Groups Today Sept/Oct 2023



Volume 21, Issue 5

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


Kasie Smith


Courtney Van Hagen


Sarah Suydam


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

Circle Michigan Ontario Motor Coach Association

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© 2023 Serendipity Media LLC 1 TRY A TASTE OF MARYLAND page 24 THE LATEST AND GREATEST OF BROADWAY! page 8 DESTINATION PLANNER PROFILE Laura Sampson "Remember to have fun!" page 4 5 MINUTES WITH... Kelly Craighead, Cruise Lines International Association page 28 ISSUES Marketing Your Sustainability and Socially Conscious Efforts page 6 EDUCATION Going on a FAM Trip? Don't Miss These Tips! page 22 IN EVERY ISSUE Editor's Letter 2 | Online 2 | Spotlight 16 | Ad Index 27 IN THIS ISSUE
COVER: SIX Photo by Joan Marcus THEME


Though the temperatures are beginning to cool as the colorful and periodically calmer fall months arrive, things are only heating up in the world of travel. And in this new issue of Groups Today, we touch on a bit of it all.

Come along as we explore the latest and greatest of Broadway, offering up expert insight into the hottest new shows groups can’t miss, tips for first-time Broadway goers and much more (pg. 8). We also go on a true East Coast adventure with our destination feature on Maryland, found on page 24. From Hagerstown and Frederick County to Baltimore and the National Harbor (and everything in between), we’ve got all the ingredients you’ll need for a memorable Maryland journey.

Speaking of journeys … many group travel professionals get invited to go on journeys of their own through FAM tours, which offer a chance to explore a destination and learn first-hand exactly what makes it special and an ideal spot for traveling groups. And while FAMs are jam-packed with fun, there are several tips for making it as educational and beneficial as possible. Turn to page 22 to learn what they are!

We also catch up with industry professionals like Kelly Craighead, President & CEO of CLIA, to learn the latest cruise industry news (pg. 28), and Laura Sampson, Senior Travel Counsellor of Group Sales with Frontiers North Adventures, to hear how her tourism journey began and led her to her current position of getting groups up close and personal with Churchill, Manitoba (pg. 4).

Wherever you’re headed this fall, we hope the information shared in this issue provides you with useful tips, inspires you to venture somewhere new or encourages you to step beyond your comfort zone. See you on the road!


2 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023 Send your stories, suggestions and thoughts to:
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With an array of premium group tours and unique attractions, Montgomery County, Maryland, is a captivating destination offering a diverse range of experiences for visitors of all interests.

Start your tour with an immersive experience at Calleva Farm. Add sustainability and environmental programming for group tours focused on outdoor exploration and appreciation. Stop by Waredaca Brewing Co,

a must-visit destination for beer enthusiasts. Located on a working horse farm, take in the views while enjoying a pint from a range of satisfying flavors. For a unique stop, trek through miles of haunted forest at Field of Screams, the most terrifying scream park in the country. When the winter season arrives, the Winter City Lights tour takes groups on a mesmerizing journey through the county’s most stunning illuminated landscapes.

From fun on the farm to thrilling adventures, plan your next trip to Maryland’s Cultural Capital, next door to Washington, DC: 3 SPONSORED CONTENT

"Remember to have fun!" LAURA SAMPSON

LLaura Sampson’s career in tourism began over 20 years ago when she was a teenager working as a server in a local restaurant and later as a front desk attendant at a small hotel. She’d go on to graduate from the Tourism and Hospitality program at Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba and secure a co-op placement at a costume museum, a position Sampson says cemented how she felt about the industry.

Eventually, Sampson transitioned to another co-op placement with Frontiers North Adventures, a tour operator that specializes in hosting adventure-seekers in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.

“16 years later, I’m still with Frontiers North and continue to love being able to help guests achieve their dream to dine beneath the northern lights, sing alongside beluga whales and to lock eyes with wild polar bears,” Said Sampson, who now works as Senior Travel Counsellor, Group Sales. “Since joining the team, I can say that I love my decision and haven’t looked back once.”

Sampson enjoys seeing groups get up close and personal with Churchill.



Though Sampson loves to travel, she’s not a fan of flying on airplanes!

“Regardless of the season they choose, we have something that’s truly awe-inspiring—whether that’s by kayaking alongside beluga whales, dog sledding with a local Indigenous dog musher or waking up with polar bears roaming outside their window at the Tundra Buggy Lodge,” she said, noting that connecting with traveling groups and other industry professionals are highlights of her position.

