Groups Today May/June 2023

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Volume 21, Issue 3

GROUPS TODAY IS PUBLISHED BY: Serendipity Media, LLC 866-252-7108


Kasie Smith


Courtney Van Hagen


Sarah Suydam

Josh Veal


Emily Alspaugh


Megan Marshall


Loren Eisenlohr


Rachel Syrba

Natalie Villar

Jasa West


Maggie Mutch


Haleigh Gerwig


Student & Youth Travel Association

American Bus Association

National Tour Association

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© 2023 Serendipity Media LLC 1 THEME DESTINATION PLANNER PROFILE Kate Scopetti "It's in My Genes." page 4 5 MINUTES
Ranchers' Association page 27 DINING AND DRINKING ACROSS AMERICA page 8 WAVE 'HELLO' TO MICHIGAN! page 20 ISSUES Helping Groups Overcome Travel Stress page 6 EDUCATION Improving Your Follow-Up Messaging to Land More Sales page 18 IN EVERY ISSUE Editor's Letter 2 | Online 3 | Spotlight 14 | Ad Index 28 IN THIS ISSUE
WITH... Bryce


For most of us, travel is in our blood. Whether stemming from trips with family growing up or traveling abroad in college, many of us can pinpoint where in which our love for travel and exploration was born.

For Kate Scopetti, this love began while traversing Europe as a teenager with her family in the late ‘60s and early 70’s. Today, as President of MARS and Companies, Scopetti reflects on her past experiences and continued successes on page 4. We also touched base with Bryce Albright, Executive Director of the National Dude Ranchers’ Association. Albright, who grew up with her parents working on dude ranches, shares how groups could enjoy this exciting and traditional segment of the industry on page 27.

This issue also ventures into delicious territory, offering a snapshot of the incredible culinary and libation destinations found throughout the country. From the lobster-centric dishes and experiences in Maine to the wines of the iconic Napa Valley, we touch on it all (page 8). On page 20, we travel to the dunes, lakes and forests of Michigan, where Motown soul and incredible natural beauty can be found all in one state. Come along with us as we explore why the Great Lakes State and its two peninsulas make for a truly unique and incredible group travel destination.

As always, we also offer up the educational insight you seek, from tips for landing more sales (page 18) to helping your groups overcome travel stress before and during their adventures (page 6).

From the team here at Groups Today, here’s to hoping the sun is shining wherever you may find yourself this time of year!

2 GROUPS TODAY May/June 2023 Send your stories, suggestions and thoughts to: 535 Cascade West Parkway SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546 SARAH
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"It's in My Genes." KATE SCOPETTI

Kate Scopetti got her start in the industry in 1982 working at a small hotel in Indiana, Pennsylvania—the Christmas Tree Capital of the World. While the city wasn’t considered a group tour destination at the time, Scopetti worked to come up with an idea to make it one.

“Indiana is Jimmy Stewart’s hometown, so it hit me … ‘ It’s a Wonderful Life in Jimmy Stewart’s Hometown!’” said Scopetti, who worked in tandem with her then-sales manager to bring the idea to life. “We interviewed Jimmy’s boyhood best friend, worked with the historical society and others to help create multiple attractions.”

Though this was her first product development project,

it’s one that’s still popular and promoted in the community over 30 years later.

After experiencing early success, Scopetti was promoted and relocated to Washington, DC, before branching off in 1997 to start her own company, Mid Atlantic Receptive Services. Over the years, Scopetti’s entrepreneurial drive and creativity led her to her current role as President of MARS and Companies, a full-service custom wholesale tour operator working for other tour and bus owner operators.

Scopetti—who was recently awarded the 2023 TODAY! Award by Groups Today at ABA Marketplace in Detroit— finds the growth and expansion of MARS remarkable, and

(Left): Lucy Burns Museum, presented by the Workhouse Arts Center, formerly the Lorton Prison Complex in Lorton, VA. (Right): St. John’s Church, Washington, DC Photos © MARS Tours & Travel; Accent Travel Network, Accent East FAM Tour, November 2022

As a teenager, Scopetti lived in Sicily and Paris for several months at a time with her three brothers and parents, traveling through all of Italy, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, England, France and more.

