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on the record ❖

On The Record How Can Special Events Bolster Tour Itineraries? FOLLOWING ARE ANSWERS from Leisure Group Travel readers who responded to the question: How have you successfully integrated special events into your tours? What big national events, city festivals or small-town fairs have captivated your groups?

Tall Stacks, Customized Ohio Travel Treasures has utilized big events as a backdrop to tours. We have found that creating special events within a national event is something that we can control. An example would be Tall Stacks in Cincinnati. Even though the event itself is a draw, with all the steamboats and their billowing smokestacks, it is just one component that we put into a customized itinerary. We bring in major shows, charter our own boats and have even had groups watch a major artist



markt and offers group members a chance to experience a taste of Germany. On this event we partnered with the local CVB (DuBois County) and were able to procure a dinner function in the local monastery prior to opening-night events. This has been a huge hit with the group tour market since it is something that has never been done before. It takes a little creativity to make a huge impact and that is what Ohio Travel Treasures is noted for—taking something

On a smaller city scale, we take a look at the event and then decide if it is tour group-worthy. create Tall Stacks prints (which each group member receives as a remembrance gift). We can control the deposits on our own events and not have to follow the non-groupfriendly deposits and final payments that the bigger event demands. On a smaller city scale, we take a look at the event and then decide if it is tour group-worthy. An example is an ABA Top 100 event in Ferdinand, Ind. This is an authentic Christkindl12 April 2012

known and then adding a little sparkle and controllable features. Diane Sphar, President Ohio Travel Treasures LLC, Cincinnati, OH

Specializing in Events Travel For the past six years, Free Spirit Vacations has been moving in a new direction—namely, including special events in most if not all itineraries. Selected events may be big, stand-alone festivals and


parades (like Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta or Tournament of Roses Parade) or a combination of several smaller events such as a holiday vacation to Arizona. Almost every community has activities taking place in December, and by combining several of the best, such as the Lake Havasu Boat Parade of Lights, Red Rock Fantasy in Sedona and Zoo Lights in Phoenix, a statewide five-day itinerary becomes attractive. Free Spirit Vacations and Events also partners with destinations to create new special events especially for tour operators. These are events planned by a tour operator for tour operators who have a loyal customer base and need to provide reasons for repeat guests to return to a destination. Events are fresh and add flavor, value, novelty and excitement to existing itineraries and previously-visited destinations. Several such events include Mesquite’s BransonFest Out West (Mesquite, NV), HOPEFest (Palm Springs area) and From Nashville to Memphis Festival (Nashville). Sue Arko Free Spirit Vacations & Events, Gilbert, AZ

Coast to Coast We have used the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena with great success over the years. And, while we’ve never actually attended because of the huge crowds, the Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center in New York always happens when I have groups in Manhattan for Shoppers’ Week each December. We always go after the crowds have dispersed to oooh and ahhhh at this national holiday icon and almost always pause for a group picture at the tree. This year, for the first time ever, we are taking a group to the Portland (Oregon) Rose Festival in June, a tour that sold out immediately! Not only do we take the pain out of

On a more local/regional level, we have successfully incorporated many of the festivals offered in our own back yard into consistently sold-out day trips. crowd navigation, we make sure to include any special “extras,” such as admission to the group hospitality tent at the Balloon Fiesta and premium seating and admission to the float decorating/building at the Rose Parade. On a more local/regional level, we have successfully incorporated many of the festivals offered in our own back yard into consistently sold-out day trips. Tennessee is abundantly blessed with these estivals and they never fail to gener-

ate good sales. We’ve sold them straight-up but have also offered many of them as Mystery trips. Some of our favorites (and most highly rated) that we enthusiastically recommend are those in Historic Downtown Franklin (especially the Main Street and Dickens of a Christmas festivals), the CMA Festival (formerly Fan Fair) in Nashville, National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburgh, Apple Festival in Erwin, Appalachian Folk Festival in Norris, Country Ham Festival in

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on the record ❖ Spring Hill, Mule Day in Columbia, Host of Christmas Past Festival in Fayetteville, Memphis in May, Jack Daniels Barbeque in Lynchburg, National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, and the WinterFest Lights Holiday Festival in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Each of these events has enhanced local itineraries and been used as the end-destination. My client club coordinators love them because they can easily turn everyone loose to explore and enjoy lunch on their own, which keeps costs down. Plus, these festival-based itineraries have stood the test of time by attracting multiple coaches for us and repeat visits by our groups over the years. Melinda Hughey The RH Factor, Pulaski, TN

