Groups Today July/Aug 2023

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Groups Today


Published by Serendipity Media, LLC Volume 21 Issue 4 JULY/AUG 2O23 THE RESOURCE FOR EVERYTHING GROUP TRAVEL.


Volume 21, Issue 4

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


Kasie Smith


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Josh Veal


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Rachel Syrba

Natalie Villar

Jasa West


Maggie Mutch


Haleigh Gerwig


Student & Youth Travel Association

American Bus Association

National Tour Association

Circle Michigan Ontario Motor Coach Association

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© 2023 Serendipity Media LLC 1 PLANNER PROFILE Bryan Cole Always a Super Adventure page 4 5 MINUTES WITH... Lisa Watson FyndTravel page 20 THEME EXPLORING THE VALUE AND STATE OF STUDENT TRAVEL page 8 DESTINATION PEAKS, VALLEYS, SHORES AND MORE: DISCOVER THE DIVERSITY OF OREGON page 16 ISSUES Doing More with Less People: Maintaining a Functioning Workplace page 6 EDUCATION What to Look for When Hiring a Tour Guide page 15 IN EVERY ISSUE Editor's Letter 2 | Online 2 | Spotlight 12 | Ad Index 18 IN THIS ISSUE


Some of the best and most beautiful things in life can happen unexpectedly, especially when you least expect them to. That’s how Bryan Cole, President of Orlando-based Super Holiday Tours, says he got involved in the travel industry—on accident! Turn to page 4 to read more about Cole’s journey and why he’s so passionate about giving youth the opportunity to experience the gift of travel.

Speaking of youth hitting the road … this issue also touches on student travel as a whole on page 8, as we examine some of the highlights from the 2023 Student & Youth Travel Association Business Barometer and what’s predicted to come for the industry.

We also caught up with Lisa Watson, Founder and Owner of FyndTravel, an independent platform that aims to create a close-knit community of travel advisors from all types of affiliations with a goal of giving advisors and agency owners more options and control over the suppliers they choose. Her perspectives on opportunities, challenges and changing the group travel landscape are explored on page 20.

When it comes to destinations, there’s no place quite like the striking peaks, sprawling valleys and salty shores of stunning Oregon. Come along on page 16 as we venture to the Beaver State, including its largest city, Portland, and smaller towns in close proximity to the California border.

Of course, like every issue, we’re also bringing you some practical and useful knowledge that can hopefully make your daily lives and operations easier. Whether you’re looking for advice on hiring a tour guide (page 15) or are grappling with maintaining a functioning workplace with less people on your team (page 6), we’ve got you covered.

As we enjoy the sunny and relaxing summer months, we at Groups Today hope your adventures are nothing but smooth sailing.








2 GROUPS TODAY July/August 2023 Send your stories, suggestions and thoughts to: 535 Cascade West Parkway SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546 SARAH
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A meeting in Baton Rouge promises an experience unlike any other. From comfortable accommodations and state-ofthe-art meeting spaces to unique culinary offerings, Baton Rouge is an always-exciting place to elevate your event.

MEETING SPACE - Centrally located in Downtown Baton Rouge, the Raising Cane’s River Center is a 200,000 square foot venue that finds itself within walking distance to a number of restaurants, hotels and attractions. A multi-facility complex, the Center has an arena space, theater and ballroom, as well as dedicated breakout room spaces for small groups. There are also a myriad of other meeting spaces—both indoor and outdoor—that can meet your event’s needs.

ACCOMMODATIONS - From boutique hotels and local bed and breakfasts, like downtown’s The Watermark (a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel) and The Stockade Bed & Breakfast, to all of the hotels you know and love, the perfect accommodations await. Whether your meeting is a couple dozen or a few hundred, the variety found in Baton Rouge is sure to meet your needs.