“Looking back, sometimes I wonder what my parents were thinking, taking us trapezing across Europe in the late ‘60s/early 70’s. But then, I know. It’s the drive to explore, experience, learn, be astonished and discover. It’s in my genes. Thank you, mom and dad—the journeys were filled with astonishing and life-changing experiences.”

MARS Tours & Travel Headquarters, Stephens City, VA 22655 Oklahoma City, OK

reflects on highlights of her industry tenure.

“Becoming a success and well-known in the DC market was a great achievement; I worked very hard creating partnerships and gaining clients,” Scopetti said, sharing gratitude for industry friends and partners like Sue Arko. “I draw so much support, knowledge and enjoyment from them and I learn and gain so much insight from them.”

Some of the greatest experiences Scopetti has offered over the years include: An evening under the stars and a sock hop on Route 66 in Oklahoma; visiting an oyster bar and diving into the Gullah culture in Lowcountry South Carolina; enjoying a BBQ luncheon on a deck overlooking Moon River in Savannah;

golf cart tours of Bonaventure Cemetery; and more.

Scopetti believes that through times of trouble, unique and often large opportunities can present themselves.

“They come only rarely, and one must see them and act quickly to reap the benefits,” she said, encouraging industry newcomers to find and follow their passion, learn from their mistakes and always partner with others.

“I believe that success is rooted in the love one has for their work and the positive change it brings to oneself and others. Work hard, as success doesn’t come easily, and once you’re there, it’s even harder work to maintain and continue to grow. But remember: Hard work isn’t so hard if you love what you do.” 5
(LtoR): Photos © MARS Tours & Travel Lucy Burns Museum, presented by the Workhouse Arts Center, formerly the Lorton Prison Complex in Lorton, VA. Photo © MARS Tours & Travel; Accent Travel Network, Accent East FAM Tour, November 2022

Helping Groups Overcome Travel Stress

Regardless of how many passport stamps someone may possess, travel stress can be experienced by anyone, at any time. That doesn’t mean, however, that tour operators can’t play a part in helping ease that stress for their groups so they can enjoy their trip to the fullest.

To learn more, we sat down with expert Paul Krauss, MA LPC, Clinical Director of Health for Life Counseling (, a private practice psychotherapist, and host of the Intentional Clinician podcast.

First, it’s important to understand

what factors bring on travel stress in order to work towards calming it. According to Krauss, travel stress is not always related to the destination or the journey itself, but rather the underlying anxiety and uncertainty that can arise from traveling.

“For most of us, travel brings us out of our typical routine and environment—sometimes called our ‘comfort zone,’” he said, listing several potential contributing factors such as fear of the unknown, a disruption of routine, safety concerns, flight delays, negative past

experiences and more. “Individuals who’ve had negative experiences while traveling in the past may feel anxiety or fear regarding future travel. For example, a person who has experienced a traumatic event while traveling such as an illness, missed destinations, theft, assault or a natural disaster may develop a heightened sense of threat or danger associated with travel.”

Interpersonal aspects may also play a part, especially for those who experience social anxiety or discomfort with unfamiliar social situations.

6 GROUPS TODAY May/June 2023



“Traveling often involves interacting with new people, such as hotel staff, tour guides or fellow travelers,” Krauss said. “Concerns about fear of judgment, adapting to cultural differences, or unfamiliar social norms can also lead to travel stress.”

Thankfully, there are ways tour operators and group travel planners can help.

“One strategy is to share itineraries as early as possible ,” Krauss said. “Providing a detailed itinerary and schedule well in advance can help travelers mentally prepare for their trip and reduce uncertainty. While uncertainty is associated with negative mental health outcomes, knowing what to expect will help travelers feel comfortable and at ease.”

Krauss also suggests providing groups with alternative plans for unexpected situations ahead of time.

“Tour operators should raise their groups’ awareness about travel disruptions or weather-related issues before traveling,” he said. “Don’t forget to introduce backup plans as well and communicate them clearly to the group. This will help travelers feel more reassured and prepared.”

Unsurprisingly, clear and concise communication is another huge part of reducing travel stress.

“This could involve providing clear instructions for transportation, meal times and meeting points,” Krauss explained. “Chances are that travelers will feel more relaxed and confident if you communicate important information with them in a timely and effective manner.”

Leading up to a trip, Krauss suggests tour operators encourage their groups to have realistic expectations , to purchase travel insurance and to anticipate potential challenges or setbacks such as lost luggage or weather impacts.