“I love meeting and sharing the magic of Churchill with people from around the globe. Hearing their stories and why they chose Churchill is always a great pleasure and makes me proud of what we do,” Sampson said, adding that Frontiers North is also now taking people to Churchill from Calgary, a new departure option the team is excited to offer.

Throughout the years, Sampson has noticed how easier access to information has changed client behavior.

“This has led to very smart, self-sufficient customers who are able to use digital tools to

4 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023

answer questions or even fully book their trip, rather than calling directly,” she said. “This has really evolved the sales tactics we’re using and the materials we use to connect with our audience.”

After years in the industry, lessons for Sampson abound. The one that rises to the surface? Truly listen to what your client is saying.

“Taking the time to be patient and fully understanding their needs and wants. Then, you’re able to offer the best experience for them,” Sampson explained. “Everybody is different, especially when building trips for preformed groups. While it might be tempting to recycle old trip itineraries for new groups, it’s important to recognize that taking the time to personalize the experience can make a huge difference to the client when making the ultimate decision of booking their trip.”

Ultimately, Sampson’s advice for industry newcomers is simple: Mistakes happen.

“We have the good fortune of getting to wake up every day and help people plan their dream trip. It’s important to remember to stay positive and to keep moving forward,” she said. “While it’s easy to get stressed in these types of roles, it’s important to take a step back and remember to have fun.” 5
Photos © Laura Sampson




MMore now than ever, there’s a warranted and important focus on ensuring travel is done sustainably and in a socially conscious way, providing groups with an unforgettable experience while simultaneously benefiting the destinations we travel to and the people who call those places home. To learn more about prioritizing your sustainabilityfocused and socially conscious travel efforts—and then marketing them to travelers—we spoke with Alexandra Sanchez, U.S. Consumer Marketing

Manager for G Adventures.

To begin, Sanchez reminds us: Travel is a privilege.

“Those of us lucky enough to have the means to visit new places and experience different cultures are extremely privileged, and where and how we spend our traveler dollars is of utmost importance,” she said. “At G Adventures, we believe in community tourism, which to us means mutually beneficial experiences for both the traveler and the people who live in the places that we visit. We created something called the

‘Ripple Score’ which is a way to see just how many traveler dollars stay within the community.”

The Ripple Score works by G Adventures assigning each of their trips with scores from 1 to 100, with 100 meaning that all dollars spent stay within the local community.

“We strive to get our Ripple Score numbers as high as possible by using locally owned accommodations, restaurants and local guides. We support local social enterprises that create a sustainable living for

6 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023
Costa Rica La Fortuna Canyoneering Waterfall Travelers. Photo © Justin Lauren Davidson / G Adventures Inc.

members of the community,” Sanchez said, offering questions groups can ask to ensure they’re traveling in a more socially conscious way. “Ask questions. Ask who benefits. Demand, with your traveler dollars, that locals benefit from you being there. Ask what happens if there’s a disruption in the travel industry. Are locals’ livelihoods being protected in any way?”

As a group travel professional, you should ponder and be prepared to answer these questions from your groups. If you find yourself at a loss, it’s likely time to reassess your own practices and see where there’s room for improvement.

“Travel is not about photo ops; it’s about learning about different cultures, seeing your place in the world and finding connections in even the most unlikely places,” Sanchez said. “Building connections makes for a more conscious traveler.”

Because more and more groups are expecting their experiences to have these factors in mind, it’s no surprise to learn that seeing that a company also prioritizes sustainability and socially conscious travel can influence groups’ booking decisions. Knowing this, it’s worth ensuring your efforts are conveyed in a concise and easily demonstrated way. But of course, make sure you’re walking the walk.

“Positioning your organization as ‘socially conscious’ is an entire lens shift, and requires a long-term commitment,” Sanchez said. “Hire local guides, use locally owned accommodation and restaurants, create relationships with local businesses and entrepreneurs, and make sure they’re benefitting from the relationship.”

While there aren’t any quick fixes or shortcuts, Sanchez recommends

the following actions to help demonstrate your efforts to groups:

• Make your efforts a part of the trip (not just an “oh-by-the-way” moment). Guides should weave it into the trip, reminding travelers that their dollars matter in a very big way.

