slots revenues among East Coast states. The majority of Pennsylvania casinos are found in the eastern part of the state, with several in the Philadelphia area. The newest gaming parlor is expected to open this fall along the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Offering views of the city skyline, Sugar House Casino will occupy the site of the former Jack Frost sugar refinery. It will feature a peaceful riverfront promenade, an environmental green roof de-

Pennsylvania The year-old Rivers Casino, on the Ohio River in downtown Pittsburgh, offers more than 3,000 slot machines and 60 brand new table games.

W

hen itinerary planners think Pennsylvania, the colonial sights of Philadelphia, Amish lifestyles of Lancaster County and Civil War drama at Gettysburg immediately come to mind. Groups also gravitate to attractions like Valley Forge National Historical Park, Hershey’s Chocolate World, Longwood Gardens, and the picturesque towns of Bucks County LeisureGroupTravel.com

and the Brandywine Valley. But more and more tour organizers are adding a splash of glitz to their trips with visits to Pennsylvania casinos. Besides gaming action, groups enjoy concerts, cabaret shows and fun dining venues, including buffets. Some casinos offer horse racing.To entice motorcoach groups, most casinos provide each passenger with food and slots play offers.

As the state’s young gaming industry expands, a diverse array of casinos and racetracks gives group travelers chances to strike it rich sign, a restaurant and two bars, not to mention 1,700 slot machines. (sugarhousecasino.com) In Bensalem the $250-million Parx Casino opened last December, August 2010 39


on location: northeast replacing the temporary slots parlor, PhiladelphiaPark Casino & Racetrack, which had opened three years earlier. The highest grossing casino in Pennsylvania, Parx is planning a $100-million expansion over the next three to five years. (parxcasino.com) Harrah’s Chester, just off I-95 and 10 minutes from the Philadelphia airport, offers harness racing from April to December, plus simulcasts of thoroughbred and standardbred racing. Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, an hour north of Philadelphia, made its debut in May of 2009. Situated on the site of the historic Bethlehem Steel plant, it plans to open a 300-room hotel next May. Culinary offerings at this Lehigh Valley entertainment hub include Emeril’s Chop House and Burgers by Emeril, two signature restaurants from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, his

Mount Airy Casino Resort lures gaming enthusiasts to the Poconos.

(after Foxwoods Resort & Casino, another Indian casino in Connecticut). (poconodowns.com) Mount Airy Casino Resort, set in the Poconos Mountains, is where “Mother Nature meets Lady Luck.” Besides gaming fun at Pennsylvania’s first stand-alone casino, guests can unwind in the spa or enjoy the 18-hole golf course that sweeps across terrain bordered by ponds, lakes and streams. Great names from the past perform at Gyp-

Night harness racing entertains guests at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

first in the Northeast. (pasands.com) In upstate Pennsylvania, outside of Wilkes-Barre, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs features live harness racing eight months a year. The $208-million renovation effort dramatically transformed Pocono Downs into not only Pennsylvania’s first casino (in 2006) but the area’s leading entertainment complex. Owner of the casino and racetrack is the Mohegan Indian tribe, which operates Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino, the world’s second largest casino 40 August 2010

sies nightclub, where recent headliners have included Mickey Rooney, Bobby Vinton, Roy Clark and the Village People. (mountairycasino.com) Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville is the only gaming facility in Central Pennsylvania, offering more than 2,400 hot slots and the new table games. The Hollywood-themed complex also has thoroughbred racing and off-track wagering. (hcpn.com) In the Pittsburgh area, The Mead-

ows Racetrack & Casino has yearround harness racing. Guests also enjoy 3,700 slot machines, 62 table games and a 24-lane bowling center. (meadowsgaming.com) Rivers Casino, since opening in August of 2009, has brought in loads of visitors to downtown Pittsburgh. Through its multi-story glass facade, guests have views of the Ohio River, skyline and Mt. Washington. Located on the North Shore, next to Heinz Field (home of football’s Pittsburgh Steelers), Rivers Casino boasts 60 table games and more than 3,000 slots, including the state’s only $500 machine. Other amenities include five first-class restaurants, bars and lounges, and a 1,000-seat amphitheater for outdoor concerts. (theriverscasino) In the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, near Lake Erie, Presque Isle Downs & Casino offers live and simulcast horse racing. Located on I-90 in Erie, the complex is less than 90 minutes from Cleveland and Buffalo. (presqueisledowns.com) Gaming and racing, along fine dining, live entertainment and a dash of glamour, make a winning combination for groups. The odds are, your crew will enjoy playing in Pennsylvania. LGT Obtain Pennsylvania casino information and contact group-friendly suppliers directly at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info LeisureGroupTravel.com


Northeast on our radar

New developments are giving group travel planners some fresh ideas for shaping itineraries