“By mentally and financially preparing for these possibilities and having a contingency plan in place, you can reduce stress and anxiety if something does go wrong,” he said, also noting the importance of groups familiarizing themselves with local traditions, cultures and behaviors ahead of time. If there’s a language barrier, consider creating a onesheeter for groups with some common words and phrases that might come in handy (asking for help, the location of the nearest bathroom, communicating any food allergies, etc.).

Groups should also continue to practice self-care throughout the trip.

“This could involve getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, staying

hydrated, not drinking too much alcohol and engaging in activities that you enjoy,” Krauss said. “Don’t forget about emotional well-being either. For this, try mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga. Even a little break for stress may avoid the dreaded ‘vacation arguments’ that can arise among travel partners.”

Last but certainly not least, encourage your groups to limit technology usage to remain present in the moment.

“Constantly checking emails or social media can add to feelings of stress and overwhelm,” Krauss said, adding that a 2015 study indicated that limited use of emails lowers stress and leads to higher wellbeing. “Tour operators and group travel planners have an important role in ensuring their travelers have a positive and stress-free travel experience. By being proactive and anticipating potential stressors, they can help ease anxiety and create a more enjoyable travel experience.” 7
Austin, Texas. Photo © Vy Nguyen



JJames Beard—chef, author, teacher and namesake behind the well-known culinary awards—once said:

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

Planning a group tour around a region’s dishes and craft beverages is not only a way to bring people together through shared experience; it’s also a way to introduce travelers to new flavors and educate them on the country’s diverse cuisine.

The destinations featured here range from the infamous to the ‘who knew?’ Ready to tempt your tastebuds? Let’s go! 9

Northern California’s Napa Valley has earned its reputation as a premier wine region, not just in the U.S., but in the world. Beringer Winery, with its historic property in St. Helena, is ideal for larger groups, as it can accommodate up to 100 people indoors and up to 250 people outdoors. But, more than just a large space, it’s also the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley—and therefore a must-see. There’s also Cakebread Cellars, another large, iconic estate located in Rutherford, which offers private group tours and wine and food pairing experiences, whether seated or strolling amid the vines. A great way to take in a number of spots is to climb aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. Seating up to 72 people per car and serving up wine, gourmet food and exceptional views, this restored train takes passengers on a 36-mile round trip with stops at some of the most celebrated wineries in the region.

Austin, Texas may be more known for its live music scene, but therein lies the surprise. It’s also a mecca for beer, wine and spirits, as well as signature cuisine, from Tex-Mex to barbeque and more. Taking one of the many available tours is a great way to get a taste of some of the “bests” the city has to offer— and it also allows planners to tailor their activities to their group’s interests. Popular options include Austin Brewery Tours, Still Austin Whiskey Co., Pubcrawler of Austin, Livin’ It Wine Tours, and Austin Eats Food Tours, to name a few. Even if food and bevvies are your primary reason to be in Austin, there’s no reason not to sample some sounds. Parker Jazz Club features Roaring ‘20s-influenced cocktails and light fare; Stubb’s Bar-B-Q is a not-to-be-missed Austin institution with an outdoor amphitheater; and Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden’s name pretty much says it all.

Milwaukee may make you think of skipping down the sidewalk after a day of working on the beer bottling line, but Brew City is more than just suds (though they rightfully play a prominent role). One spot that tops the list for groups is 3rd

Photo © Gourdough's Public House Top Photo © Visit Napa Valley / Mary Alice Greco Bottom Photo © Napa Valley Wine Train

St. Market Hall, which has more than a dozen food vendors. Try Anytime Arepa for inspired Venezuelan fare and stop into Dairyland to taste some of Wisconsin’s best treats, from frozen custard to fried cheese curds. Get your food truck fix at Zócalo Food Park, which is open year round and features global street foods as well as an indoor space for seating. And, don’t miss the jerk chicken eggrolls or jerk cheese curds at Pepperpot Jamaican restaurant. Brady Street is known for its wide range of eateries, and a stop at Glorioso’s Italian Market is also recommended. And, back to beer, groups can tour the Pabst Mansion and Historic Pabst Brewery, or take a comedian- or rapper-led tour of Lakefront Brewery and enjoy some adult humor along the way. Take a big swig of “America’s Official Native Spirit” along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® . This road-trip-style experience takes groups through the birthplace of bourbon with guided and self-led tours to suit your group’s desire. A great place to start is the KBT Welcome Center at the Frazier, which is part museum and part concierge service with maps and field guides for planning your expedition. Transportation partners such as Mint Julep Experiences and Pegasus Distillery Experiences offer a wealth of options, whether it’s a spiked brunch or a tour of area distilleries. Kentucky Cooperage gives a primer on the barrel preparation process; Kentucky River Tours provides 11
Photos © Kentucky Distillers Association