LEISURE - Baton Rouge has been called a top foodie destination, with a blend of Cajun and Creole influences that create a distinctly different Louisiana experience. Beyond the array of eateries, there are countless activities to enjoy. For history buffs, the USS KIDD Veterans Museum and the LSU Rural Life Museum offer a glimpse into the past. If outdoor activities are preferred, you can enjoy walking the trails around BREC’s Bluebonnet Swamp or strolling the Mississippi River banks along the Riverfront Plaza. 3 SPONSORED CONTENT
Geraldine Bordelon, CMP | Vice President of Destination Sales & Experience | 225.382.3587 | Photos © Maggie Bowles, licensed to Visit Baton Rouge


Always a Super Adventure

WWhen you ask Bryan Cole, President of Orlando-based Super Holiday Tours, how he got involved in the travel industry, he’ll tell you it happened by accident.

Though he wasn’t a music major, Cole was involved in music from middle school all through college at the University of Central Florida, where he participated in the marching band and other musical programs. In 1981, the previous owner of Super Holiday Tours reached out in need of tour guides for visiting high school bands. Cole took them up on the offer and later reconnected unexpectedly after graduating college in 1984.

“Out of the blue, the company called and asked if I would like to be a travel agent,” said Cole. After some initial hesitation, he accepted and recalled a statement that later proved to be true. “At one point they told me that if I stuck around long enough, it would be my business—not theirs.”

When the opportunity presented itself, Cole went for it, purchasing Super Holiday Tours in 1991. Today, the company remains one of the most successful and recognizable student group travel organizations in the industry.

“I was 29 when I acquired the company, and it’s been a wonderful ride all these years since,” Cole said, noting how much technology has changed over time. “Everything used to be pretty manual. Even to this day, I’m amazed at how we used to do it. Technology has really made things easier for not only my company, but for everybody in the industry.”

Cole’s industry experience is vast, having served as the incoming SYTA president six weeks after 9/11—a challenging and uncertain time for many—and is currently on the boards of both the American Bus Association and its foundation. He doesn’t refer to his peers in the industry as competitors,

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but colleagues, and has garnered many lessons over the years, including that it’s OK to ask others for advice.

“We don’t have the nuclear codes in what we do; we’re not developing a cure for cancer. There really are no big secrets in our world of student travel. If there is, I’m fully unaware of it,” he said. “To be able to bounce thoughts, ideas, advice—or to receive it—is one of the biggest honors I’ve had recently.”

Giving youth the opportunity to experience and see things they may never get to again is a reason Cole says he and so many in the industry are passionate about what they do.

“There’s a whole big world out there waiting to be explored. When you travel, you break down your preconceived notions of prejudice,” Cole explained. “I’m a firm believer that most people throughout the world, whatever their culture and religious beliefs, want the same thing. And you don’t realize that until you travel.”

He encourages industry newcomers not to discount other people’s experiences and to be open-minded.

“When you’re young, you think you know everything … you don’t know everything,” he said. “Don’t discount the experience of seasoned industry veterans, whether you’re a hotelier, motorcoach operator, attraction or tour operator. You don’t have wisdom until you experience life.”


Cole is a self-proclaimed “band geek” and percussionist who played as a musician at Disney through high school and college. He still plays locally on occasion, in addition to participating in the SYTA Band and ABA Jam Band. He’s also sold an airplane, flown a glider aircraft in Hawaii and has gone skydiving. 5
Photos © Bryan Cole

Doing More with Less People:


AAs a business owner or manager, you don’t always have the resources to match bigger, more established companies. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve big things. Instead, you’ve got to be nimble and make the most of the resources you do have.

Business owners and managers know that having the right people in the right positions can make or break their success. But sometimes, budget constraints can make it difficult to hire more staff or offer competitive salaries.

Here are my best tips for running a small business by doing more with less people to maintain a functioning workplace:


Plugging in an intern wherever possible is a brilliant idea. They’re often very eager to apply themselves (not to mention brilliant with technology!). To maximize the capabilities of an intern, it’s essential to make sure their tasks are connected to the company’s goals, while ensuring the intern can connect the dots between their tasks and the bigger picture. This will help them to be as effective and productive as possible.