• Build community elements into the trip. This can be done through some of the steps mentioned above. Incorporate these elements into your marketing materials so groups know outright where you stand.

• Use social media to highlight practices. Take advantage of the versatility of social media to reach potential travelers and show them visuals of what sustainable and socially conscious travel looks like. Of course, ensure you have consent from anyone you photograph or film and that those actions are conducted responsibly.

Sanchez also suggests implementing a similar scale to G Adventures’ Ripple Score to demonstrate a trip’s impact.

“It’s a great way [for travelers] to quickly get a read on how ‘community friendly’ the trip is.” 7
ALEXANDRA SANCHEZ U.S. Consumer Marketing Manager, G Adventures Thailand Bangkook Wat Pho TempleExploration Travelers. Photo © G Adventures Inc. Cambodia Siem Reap Angkor Wat Sunrise Travelers. Photo © G Adventures Inc.


8 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023 THEME FEATURE
Broadway Stock Images © Adobe Stock


“Broadway has always offered an astonishing variety of shows, allowing anyone to come and experience the world’s greatest live entertainment,” said Bob Hofmann, Vice President, Broadway Inbound. “With the selection of shows available this coming season, Broadway is boldly continuing that legacy.”

Hofmann shared that it’s gratifying to see so many new shows drawing in big audiences, including Kimberly Akimbo , which won the Tony Award® for Best New Musical, while Some Like It Hot took home four Tonys, including Best Lead Actor in a Musical and Best Choreography.

“The amazing and fun & Juliet , featuring the music of hit-maker Max Martin, just recorded its biggest selling week ever. The revival of Sondheim’s masterpiece Sweeney Todd is playing to sold out houses nightly, and A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical has fans on their feet dancing in the aisles, even on Thursday matinees!” Hofmann continued. “There’s a wave of energy building behind these hits, and once we add all those new shows into the mix, the season promises to be unstoppable. Splash after splash, be ready for it.”

Stephanie Lee, President &

Group Sales Box Office at, says that audiences 9
Broadway’s lights are shining bright and are ready to welcome groups looking to enjoy world-class performances and heartfelt stories they’ll cherish long after the curtain falls. Come along as we delve into what’s making a splash on Broadway right now, what to make note of as we head into fall, tips for Broadway first-timers and more.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child . Photo by Matthew Murphy

have also been flocking to see the hilarious new comedy Shucked , in addition to two new musicals that just opened this summer and have audiences buzzing: Back to the Future and David Byrne/Fatboy Slim musical collaboration Here Lies Love .


Lee notes they’re anticipating recordbreaking audiences in New York City heading into the fall and winter months, as well as welcoming in a slate of new shows that will be hitting the legendary stages of Broadway.

“Looking ahead, we can’t wait to have Melissa Etheridge: My Window on Broadway beginning in September, and a new musical from Barry Manilow titled Harmony beginning in October,” Lee said.

Hofmann suggests audiences save space on their itineraries for plays in addition to musicals this fall and winter.

“Have you seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway? Well there’s more where that came from, plus more new musicals and thrilling revivals,” he said. “The variety is amazing, and it’s all here to see over the coming months.”

When it comes to Broadway’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, both Hofmann and Lee shared promising insight all Broadwayloving groups will be pleased to hear.

“The Broadway League reports that attendance figures across the industry are close to where Broadway was in 2019, with many people in the industry expecting attendance for the upcoming season to exceed pre-pandemic audience levels,” Lee explained, noting that while new titles are attracting plenty of attention, groups are still returning to beloved favorites including Aladdin , Chicago , Moulin Rouge! , SIX , The Book of Mormon , The Lion King , Wicked and more.

“We’ve been saying ‘Broadway’s Back’ for a while now, and guess what? It is!” Hofmann said. “We still miss some of our international ticket buyers, who are an important part of our

10 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023 THEME FEATURE
SIX . Photo by Joan Marcus

audience mix, but the outlook is positive, the numbers are increasing steadily, and we expect our international attendance to be back to pre-pandemic numbers soon.”

Perhaps most exciting and notable, Hofmann shared, is that Broadway is attracting its most diverse audience ever.

“Unique voices are telling distinctive stories on stage, and the plethora of choices that are available is driving new audiences, younger and more diverse, into our theatres every day,” he said. “It’s truly an exciting time on Broadway.”