tastings and tales of bourbon history by water; and Hermitage Farm blends dining, cocktails, art and horses, all on their sweeping grounds. No matter how you choose to traverse the trail, booking in advance is strongly recommended.

Charleston, South Carolina is another hotspot for cuisine and potables and there’s much to do and see in this culturally rich city. Charleston City Market is filled with eateries galore, as well as specialty shops and artisan-made goods, making it a perfect launching point for your visit. If you want an expert’s take on the local fare, try a guided walking tour with Bulldog Tours. Or, book a tea tasting with For All the Tea and learn about South Carolina’s tea history while you sip on rare and authentic Chinese teas. Charleston is also steeped in African American history and cuisine. Consider a dip into the Lowcountry’s influence with Gullah Tours or sample the cuisine at Nigel’s Good Food or Hannibal’s Kitchen.

North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh , is also a food-lover’s destination that belongs on any cuisine-oriented itinerary. Guided tours abound, with favorites led by Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours, who walk groups through the city’s modern and historic architecture while making stops at selected restaurants, and People First Tourism Experience, which offers hands-on, curated experiences on topics such as agave, mushrooms, herbal teas, coffee, honey and more. Groups could also take a cooking class at Cheeni Indian Food Emporium or sample one of the 350 beers on tap at Raleigh Beer Garden. Transfer Co. Food Hall is also a go-to for groups, with its 43,000-plus square feet of space dedicated to all the eats. From ice-cream sandwiches to empanadas; burritos to burgers to bagels, they satisfy every palate.

If lobster and seafood are what your group craves, venture to Portland, Maine. This motorcoach-friendly city offers extra amenities and services to tour bus drivers and guides, as well as convenient parking. What’s more, it’s a hub for dining with oodles of group-friendly restaurants, many of which offer special rates. Bull Feeney’s, DiMillo’s On the Water, Gritty McDuff ’s Brewing Co., Portland Lobster Company, and Ri Ra Irish Restaurant & Pub are just a few. Attend a lobster bake on Peak’s Island, hosted by Island Lobster Company, or go beyond the shore on a lobstering boat tour with Lucky Catch Tours. Portland also offers a variety of other tours, including the Maine Brew Bus, which provides a behind-the-scenes peek into Maine’s distilleries, wineries and craft breweries.

Left Photo © Leon's Oyster Shoppe / Explore Charleston Bottom Photos © Transfer Co. Food Hall / Brian Strickland | Visit Portland / Serena Folding


Famously recognized as America’s Playground, Atlantic City welcomes one and all to this seaside destination, where local spirits are connected, and the celebrations are unforgettable.

Nestled between the land and sea, experience Atlantic City’s unique location, situated within one-third of the nation’s population. Atlantic City’s convenient location allows for visitors to travel in the comfort of a car or fly directly to the Atlantic City International Airport (within 12 miles) or the Philadelphia International Airport (within 60 miles). Once you’ve arrived, hop on the Atlantic City Jitney, which is powered by compressed natural gas and is Atlantic City’s most convenient and affordable mode of transportation. With a variety of transportation options, Atlantic City aims to make your next visit easily accessible. With more than 17,500 first-class hotel rooms, Atlantic City is an exceptional place to lodge. Whether in the Marina District or situated on the world-famous Atlantic City Boardwalk, a stay at one of the nine casino resorts will guarantee a

memorable experience. Along with precise guest services and waterside elegance, each casino resort showcases panoramic views of Atlantic City from every angle.

From group-bonding opportunities to evening adventures, Atlantic City is ready to celebrate life’s greatest moments with thrilling year-round events and attractions. Stroll the Atlantic City Boardwalk and discover endless family-centric fun at historic Steel Pier and Lucky Snake Arcade & Raceway, the largest indoor arcade along the East Coast. For live entertainment, score front row seats at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall as entertainment’s biggest and most successful acts take the stage. Endless excitement continues at Atlantic City’s casino resorts where nightlife and late-night experiences are always celebrated.