Here are a few things making waves on the East Coast travel scene: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA The Smithsonian Institution is developing its latest museum on the National Mall, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Set to open in 2015, the museum will be located between 14th and 15th Streets, adjacent to the Washington Monument and across from the National Museum of American History. While the museum’s content is currently under development, it will explore African American history on a national level, examining such topics as slavery, the Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement. (http://nmaahc.si.edu) MASSACHUSETTS The highly anticipated Art of the Americas wing and adjacent glass-enclosed courtyard at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) will open Nov. 20. The new wing, a contemporary structure within the museum’s classic 1909 Beaux Arts building, enables the MFA to more than double the number of American works on view and feature more than 5,000 objects ranging from pre-Columbian gold and Native American textiles to portraits of Revolutionaries and Abstract Expressionist paintings. These will be displayed on four floors in 53 galleries, including nine period rooms and four Behind the Scenes educational galleries. Digital displays and interactive touch screens in many of the galleries enhance the appreciation of works of art and stylistic periods. The new wing, located to the east of the museum along Forsyth Way, features a central glass building flanked by two pavilions of glass and granite, one north and one south. The American collection is arranged chronologically on four floors, allowing visitors to travel through time as they rise vertically. Iconic works on view LeisureGroupTravel.com

and 50 trees. In 2011 the MFA’s new Linde Family Wing for contemporary art will open. (mfa.org/thenewmfa)

Paul Revere is a signature work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

include Paul Revere’s silver Sons of Liberty Bowl (1768), paired with John Singleton Copley’s portrait (1768) of the silversmith and patriot in the Colonial Boston Gallery; Winslow Homer’s canvas Boys in a Pasture (1874) in Homer and Eakins: The Civil War Gallery; and Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained-glass window Parakeets and Gold Fish Bowl (about 1893) in the Aesthetic Movement Gallery. The Sargent Gallery will showcase more than 40 paintings, watercolors and drawings by John Singer Sargent. The Shapiro Family Courtyard will be a dynamic central meeting place within the MFA. The transformational expansion and renovation project is designed by internationally renowned architects Foster + Partner of London. New landscaping will feature more than 1,000 holly bushes

QUEBEC The new “Food Tour” by Tours Voir Québec gives food aficionados the opportunity to explore what’s been cooking in Québec City through the years. For 2½ hours, visitors will not only learn about the evolution of Québec City’s culinary history, they can also sample it at grocers, bakeries, restaurants and other stores. The French, British and Native peoples have all influenced local history and gastronomy. Tour members will sample cheese, crepes, maple products, pastries, chocolate, beer and wine in the Old City’s picturesque Saint Jean neighborhood. (877-266-0206, toursvoirquebec.com/en/home)

August 2010 41


on technology ❖

john kamm, ctp

Technology & Adventures 2010 WHILE IT MAY BE A BIT early to pop the champagne corks, many adventure tour operators are reporting an upswing in business, 2010 over 2009. Even with sales trending in a positive direction, IT managers are challenged with tight budgets. Since they are responsible for the “machinery” required to run the business, many are finding innovative ways to keep everyone on task, on track, on schedule and happy. Improvements in customer service and automation don’t always go together – it takes a disciplined plan and an eye for detail. Mat Unger, adventure systems manager for Natural Habitat Adventures, explains, “Our reservation system knows a great deal about each of our clients; it has all the information about their tour. We are able to leverage this information with new tools for our agents so that the client gets the information they need to plan and prepare and our agents can continue to build a relationship with them. Automated, boiler-plate documents just don’t cut it anymore,” Unger asserts, “especially because we have five product brands and routinely prepare separate versions of the documents for agents, agents’ clients and travelers booking directly.” Online form completion and tracking provides another opportunity to im-

prove customer service. Terms and conditions of travel, insurance applications, medical information, releases etc.; doubly onerous if the process is confined to paper and snail-mail. “Working in the luxury market, we are very focused on the guest experience before, during and after their trip,” explains Micato Safaris’ technology director, Sean Wilsen. “Taking our required forms online is a winwin for our clients as well as our staff. The on-line forms engine presents only the documents the client needs to complete, it tracks the completion process and keeps guests and staff alike informed if anything is missing.”

IT managers are finding innovative ways to keep everyone on track Matt Zeugin, IT director for OARS, echoes support of developing online tools for clients and staff to interact. “Our focus has been to leverage the information we have about the client and their trip and using it to provide our staff with automatically generated emails and documents. Staff members can add or adjust the contents of the document before it is delivered. Even with the volume of bookings we handle during the

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42 August 2010

seasons, the combination of high tech and high touch assures that we deliver the best possible customer experience.” When asked about tech challenges, all agreed that Internet bandwidth continues to be a major issue. Because an internet connection is the backbone supporting online reservations, online forms, email, corporate intranets, VOIP phone systems, remote staff and branch offices connected to the central reservations system, the most efficient solution is to locate resources where they will support the greatest number of users and services while minimizing the impact on the Internet connection.

“Our optimal configuration has proved to be locating the reservation and operations database servers on our local area network,” Zeugin points out. “This provides the most horsepower for our users and enables us to manage development, access, security and backup procedures, all of which can require adjustments at any time.” “Budgets or bandwidth, we will never have as much as we would like,” admits Unger. With careful management and thoughtful innovation, companies can leverage their technology resources to improve customer satisfaction. John Kamm is CEO of TourTech Systems, Inc., developers of TourTools®, the most popular tour reservations solution in North America. Visit www.tourtools.com for more information.

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Leisure Group Travel August 2010  

August 2010 of Leisure Group Travel, America's premier magazine for group travel planners

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