If you’ve got some group members who are enjoying the magic of Broadway for the first time, Lee and Hofmann offered up some of their best tips for making the most of the experience.

“Plan ahead and get your tickets as early as possible to get the best group rates and availability,” Lee said, suggesting groups see more than one show during their time in NYC. “Get to the theatre early and allow yourself time to read the Playbill and get settled. The pre-show atmosphere is electric and not to be missed!”

Hofmann recommends groups make seeing a Broadway show a special occasion all their own, dressing up, going casual or making a night of it. He also emphasized the importance of arriving early, as plenty of folks plan a nice meal before their show at one of the many great dining options nearby.

“Take time to soak in the atmosphere of the neighborhood: The theatre marquees, all the different people, the sense of anticipation when it gets close to curtain time, the

12 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023

street vendors, restaurants, clubs, actors running down the street to make their 30-minute call, the stage door post-show, the Drama Book Shop, Shubert Alley, the list goes on,” he said.

Beyond seeing a show on Broadway, groups won’t want to miss visiting the new Museum of Broadway, located right in the heart of Times Square. The museum’s many permanent and rotating exhibits—made up of hundreds of rare costumes, props, artifacts and some incredible photo opportunities—make for the perfect companion to your group’s Broadway performance. There’s even an extensive “behind-the-scenes” section focused on the making of a Broadway show and what it’s like to be a professional working on Broadway!

Groups could also take part in Broadway Inbound’s “Broadway InMotion” series of custom-tailored workshops meant to add to the experience of seeing a show.

“There is truly nothing like Broadway, anywhere in the world,” Hofmann said. “Don’t miss any of it!”

Learn more about upcoming Broadway shows and more: | 13
Shucked . Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman Moulin Rouge . Photo © Broadway Inbound
14 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023 15


RiseNY is a “Soaring New York Experience” in the heart of New York City that combines a spectacular uplifting ride with museum-style galleries to celebrate the history of the Big Apple and the joy of the New York experience.

The first-of-its-kind attraction—located at 160 W 45th St, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue—opened in March 2022, and is a threepart journey that lifts and connects visitors to New York City’s most famous sites and moments. This interactive, educational and thrilling journey will get visitors out of their seats and into the sky all while learning how NYC rose to prominence globally from past to present!

The experience begins with an immersive film by award-winning documentarians, Ric Burns and James Sanders, narrated by beloved actor Jeff Goldblum. The short film focuses on NYC’s history, specifically Times Square and its global impact. Guests will easily fall in love with New York all over again as the room springs to life and transforms into a fully immersed theater with visual and special effects.

After the short film, guests journey through the seven galleries: Finance, Skyline, TV/Radio, Fashion, Music, Broadway and Film, all of

which showcase NYC’s vibrant pop-cultural evolution and its indelible impact on the world. These galleries spotlight historical artifacts, star-studded memorabilia and engaging, fun and educational displays. All galleries are co-curated by beloved cultural institutions such as the Museum at FIT, The Tribeca Festival, The Museum of American Finance, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The finale of the experience comes when guests soar to New (York) heights on a spectacular uplifting ride! The world-class flying theater gives visitors a unique bird’seye view of the Big Apple. Guests are lifted 30 feet into the air and can take in the splendor of NYC while suspended inside a 180-degree, 40-foot projection dome featuring 8K aerial footage that creates the sensation of flight. Full motion seats let you dip, turn and soar, while wind, mist and scents heighten the experience. The 46-seat flight simulation ride is the first of its kind in Manhattan.

Since its opening, RiseNY has welcomed

For tickets, see or visit the RiseNY box office at 160

16 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023 SPOTLIGHT
Photo © Angela Cranford, Courtesy of RiseNY West 45th Street (at Broadway) in NYC.

esteemed guests such as Katie Holmes, Neil Patrick Harris, and Arianna Debose. The experience also features some familiar faces, such as Mario Lopez and Tim Gunn!

RiseNY offers special rates for groups of 10 or more, as well as special rates for student groups and Title 1 schools. With rich educational galleries for multiple grade levels, it makes the perfect field trip destination!

RiseNY provides learning opportunities across history, physics, finance and more, and has educator materials aligned with NYSED Standards available upon request.

For additional information or to reserve/ book your group, please contact Group Sales at or 718.701.4998.