With constant excitement and endless entertainment, a variety of services for the ultimate well-being recharge can be found at one of Atlantic City’s world-class spas. Treat yourself and your group to the illuminating spa services for a journey of peace and relaxation. Being pampered at

Photo © Visit Atlantic City

one of Atlantic City’s spas is not only a luxury, but a necessity to recharge and enjoy the many energetic events during your Atlantic City experience.

Known for its thriving culinary scene, Atlantic City welcomes all to explore the city’s famous dining establishments. Ranging from celebrity chef restaurants to locally owned eateries, Atlantic City’s restaurants are well equipped to accommodate special events for large or small groups, served in unique spaces. When visiting Atlantic City, come hungry because the diverse cuisine selections will surely satisfy taste buds of all kinds.

Atlantic City also has a unique place in American history. From the opening of the nation’s first Boardwalk to inspiration for the Monopoly game, Atlantic City history can be found around every corner. Spend the day learning about the city’s evolving history from 1929 to the present day at the Atlantic City Experience, Atlantic City’s historical museum. See life from above by climbing one of Atlantic City’s most historic landmarks and attractions, the Absecon Lighthouse. Averaging 171 feet tall with 228 steps, it’s New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse!

Atlantic City awaits your arrival as strides to celebrate and let loose continue to live every day in Atlantic City. See for more.


Nestled in the foothills of the gorgeous Franklin Mountains, El Paso is a vibrant and diverse community with an endless amount of incredible outdoor attractions and plenty of yearround fun for all ages.

El Paso is a land of countless tales and adventures. A place where simply looking outside evokes images of Billy the Kid, Pancho Villa, John Wesley Hardin, and every hero and outlaw in between. Look around long enough and you’ll find yourself daydreaming of your own Southwest excursion. Hang around long enough and you’ll undoubtedly find yourself on one. More than 300 days of sunshine means world-class bouldering, mountain biking, trail running and more are at your disposal every month of the year. If you enjoy being outdoors and want to explore one of the most unique places in Texas, El Paso is the perfect place to be.


With the largest international airport in the region, El Paso is strategically located in the center of four, jaw-dropping national parks: Big Bend National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe National Park and White Sands National Park. Each of these amazing national treasures offers visitors the opportunity to discover why El Paso is known as America’s outdoor adventure zone. 15
Photo © Visit El Paso/Andy Austin


Franklin Mountains State Park, one of the largest urban state parks in the nation, boasts nearly 27,000 acres of serene canyons, towering peaks and scenic views—and it’s right in the center of El Paso. With mountain biking, cave exploration, mine tours, paragliding and everything else under the sun, the Franklin Mountains will satisfy even the most adventurous of thrill-seekers.


Ancient pictographs. World-class bouldering. Panoramic desert views. People have been making the trip to Hueco Tanks for thousands of years. It’s time you do the same. Hike rugged trails while you keep an eye out for any of the hundreds of species of birds that live in the area. Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site is open year-round with extended hours on the weekends in the summer.


Experience El Paso’s early history when you explore the El Paso Mission Trail, home to two 17th-century missions and a chapel built in the late 1800’s. The oldest, Ysleta Mission, was constructed in 1682 and is the oldest continuously operating parish in Texas. Marvel at the white adobe-walled structures on the trail, and then see the displays in museums like the Tigua Indian Cultural Center and Los Portales Museum and Information Center. In addition to its attractions, the El Paso Mission Trail hosts cultural festivals throughout the year.


If indoor adventure is more your style, El Paso has a wide range of hotels, restaurants, boutiques and factory outlets that cater to every taste imaginable. El Paso is celebrated worldwide as the boot capital of the world. Whether you’re looking for boots off-the-shelf or hand crafted by the finest artisans, El Paso has the perfect fit for you.

Learn more at .


With a mid-Atlantic location conveniently situated between New York City and Philadelphia, New Jersey is packed with enlightening attractions and destinations— from Princeton’s classic campus to the world’s first boardwalk and the oldest operating lighthouse to Thomas Edison’s historic laboratory. Add in 130 miles of Atlantic shoreline, thrilling amusement parks and write-homeabout landmarks, and you’ll discover why New Jersey is the ideal touring destination!