Leverage technology to automate certain tasks and streamline processes. Automating mundane, repetitive tasks can free up your team to focus on more important, value-driven activities. Having the right technology in place is essential for small business owners looking to do more with less people.


Outsourcing certain tasks to freelancers or virtual assistants is a great way to get help with tasks that can be time consuming or require specialized skills, without the expense of hiring a full-time employee. Freelancers and virtual assistants can help with a range of tasks like social media management, website maintenance, data entry, content creation and more. With the right freelancer or virtual assistant, small business owners can free up their time to focus on the core aspects of running their business.

4. CREATIVE INCENTIVES. Get creative with compensation and benefit packages. Think outside the box to reward your employees for their hard work and dedication. Consider offering flexible work hours

that allow for more productivity, additional or unlimited vacation days to promote a healthy work-life balance, or other incentives such as discounts at local businesses or additional training opportunities.


Implement a training program to ensure employees are equipped with the skills required to do their job, which helps increase efficiency and productivity. In addition to training, employee engagement is key to reduce turnover, while saving time and money. Talent optimization is an effective strategy to help small business owners maximize their resources. With the right training program and an emphasis on employee engagement, you can create a productive and engaged team that will help your business thrive.

Business owners don’t have to feel overwhelmed by the challenge of doing more with fewer people. By investing in the right tools, having a clear plan and being creative, they can successfully accomplish their goals and maximize their resources.

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Ashley Ward is the Founder and CEO of W Talent Solutions, an executive recruiting firm based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 7



OOne of the most impactful pathways to open-mindedness, empathy and adopting broader perspectives is undoubtedly through the gift of travel. This especially extends to students and youth, as travel can introduce them to experiences, concepts and viewpoints they’ve likely never encountered prior to hitting the road. Educational benefits abound, as well, with Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA) research indicating 60% of students who have traveled showed an increased willingness to know, learn and explore.

8 GROUPS TODAY July/August 2023

In addition to the social, emotional and educational benefits, student and youth travel is good for business, too.

SYTA—recognized as the definitive source for up-to-date data and information on the student group travel industry—recently released their Business Barometer 2022 Annual Report, which offers insight into trend data for previous years and a forecast for what’s to come. The report, conducted along with research partner BONARD, also provides analysis of trends and industry growth from 2019 through 2022—including the impact of COVID-19 on student group travel and anticipated vs. actual student travel numbers. International and domestic tour operators are included in the survey’s pool of respondents, along with members of the American Bus Association and the National Tour Association.

“Our new 2022 Student Travel Business Barometer shows that student travel is coming back strongly in most places around the world, and especially the United States,” said Carylann Assante, CAE, CEO of SYTA, during a recent webinar to preview the Barometer results. “Our Business Barometer is the only comprehensive quantitative study of year-on-year growth and forecast data for national and international tour operators who serve student and youth travelers, so we are very pleased to see this upward trend, and an optimistic outlook for 2023 and beyond.”

Come along as we explore what some industry professionals have learned, in addition to some highlights from the research, what has changed and what these findings mean for those offering student travel moving forward.


If you’ve considered delving into offering student travel, you may be wondering if students are actually getting back to traveling since the pandemic. Thankfully, the answer to that question is a positive one. The report found that the overall volume of U.S. students traveling domestically and abroad rose 266% from 2021 (113,000) to 2022 (414,000), with the sector now having recovered to 44% of its student volume from 2019. And it’s not done growing yet. Projections for U.S. student travel volume for 2023 are forecasted to nearly reach (and potentially exceed) 2019 levels!


Tour operators also note that many bookings over the last couple of years were considered to be more short-term than many would have anticipated in the past, with three months out being considered the pre-pandemic norm for most educational groups, and 12 to 18 months for performance and music groups. Today, bookings that have happened in a shorter time period have increased. Whether or not this trend will continue is uncertain. 9
Travel Stock Images © Adobe

When it comes to trip distance, industry professionals also note that student groups have become (and predict that they will continue to be) more eager to plan trips further afield—a change from the many closer proximity trips seen in 2021 and 2022. Rates for international travel from outbound U.S. student groups have already shown this to be true.