RiseNY is now open seven days a week from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tickets for RiseNY start at $32, with last tickets each day being sold 60 minutes prior to closing. Special prices are available for children (under 12 years of age), seniors (65+), students (with student ID) and veterans and acting members of the military.


The new  Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation  at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is now open! With a unique, organic design informed by nature, the Gilder Center was constructed using “shotcrete,” a sprayed-concrete technique invented in the early 1900s by Museum naturalist and taxidermy artist Carl Akeley. Within soaring, lightfilled spaces, your group’s visit to the Gilder Center will create countless moments that spark curiosity.

“I’m excited that the Gilder Center will reveal more of the crossdisciplinary processes of science and be a powerful springboard for an even deeper integration of the Museum’s ongoing research with our exhibition program and education initiatives—all while inspiring our visitors to appreciate and learn about how all life on Earth is connected,” said Museum President Sean M. Decatur.


The new Gilder Center offers groups plenty of experiences to enjoy, engage and be enriched. Visitors enter through the Kenneth C. Griffin Exploration Atrium , a five-story space that serves as a new gateway into the Museum from Columbus Avenue, opening onto Theodore Roosevelt Park and creating a visitor path to the Museum’s entrance on Central Park West.

Once inside the new Gilder Center, groups won’t want to miss the  Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Collections Core , featuring three stories of floor-to-ceiling exhibits, including the  Macaulay Family Foundation Collection Galleries  on the first and second floors, representing every area of the Museum’s collections and showcasing more than 3,000 objects; the 5,000-square-foot  Susan and Peter J. Solomon Family Insectarium , featuring live and pinned insects and graphic and digital exhibits; the year-round, 2,500-square-foot  Davis Family Butterfly Vivarium , where visitors can mingle with up to 80 species of free-flying butterflies; and  Invisible Worlds , an extraordinary 360-degree immersive 17
Photos © Dimitrios Kambouris/ Getty Images for RiseNY / © RiseNY


science-and-art experience that reveals how all life is connected.

On weekdays, groups can also visit the  David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Research Library and Learning Center, a dynamic hub that connects visitors with the Museum Library’s unparalleled resources. It’s here that groups could stop by during the day to read, browse, or view collection displays, including an alcove showcasing materials from the Museum’s Rare Book Collection.


In addition to the Gilder Center’s exhibits and collections, groups will find themselves enamored with the building itself and its stunning architectural design.

With spectacular architecture designed by Studio Gang—the international architecture and urban design practice led by Jeanne Gang—the 230,000-square-foot Gilder Center invites visitors to explore the fascinating, far-reaching relationships among species that comprise life on Earth and reveals connections across the Museum’s rich collections, trailblazing research initiatives, educational programs, and exhibition galleries.

Inspired by natural formations, the Gilder Center’s fluid curves, recesses, windows, and bridges suggest exploration, connection and discovery and connect new and existing galleries in ways that highlight intellectual links among different scientific disciplines. The Gilder Center creates approximately 30 connections among 10 existing buildings on the Museum’s campus, including to the newly opened  Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals , eliminating dead ends and enhancing the visitor experience.

See to learn more and reserve tickets for your group’s next visit.

From Motown to modern art, few places have more cultural cachet than Detroit. It’s a city that has long shaped the landscape of American identity— and Detroiters are always keeping their eye on the next big thing. Let’s take a closer look at the iconic locations and experiences that make the Motor City so distinct.

If you know one thing about Detroit, you know it’s a music lover’s paradise. Only one city could be the hometown of both techno and Motown, and it’s that range of creativity that makes Detroit’s scene unique. There’s live music to enjoy every night all over the metro—and in every genre you can imagine, including jazz, rock, hiphop, EDM and soul. Whatever moves you, Detroit has it in spades.

Of course, the city’s culture goes well beyond music. Detroit is known for its world-class museums too. Foremost among them is the Detroit Institute of Arts. With over 65,000 unique works, the DIA has America’s sixth largest collection of public art. The museum is also famous for the “Detroit Industry Murals,” which are among Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s most influential creations and a can’t-miss experience for anyone who appreciates his art.

Foodies of all kinds will find a lot to love, whether they prefer gourmet gastronomy or down-to-earth eats.

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Photo © A. Keding / American Museum of Natural History 19

You can get a taste of Detroit’s diversity at spots like Takoi, where awardwinning fine dining meets trendy, Instagrammable Southeast Asian fusion cuisine. If you want something a little more underground, seek out The Shelby—a hip speak-easy built into an old bank vault. And nothing can beat Detroit’s very own Coney Island hot dog for a quick bite.