Of course, tour operators know that great food makes a great travel experience, and New Jersey delivers deliciously. Its seafood is prized up and down the East Coast. What’s more, New Jersey, aka “The Garden State,” dishes up a healthy serving of farm-to-table cuisine. International specialties flavor the culinary scene with Italian, Indian and Portuguese restaurants, and so many others. Map out your dining reservations with the recommendations below.


These restaurants offer private dining rooms so your group can “take over” the space and share lively conversations about what they’ve seen and done so far on your tour. In Northern New Jersey: Bell’s Mansion Fine Dining Restaurant & Garden Bar, Boulevard Five 72, Il Villaggio, Liberty House and Mohawk House. In Central New Jersey: The Frog and The Peach, Lambertville Station Restaurant and Inn, Luciano’s, Rod’s Olde Irish Tavern and Salt Creek Grille. In Southern New Jersey: Bobby Flay Steak, Nunzio, Ram’s Head Inn and The Smithville Inn.


Treat your group to memorable culinary experiences in these truly unique venues. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament serves up dinner with two hours of live jousting and swordsmanship while the Pilsner Haus Biergarten slings Austro-Hungarian dishes in an authentic European-inspired beer hall. Stunning views are on the menu at Alice’s on Lake Hopatcong and McLoone’s Boathouse, nestled into the South Mountain Recreation area. While the service staff at fusion restaurant Dragonfly is actually a fleet of robotic-assisted cats. It’s all aboard for New Jersey’s famed dining culture at the Clinton Station Diner. Or you can treat your group to (simulated) tropical storms in the Rainforest Café, mobster style in Kitchen Consigliere Cafe and the freshest catches in the Lobster House’s harbor-front dining room or docked schooner.

Once your group’s hunger for a dining adventure is satisfied, you can check into a wide variety of accommodations, ranging from budget to luxury, with competitive rates in comparison to NYC and Philadelphia.

For assistance in planning your group tour—including guidance on building a customized itinerary—call 609.292.4239 or go to 17
Photo © New Jersey Department of Travel & Tourism


CCommunication seems simple—until you realize it sometimes isn’t. Perhaps you feel like your messaging is coming across in an engaging and concise way … but do your potential clients feel the same way? Getting the conversation going is the first step, but being intentional in your follow up is what can really elevate your messaging and close the sale.

To learn more about what mistakes to avoid and strategies for taking your sales follow up to the next level, Groups Today sat down with expert Mj Callaway, CCSM, CSP, CVP from Mj Callaway Training & Development (

Among the common mistakes made when conducting sales follow up is sending a dead-end thank-you message.

“Sending a thank-you email without a summary or including a few points from your initial conversation creates a dead end for an effective follow-up message,” Callaway explained, noting that without valuable information about the potential client in the email, you’ll be unable to reinforce the points you discussed together. “These summarized points offer insight and an opportunity to create ongoing customized follow-up messages.”

According to Callaway, you should be sure to take detailed notes during your conversation in order to effectively cover the following three points in your first follow-up message:


» The reason the potential client contacted you. What emotions did they feel? Are they overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated or excited?

» What is the outcome they want by working with you? The emotion they will feel with the result. Will they be relieved or excited?

» Your solution to their problem, need or want.

From there, you should have a concrete follow-up plan in place.

“Your days fill up quickly with calls, emails, requests for quotes, client problems and so on,” Callaway said. “Without an evergreen follow-up campaign, the days get away from you, and you resort to the common ‘checking in’ messages. Or it becomes ‘one-and-done,’ meaning you’ve reached out once but didn’t get a response, and the potential client fell off the radar.”

Callaway emphasizes that even if you didn’t book a client for a particular tour, it doesn’t mean a future opportunity isn’t still there.

“By having several evergreen messages, you can have ongoing touchpoints that add value and go beyond ‘checking in,’” she said, noting that consistency is key in successful sales follow-up. “Create your ‘top five’ evergreen messages so they’re ready to go.”

Examples could include articles like: “Five Ways to Stay Safe While Hiking,” “Top Five Tours for Seniors,” “Five Ideas to Customize Your Tour,” “Five Unique Must-Pack Items,” etc. Keep in mind that every message you send should

include a call to action, and remember: The goal is to make the lives of your potential clients easier.