Tour operators have shared that educational tours continue to be a popular option for many student groups, in addition to interest in sports tourism—a quickly growing sector of the travel industry as a whole. Music tours have continued to show promise, as well, with demand remaining high as groups are able to once again regularly rehearse, properly prepare themselves and gather.


It’s true that inflation has had ripple effects across almost every industry imaginable, including in the student travel realm.

When comparing 2019 to 2022, report findings indicate the percentage increases reported by tour operators are largely modest, with domestic trip accommodations, meals and attractions increasing by 10-15%, while insurance fees have remained largely stable overall. Transportation costs saw the largest increase, with nearly half of survey respondents reporting that bus, train and air transportation increased in 2022 more than 15%.


Whether your business measures recovery based on revenue, number of bookings, the volume of students on trips (or all three), research has found the U.S. student travel market has bounced back at an impressive rate, exceeding many tour operators’ initial conservative estimates. Ultimately, while much has changed and fluctuated within the industry, what has remained the same are the benefits and life-changing gifts student travel offers to youth.

For more about how student travel can benefit your business and insights into the industry as a whole, visit .

To learn more about other factors tour operators should consider when venturing into student travel, see

Student Travel Stock Image © Joshua Earle/Unsplash


DINNER AND A SHOW | From hilarious hijinks to edgy dramas, each season at Derby Dinner Playhouse entertains with infectious laughs, memorable songs and whodunnits. Guests at Derby Dinner Playhouse, one of the oldest dinner theatres in the country, can feast on delicious comfort food, signature beverages and desserts while enjoying the performance.

DINNER, THE SHOW | Those who enjoy the artistry of chefs will love Mesa, A Live Dining Show. From a front row seat, guests can chat with well-known local chefs while watching them make multi-course meals before their eyes.

THEMED PARTIES AND TOURS IN A VICTORIAN MANSION | Sign up for a themed tour or whodunit game set in a 20,000-square-foot Victorian mansion! At Culbertson Mansion’s murder mystery parties (where dressing in costume is encouraged), participants can sip cocktails and sample appetizers. During the holidays, groups can join tours and teas to learn more about Victorian-era Indiana and the mansion’s spooky history.


In Southern Indiana, just across the river from Louisville, “SoIN” (Clark and Floyd counties) is a charming southern gateway into the Hoosier State. This collection of communities is an up-and-coming tourism destination that’s in the sweet spot—not too big to get lost in or so small that you’d run out of things to do.

Visitors will find plenty of spirits in SoIN, including craft cocktails, wine and beer. Groups should save time and room for dining, as this locale offers plenty of distinctive culinary scenes. The downtowns and small towns of SoIN are home to plenty of attractions, shops and experiences ideal for filling a group tour itinerary. Here are some highlights your group won’t want to miss!

(PRE)HISTORIC HUB | From 390-million-year-old fossils and nomadic first peoples to early European settlers and the great Steamboat era, Southern Indiana holds stories of life along the Ohio River going back millions of years. Explore Southern Indiana’s rich history at Falls of the Ohio State Park , Howard Steamboat Museum , and Carnegie Center for Art and History, all containing exhibits to illuminate notable events, people and wildlife who once called Southern Indiana home.

SWEET HISTORY | Watch a candy-making demo and tour the candy museum at Schimpff’s Confectionery, a store that has survived and thrived in its 130-year history. The shop specializes in cinnamon red hots, modjeskas (caramel-coated marshmallows) and hard candy fish.

DOWN HOME COUNTRY MEALS | From spring to fall, SoIN visitors can dine on delicious home-cooked food at Joe Huber’s Family Farm & Restaurant . A favorite SoIN attraction, Joe Huber’s serves up homemade fried chicken, honey ham and all the fixin’s. In the fall, the farm offers hayrides to explore a corn maze and pick pumpkins.