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Festivals are perfect for us and easy to set up. Most of them are a minimal fee so we can sell tours affordably, plus you can just drop them at the festival and they’re on their own. From Wine to Cheese I incorporate many events large and small into our tour itineraries. We travel to the Finger Lakes Wine Festival, July 4 celebrations in New York, Lake George and Boston, Hampton Beach Seafood Festival and Vermont Quilt Festival every year. This year we are featuring Opsail 2012 on July 1 in Boston, doing a harbor cruise to see the Tall Ships. We go to the Hudson Valley Food Festival and

the Garlic Festival. New this year we will be going to the Cheese Makers Festival in Vermont and the War of 1812 Weekend in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Festivals are perfect for us and easy to set up. Most of them are a minimal fee so we can sell tours affordably, plus you can just drop them at the festival and they’re on their own. Donna Schien, Tour Coordinator Wade Tours, Schenectady, NY

TREAT YOUR GROUP to the beauty of the Chicago Botanic Garden, complete with a tram ride. Combine with other area attractions: • Ravinia Festival • Illinois Holocaust Museum • Bahá’í House of Worship • Charles Gates Dawes House • Fabulous Cooking Schools • Guided Architecture Tours 14 April 2012

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on the record ❖ Ethnic Milwaukee Milwaukee hosts several annual ethnic festivals at Henry Maier Festival Park on the lakefront that bring in many groups. Festivals such as German Fest, Festa Italiana and Irish Fest will become part of a group’s itinerary. We then focus on the influence those particular

ethnicities had on Milwaukee for the rest of the tour. For instance, during German Fest we’ll provide a city tour explaining the influence the German immigrants had on the city, visit a Bavarian-style brewery, a German Catholic church, perhaps the home of Captain Frederick Pabst and shop at Usinger’s Sausage. The visitors

learn about the history and enjoy the modern day pride of the ethnic groups who make up Milwaukee. At the festivals they enjoy music, dancing, cultural exhibits, and, of course, food and drink. Kay Collins KBC Tour Company, Milwaukee, WI

Quebec’s Winter Bash The Quebec Carnival was a huge success with our groups this year, with everyone taking advantage of the secure destination that is Quebec City, so close to all the Northeastern states. Snow gear were on for a few days of concentrated winter fun! With French-Canadian culture, exhibits, wondrous sights and activities, Le Carnaval de Quebec is the winter place to be. Didier Henssen Prométour, Montreal, Quebec

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We are presenting the “Trains and Canyons of the Southwest featuring the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta” in October and the annual Fiesta is a big draw for this tour. In 2010 we sold over 80 seats as we featured the Passion Play in our “Alpine Country and the Oberammergau Passion Play” tour. The “Tulip Time River Cruise” featured the local tulip festival in May and was definitely the most exciting part of the trip. These are all great ways to sell a tour, and there are so many more of these types of events offered, so take advantage of them and use them to sell your tours. L. Kay Estep, GO Club Coordinator F & M Trust Company, Chambersburg, PA

Mid-Atlantic Festivals We have had great success with integrating special events into our

tours for 2012. The Star-Spangled Sailabration in Baltimore in June has been a huge hit among our preformed groups. We offered several options for the groups to include with the special events going on that week—Spirit Cruise, Maryland Historical Society, Ft. McHenry—to name a few. Our groups are very excited about being a part of such a wonderful celebration! Another special event we targeted is the Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. This has become a perfect tie-in with many of the wonderful attractions in the D.C. area and fits well with the wide variety of groups we work with. The annual Azalea Festival and International Tattoo in Norfolk has been a long-time favorite among our groups. It’s another wonderful destination with a large variety of attractions, restaurants and tours to choose from. We also have had great success with the Annual ICE Attraction at the Gaylord National Resort in National

IN THE JUNE ISSUE of Leisure Group Travel, our On the Record column will look at online marketing. Please send us your response to this question:

How are you using online tools— websites, email, social networking— to grow your business?

Harbor, Md. This amazing attraction has drawn many of our groups (young and old) to experience Christmas on the Potomac. Last but not least is the annual Pella (Iowa) Tulip Time Festival. We have had a great response to this wonderful package filled with beautiful tulips, Dutch attire, parades, food and fun.

Integrating these types of special events into our tours has made tour planning so much easier. Half the work is already done for us, and promoting the event is a breeze with the help of the CVB or organization sponsoring the event. Dawn Dornes, Group Tour Coordinator Elite Coach, Ephrata, PA

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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 June 2012 issue. Thanks in advance for your valuable opinions. Send to: Randy Mink,

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On The Record  
On The Record  

FOLLOWING ARE ANSWERS from Leisure Group Travelreaders who responded to the question: How have you successfully integrated special events in...