Callaway suggests pondering: “What are your top three to five services, bookings or tours? What tips have you gathered about these tours that could help your clients save time or money? What tips have your clients shared that you could turn into part of your follow-up campaign? What are the hidden gems?”

Once you have these tips, Callaway recommends using a platform like Canva to create a graphic to insert into an email or a physical postcard that can be mailed sharing this information.

Ultimately, tour and travel is a thrilling industry to be involved in. Let that shine through in your messaging and don’t be afraid to get creative!

“Make it a practice to be curious like a four-yearold and ask questions to dig deeper,” Callaway said. “Tourism is about experiences, engagement, memories, adventures and fun. Create follow-up messages that offer opportunities for your future clients to smile, feel emotions and remember you—because you’re mint chocolate chip in a vanilla world.” 19

There’s a reason why the Great Lakes State is known as “Pure Michigan.”

From unspoiled natural beauty around every corner and the nation’s longest freshwater coastline to the adventure and history found in both its upper and lower peninsulas, come explore what awaits groups in the Mitten.



20 GROUPS TODAY May/June 2023
Photo © Pure Michigan


Begin your journey in Detroit, a city full of Motown soul, sports, to-die-for cuisine, history and arts attractions galore. Groups could appreciate world class works of art at the Detroit Institute of Arts (recently named Best Museum in the U.S. by USA Today); feel the soul at Hitsville U.S.A. and the Motown Museum; see priceless historic artifacts at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in nearby Dearborn; stroll the RiverWalk downtown; visit the Belle Isle Aquarium—the oldest public aquarium in the continental U.S.—and more. Don’t leave without trying some Detroit-style pizza, a Coney dog and some delicious Greek food. Venture just north along Jefferson Ave/Lake Shore Road to Ford House , a National Historic Landmark and former family home of Edsel & Eleanor Ford. It’s here groups could delve into the area’s automotive roots through a guided tour of the family’s Cotswold style home, rotating exhibits and more. Don’t forget to visit the recently opened Visitor Center, dine at The Continental restaurant and stroll the beautiful grounds and gardens situated along glistening Lake St. Clair.

Travel to the west side of the state to Grand Rapids , a vibrant and growing destination located just 45 minutes from Lake Michigan. Recognized as America’s Best Beer City, GR offers craft beer enthusiasts a plethora of local brews to imbibe in, from a tour at Brewery Vivant (a refurbished funeral home) to the over 60 stops along the Beer City Ale Trail, groups are sure to be satisfied. Museums and gardens abound here, so don’t miss staples like Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, the Grand Rapids Art Museum and more. Be sure to also try duckpin bowling at Woodrows and fowling at the Fowling Warehouse! Proceed north and you’ll end up in Ludington , a harbor town with rich maritime history. The Mason County Historical Society , which fosters a deeper understanding of and appreciation for Mason County history, operates many stops in the area that are a must for any history buff. At Historic White Pine Village, groups will encounter a living history tour of a late 19th/ early 20th-century pioneer village boasting 30 historic exhibit buildings, while the Mason County Emporium offers a chance to peruse an old-fashioned candy

Left Photo © Ford House | Top & Right Photos © Pure Michigan

counter. A stop at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum— home to authentic images and artifacts, and engaging interactive exhibits in a former Coast Guard Station—is also recommended.

Continue on to Traverse City, a can’t-miss Michigan staple. Because this well-loved destination is situated along the 45th parallel (same as Italy’s Piedmont region and Bordeaux, France), wine is the name of the game here, as evidenced by the area’s over 40 award-winning wineries. Stay and play at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, where groups could tee off at one of three first-class golf courses; book one (or several) relaxing spa treatments; fat bike and cross-country ski outdoors in the wintertime; attend the National Cherry Festival celebrating the area’s abundant crop in early July and much more.


To travel to Michigan’s Crown Jewel ( Mackinac Island ), you’ll want to hop aboard Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry from ports in either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. The ferry company, which has been transporting passengers to the island for generations, even offers a narrated route that travels underneath the Mackinac Bridge—the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere that also connects the state’s two peninsulas.