SHOPPING AND SPIRITS | Take a tour of Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards , a 600-acre farm offering group wine tastings and tours, a café, farmers market, an ice cream and cheese shop. The farm is also home to Starlight Distillery, where visitors can tour and taste award-winning spirits. SoIN has a little bit of city life, walkable downtowns, as well as bucolic farm experiences. Groups will find Hoosier hospitality at its best here.

To learn more, contact Todd Read, Trade & Consumer Sales Manager, SoIN Tourism, at or 812.280.8082

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Photo © SoIn Tourism

With 11 museums and historic sites across the state, History Colorado offers an abundance of ways for visitors to be educated and entertained while exploring the Centennial State. From new exhibitions that challenge and expand the notion of how museums can present history, to installations that celebrate the diverse cultures and natural beauties of Colorado, opportunities abound for visitors to interact and immerse themselves in the past so they can better appreciate the present.

Each of History Colorado’s sites is located within an hour and a half of a national park, a historic railroad or in the heart of a cultural center. This makes them incredible add-ons to group travel to provide historical context for the wonders visitors experience in both rural and urban Colorado.

In May, the History Colorado Center in Denver opened Virgil Ortiz Revolt

1680/2180: Runners + Gliders , which brings Indigenous Futurism to the Mile High City. Called “the most artistically adventurous thing ever done at History Colorado,” this ambitious and one-of-akind exhibition is a collaboration with Virgil Ortiz, an award-winning artist and visionary hailing from Cochiti Pueblo. Using projection mapping and augmented reality alongside centuries-old Cochiti sculptures and Ancestral Puebloan pottery that dates back a millennium, Virgil Ortiz Revolt 1680/2180: Runners + Gliders brings Ortiz’s stunning visions of the future to life. The result is a dynamic conversation between Ortiz and his artistic ancestors that spans the centuries—and leaves you with new perspectives on what lies ahead.

History Colorado’s Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center, located in the majestic San Luis Valley, opened a


new exhibition in June titled buffalo soldiers: reVision . This exhibition is a partnership with eight independent artists that explores the complicated legacy of the all Black Army regiments established in 1866 following the Civil War. Featuring a diverse set of artistic creations, buffalo soldiers: reVision is an intersection of fine art, history, and place that presents a chance to reconcile some of the most difficult aspects of Colorado’s past while also looking toward the future of historical interpretation and how museums can tell more inclusive and representational histories.

In addition to these new exhibitions, all of History Colorado’s museums across the state are designed for multigenerational audiences and include interactive elements that allow visitors to become immersed in the history of the American West.

» The History Colorado Center in downtown Denver has more than 15 exhibits that span four floors and capture the spirit of Colorado, including The Sand Creek Massacre: The Betrayal that Changed Cheyenne and Arapaho People Forever, which spotlights the living culture of the Cheyenne and Arapaho, two separate Tribes with distinct histories that were bound together forever after the tragedy at Sand Creek.

» The Ute Indian Museum in Montrose connects the historic and contemporary lives and culture of the Ute peoples, showing their deep traditions of adaptation and persistence through stunning exhibitions, and a breathtaking ethnobotany garden and naturescape playground.

» The El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo incorporates a reconstructed and immersive 1840s trading post, an archeological site, and innovative exhibitions that explore the many cultural and ethnic groups of the region. 13
Photo © History Colorado


» The nationally honored Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center in Fort Garland allows visitors to explore life in a 19th-century military fort by walking the parade grounds and touring original adobe buildings.

» The Center for Colorado Women’s History in Denver is a beautifully restored historic house museum that has been the home for inspiring women since 1883 and illuminates women’s impacts on both state and national history.

» Trinidad History Museum in Trinidad features the historic Bloom Mansion and Baca House, two residences built in the late 19th century, as well as heritage gardens, the Santa Fe Trail Museum, and exhibitions such as Children of Ludlow: Life in a Battlezone, 1913-1914 , an award winning display that examines the Colorado Coalfield Strike and Ludlow Massacre through the eyes of the more than 9,000 children who endured the strike.

» The Healy House Museum & Dexter Cabin depict Western life in Leadville as a booming 19th-century silver mining town and features a pair of private homes built in the late 1800s and restored and furnished to depict life during the bonanza mining period.

» Located 45 miles west of Denver, the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park is one of Colorado’s most historically immersive experiences which offers daily train rides, mine tours and gold panning demonstrations.

We hope you will add a History Colorado museum or historic site to your next travel itinerary through the Centennial State!

See for more.

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What to Look for When Hiring a Tour Guide

TTour guides have been around for years, leading, informing and entertaining travelers throughout every aspect of their adventures. It makes sense then to learn the profession is counted among the world’s oldest. To learn more about the benefits of tour guides and hiring tips, we connected with Jeremy Wilcox, Public Relations Chair of the Guides Association of New York City (GANYC).

Enlisting the services of an experienced and knowledgeable tour guide goes hand-in-hand with a variety of benefits. Tour guides are present to help groups make the most of their time, answer questions, provide the most personal experience possible and more.

“The main benefit to hiring a tour guide in a city like New York is you are getting an experienced professional who knows the city, inside and out,” Wilcox said. “You cannot ask a website, a tutorial video, or a guidebook any questions.”

According to Wilcox, group travel professionals can find quality tour guides in a variety of places,

including checking before a trip with your chosen hotel’s concierge. When it specifically comes to NYC, Wilcox recommends checking the GANYC website (

“We have a directory of guides who are members, which can be filtered by language, or tour subject matter,” he explained. “This ensures that you are finding a vetted, professional guide.”

If NYC isn’t on your itinerary this time, Wilcox offers some additional tips for vetting potential guides for other destinations.

“The best way when you are trying to vet a specific guide is to google them,” Wilcox suggested. “Do they show up on TripAdvisor or Google? Or any other site where you might find previous consumer reviews of them?”

Wilcox recommends asking a guide directly if there’s a way to read reviews from previous customers—his top overall tip.

“The second tip is to confirm— whether through past reviews or a phone conversation—that this is a personable person who you’ll enjoy

spending time with,” he said. “The third tip is to email with them beforehand to make sure you’re both on the same page about the type of tour you want. You should also read any FAQs on their website for this reason.”

Finally, Wilcox emphasizes the importance of spreading the word to other group travel professionals.

“If you enjoyed your experience, please leave a review of your own, so others might be able to find the same guide in the future,” he said, noting that tour guides are one of the best bang-for-your-buck options you can get when planning a trip, especially to a large city like NYC. “Nobody wants to spend their time pulling back out a guidebook, or having to Google things, or guessing the context of the places they’re visiting.

“A live, professional guide is your personal escort to the city, who’s there to really make you feel at home, to answer all your questions, and to point you in the right direction, both literally and figuratively.” 15


Whether you seek adventure on the waterfront, big city excitement or interesting excursions amid snowcapped mountains, Oregon has it all. With more than 350 miles of coastline, groups could spend an entire itinerary just exploring the Pacific Ocean region. But, there’s also plenty to do in other areas of the Beaver State, including its largest city, Portland, and smaller towns not far from the California border. Here, we cover the highlights of this captivating state.



Lincoln City is a somewhat central location that offers an abundance of its own activities and can also serve as a jumping point for other expeditions. Love the arts? Get the free, digital Lincoln City Art Trail Passport and embark on a self-guided tour of murals, mosaics, sculptures and statues. Or, carve time out to visit the Lincoln City Cultural Center and see art exhibits and live concerts, or take a class.

There’s also Finders Keepers, a unique promotion that invites visitors and locals to search for more than 3,000 hidden glass floats made by local artisans. As the name suggests, if you find one, you can keep it! Antiquing is also big in Lincoln City, so don’t miss the opportunity to pick up a vintage treasure.