Once on the island, groups will want to purchase some rich Mackinac Island fudge, dine on the patio at The Pink Pony, sip a cocktail on the world’s longest porch at the Grand Hotel and admire the beauty of the live insects found inside the Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House. Fun fact: There are no cars allowed on the island, so you’ll need to get around by walking, biking or by horse. Groups could take a horse-drawn carriage landmark tour; bike the 8.3mile perimeter of the island and see Arch Rock; plan a stay

Photo © Pure Michigan

during the annual Lilac Festival in June and more. Staying overnight? A popular choice is Mission Point Resort, which recently underwent several renovations this past winter to its soaring Main Lodge entry space and the Round Island Kitchen (popular for its stunning waterfront view).

Continue north into Michigan’s U.P., a true hiker’s paradise that’s 90% forested and home to over 300 waterfalls. Here, groups could see natural wonders like the crystal clear waters of Kitch-iti-kipi , the majesty of Tahquamenon Falls State Park , the untamed wilderness of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park , and more. Among this bountiful natural splendor is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore , located on the U.P.’s north coast along Lake Superior. On their visit, groups could appreciate miles of colorful 23
Left Photo © Pure Michigan Right Photo © Shepler's Mackinac island Ferry

sandstone cliffs that tower 50 to 200 feet above the water, in addition to natural landmarks such as Miner’s Castle and Chapel Rock. Go kayaking to see the shoreline from a new perspective and even admire some shipwrecks below, thanks to Lake Superior’s supremely crisp and clear water. Located in close proximity to the Wisconsin state border is Iron Mountain, known for being a former mining city once home to an abundance of iron ore. Today, groups could explore this history with a visit to the Iron Mountain Iron Mine, which has operated for 68 years and produced over 21 tons of iron ore. A ride on the mine’s underground train takes passengers 2,600 feet through amazing rock formations and large lighted caverns 400 feet below the earth’s surface.

Also not to miss during the winter is a true Iron Mountain tradition: The Kiwanis Ski Club’s annual FIS Ski Jumping Continental Cup at Pine Mountain Ski Resort, which has been attracting jumpers world over for decades. Crack a cold one and watch at the base or summon the courage (and stamina) to climb the tens of flights of stairs alongside the man-made jump—known as “Giant Pine Mountain” to locals—to watch internationally-ranked skiers and olympians fly through the air. Remember to look up when you hear the announcer say, “Springer Come!”

Of course, before you depart, try a delicious locally made pasty (that should be topped with either ketchup or gravy, depending on who you ask).

Left Photo © UP Travel | Top & Right Photos © Pure Michigan 25

BBryce Albright’s history with dude ranches goes back into the early years of her childhood, having been raised in the industry while her parents worked on dude ranches. Upon reaching high school and college, Albright then worked on a dude ranch herself for seven years.

Only a few years after graduating college and working in the “real world” did Albright find her way back into the industry, including being presented with the opportunity to take on the Executive Director role for the Dude Ranchers’ Association.

Today, as Executive Director, Albright wears many hats, including engaging in association management, providing membership benefits, spearheading marketing for the dude ranch industry while promoting its member ranches, processing applications, organizing and executing an annual convention and completing many other operational duties.

Groups Today connected with Albright to learn more about her perspective on the industry and its continued relationship with group travel.

Bryce Albright

What are the most interesting industry changes you’ve experienced?

A lot changed during the COVID years where group travel, especially corporate travel and retreats, came to a stand still. It is starting to come back around, which we are glad to see! The dramatic shift in group travel was incredibly interesting to me.

What are the greatest challenges facing the dude ranch industry?

As it relates to group travel, the greatest challenge is that ranches do not have availability to host group travel right now because dude ranches are such a popular vacation destination. Other challenges they run into 27
Executive Director | National Dude Ranchers’ Association

as well is not having enough individual accommodations for a lot of groups and/or meeting space for group travel.

What opportunities do you see for the dude ranch industry as it relates to group travel?

Dude ranches can cater to small intimate groups and can offer team building structures with their multitude of activities, in addition to offering a destination that is nothing like any where groups have been before.

For those who don’t know, could you share some examples of the activities groups could enjoy during a typical dude ranch experience?

Some examples of activities groups can participate in at a dude ranch would include horseback riding, shooting sports, hiking, dancing, mountain biking, golf, fishing, river rafting and more! Dude ranches truly do offer activities for anyone’s interests.

What should every newcomer to the industry know?

Dude ranches are a wonderful vacation and group travel destination! Experiencing the freedom and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life that is found on a dude ranch is nothing like you will experience anywhere else.

28 GROUPS TODAY May/June 2023
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