The city’s Exploriences Program is an excellent way for groups to immerse themselves in the region’s points of interest, from clamming, crabbing and birdwatching to beachcombing, hiking and tide pools. Free and led by local experts, the program incorporates topics on a variety of interests.

From there, head north toward the Washington border to Ecola State Park—a popular spot for hiking—or to Astoria Scuba and Kayak to rent a kayak or SUP for an afternoon of paddling. If you don’t want to go that far north, at least make a trip to Tillamook, which is not only a great kayaking spot, but also a cheese lover’s paradise. Take a tour of The Creamery, see a farm exhibit and dine on some delicious dairy.

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Mount Hood at McNeil Point. Photo © Isaac Lane Koval

There’s much to do south of Lincoln City as well, with one of the big attractions being whale watching in Depoe Bay. Whale Research EcoExcursions is one company that provides whale watching tours. (Note that the best time to see whales in this area is June through September, when resident whales come closer to shore to feed.) Dockside Charters is another company that offers whale watching tours, plus charter fishing trips, too.

Take in more of the ocean and nature’s grandeur with a visit to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area—a 2,700acre coastal habitat. The Cape Perpetua headland, the highest viewpoint accessible by vehicle on the Oregon Coast, towers a staggering 800 feet over the Pacific Ocean, providing views of the marine reserve and the rocky shore. From the Captain Cook Trail, visitors can see Cook's Chasm, Spouting Horn, and a number of tidepools filled with sea life such as snails, urchins, anemones, sea stars and crustaceans.

Sandboarding and buggy riding on the Oregon Dunes in Florence are other fun activities for groups, with Sandland Adventures and Spinreel Dune Buggy and ATV Rental being two services in the area.

Looking for more to do oceanside? Go to for hundreds of ideas!


The City of Roses, and the surrounding area, is incredibly varied. The greater downtown has many draws, whether it’s browsing literature at Powell’s Books—the world’s largest independently owned new and used book store—or strolling the Portland Saturday Market, which is open nearly yearround, from early March through December 23. A voyage along the Willamette River aboard the Portland Spirit is also a favorite activity, whether it’s for sightseeing or enjoying inspired Northwest cuisine on a dinner, brunch or lunch cruise. Boats run all year and special group rates apply. While in the area, a stop at the Portland Art Museum and adjacent Oregon Historical Society is a must, as is a tour of Pittock Mansion.

If gardens are your vibe, there are blooms galore, best viewed from May to September, at the International Rose Test Garden, which features 10,000-plus rose bushes representing more than 600 varieties. Admission is free and pre-arranged tours are available for a nominal fee. Nearby are the Portland Japanese Garden and Lan Su Chinese Garden, both considered some of the most authentic outside of their respective nations.

Keeping Portland as a home base, there are also a number of day trips that are ideal for groups. Go wine tasting in Tualatin Valley or Willamette Valley, both of which are within 45 minutes of downtown Portland, or venture a bit further to take in the majestic Mt. Hood, Oregon’s tallest peak. And, just a 30-minute drive from the city center are the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest waterfall. 17
Oregon Coast Dune Buggy Ride. Photo © Eugene, Cascades Multnomah Falls. Photo © Katie Falkenberg


First stop: Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The 2023 season has an impressive lineup of shows; most noteworthy, according to Festival experts, being Romeo and Juliet and RENT Twelfth Night and The Three Musketeers are also on the docket, and all four stage performances run through October, 2023. If visiting in November and December, check out the comedy, It’s Christmas, Carol! There are also workshops and educational offerings tailored to groups, such as one-hour Group Discussions with an OSF theatre professional, Prefaces and Post-Show Talkbacks. Groups of 15 or more save up to 25% on shows and also receive discounted rates on other events.

Not far from Ashland are the towns of Medford and Phoenix, both in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley. Medford is home to Craterian Theater, so groups can get their theater fix even after leaving the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Don Jones Memorial Park, Prescott Park and a climb up Roxy Ann Peak, are to-dos near Medford, as well. Phoenix is a mere hop over from Medford and is a hotspot for boutique

shopping, and it also has a museum, gallery and a clubhouse that hosts events. And, the Rogue Valley in general is an oenophile’s dream, with its award-winning wineries. A premier wine region, it was recently named a top 12 global wine destination by Forbes

Before you go … consider a trek to Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. It’s the fifth-oldest national park in the U.S. and the state’s only national park. Of particular interest is Wizard Island, formed by Mount Mazama, a nowcollapsed volcano. The island is accessible by boat and open for hiking and taking in panoramic views.

18 GROUPS TODAY July/August 2023 DESTINATION FEATURE AD INDEX American Bus Association 5 El Paso Convention & Visitors Bureau 7 History Colorado 14 Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation 14 Meet AC C4 The Metropolitan Opera C3 New York Power Authority C2 Rise NY 7 Shores & Islands Ohio 11 Visit Baton Rouge 3 Visit Central Oregon 19 ADVERTISER PAGE ADVERTISER PAGE
Portland Japanese Garden. Photo © Celeste Noche Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo © Craig Stewart

Lisa Watson

Founder & Owner FyndTravel


At FyndTravel, we are focused on providing travel advisors/agencies with a centralized platform that offers valuable information and resources to help them grow their businesses. While our platform isn’t specifically tailored to group travel, we’ve noticed a shift in the industry towards more travel advisors selling group travel instead of FITs. To support this, we’ve created a group travel directory that includes a variety of companies, resources and educational materials that travel advisors can easily access to navigate the group travel landscape.

Our goal is to empower travel advisors to make informed decisions and connect them with the right resources, whether they’re looking to expand their group travel offerings or explore other areas of the industry. By offering a range of directories, including top DMCs, industry events, local sales reps, educational programs and various suppliers, we make it easier for advisors to find the resources they need to succeed. We believe that by providing these resources and tools, we can help change the industry landscape and support the growth of travel advisor businesses.


One of the challenges facing the travel industry today is managing the high volume of travelers and the resulting strain on the supply chain (airlines, reservation centers, etc.), as well as the surge of new travel advisors entering the industry who need credible education and certifications to achieve industry standards. If the professional standard isn’t met, it can impact our entire travel community.


With 19 years of travel industry experience, Lisa Watson has worked in various areas, from student group tours to corporate travel, meetings and incentives, leisure, host agencies, travel associations and education. Throughout her career, she’s gained valuable insights and skills while working at companies like BCD Travel and ASTA.

Today, Watson is the proud founder and owner of FyndTravel, an independent platform that aims to create a close-knit community of travel advisors from all types of affiliations with a goal of giving travel advisors and travel agency owners more options and control over the suppliers they choose. Watson is always looking for ways to help travel advisors succeed and thrive. We caught up with her to learn how creating FyndTravel has allowed her to do just that.

WI see several opportunities, one of the biggest being “revenge travel.” People are eager to get out and explore the world again, which presents a significant opportunity for advisors/agencies and suppliers who can provide unique and engaging experiences. Additionally, I see a growing appreciation for the value that travel advisors bring to the table, with travelers realizing the importance of having a knowledgeable and experienced advisor to guide them. This has led to a surge in demand for travel advisors—a trend I believe will continue.


Every newcomer should be aware that the industry is constantly evolving and requires a strong commitment to ongoing learning and professional development. It’s essential to stay up to date on industry trends, destination knowledge, supplier offerings and technology tools that can help you succeed in this competitive field. Building relationships can also be crucial in establishing a strong foundation and expanding your network. Finally, it’s important to always prioritize your clients’ needs and expectations, providing personalized service and attention to detail to create unforgettable travel experiences that keep them coming back. At FyndTravel, we’re committed to supporting industry newcomers by providing educational resources, directories and tools to help them grow and succeed.

20 GROUPS TODAY July/August 2023
Photo © Lisa Watson / Headshot © Deb Knoske

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