Once you’re all fueled up, why not cheer for one of Detroit’s many professional sports teams? Summer is the perfect time for a trip to Comerica Park, home of the MLB Detroit Tigers. A new NFL season arrived in August, and any Detroit Lions fan will tell you that there’s a lot of optimism around the team this year. Meanwhile, fans of the other kind of football (aka soccer) can root for the Detroit City FC, a USL Championship team that plays at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck.

Detroit also has much to offer nature lovers. Start with a stroll down the Detroit International RiverWalk, a must-see trail voted best in the country by USA TODAY readers. Along this 3.5-mile stretch, you’ll find no shortage of welcoming green spaces along with plenty of things to discover, including shopping, dining and live entertainment. It even connects to the outdoor Eastern Market via the Dequindre Cut Greenway.

For something a little further from downtown, take a short trip by car or boat to Belle Isle. Situated in the Detroit River, this island is as close to Canada as you can get without a passport. While you’re there, relax at the beautiful Belle Isle Conservatory, stop by the aquarium, or pack a picnic and soak up stunning views of the Detroit skyline.

Whether you come for a reunion, class trip or retreat, your group will find endless experiences that can only happen in The D. And no matter what you love, Detroit will move you. So, bring your unique perspective—along with your appetite for cuisine and culture—and let our city take the lead. When you do, there’s no telling what you’ll discover.

Start planning your group tour today at

20 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023 SPOTLIGHT
Photo © Motown Museum

There are many reasons why groups are inclined to visit destinations at the same time each year. Beaches are more enjoyable in the summer; the mountains are perfect for skiing in the winter. Many planners dismiss the idea of traveling in the fall and spring because of the weather or the worry that there’s not enough to do. Think again! Here are five benefits of traveling to Shores & Islands Ohio during shoulder season.


If you’ve ever traveled with a group in the summer, you know prices can be higher due to high demand. Many Shores & Islands Ohio lodging partners are open all year and want to increase shoulder season bookings. For example, Cedar Point ’s newly-renovated Sawmill Creek Resort is open year-round, and encourages travel for groups and conventions during non-peak times.


There’s nothing worse than spending half your vacation waiting in lines! Smaller crowds also mean more flexibility. If you travel in the off-peak season, you’ll be more inclined to get that last-minute reservation or enjoy a group outing at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center without any wait times for the haunted house, 3-D theater and escape room.


Extreme heat can often put a damper on your trip—no one enjoys spending their day sweating and squinting into the sun. Come to Shores & Islands Ohio in May, September and October to take advantage of the more comfortable weather the spring and fall seasons have to offer and enjoy the thrills of Cedar Point, without the sunburn.

It’s also a wonderful time to visit the tranquil beaches of Lake Erie, without the summer crowds. Sit along the shore and listen to the waves lap in, or walk along the shore with your feet in the stillwarm waters.


By traveling during shoulder season, you’re much more likely to experience things many other tourists often miss. Put-in-Bay, for example, is beautiful in the summertime, but is an even more unique experience in the fall when the leaves are changing. A beautiful autumn ride on the Jet Express, Miller Ferry or Goodtime I allows groups to catch the changing colors and amazing fall sunsets. While on the island, take advantage of services offered by Island Transportation Company and take a ride around the

island to see the beautiful landscape on their open-air tram.

Another beautiful experience in the fall and spring is Schedel Arboretum & Gardens. While stunning in the summer, visiting these gardens in the spring creates a whole new experience with buds blooming and new life starting to form. Lakeside Chautauqua also offers visitors a rare experience when one of Ohio’s most spectacular wildflowers, the endangered Lakeside Daisy, is in bloom from April to May.


While Shores & Islands Ohio offers a variety of events year-round, there are some incredibly unique opportunities in the spring and fall, including a oneof-a-kind event and the “Biggest Week in American Birding,” a 10-day festival in northwest Ohio, known as “The Warbler Capital of the World!” Immerse yourself in spring songbird migration and experience some of the best birding North America has to offer.

Pair a fall visit to Put-in-Bay with the Island Hops and Vine Festival or Oktoberfest and your group will have an experience they’re sure to remember. Events continue on the islands well into October, with popular festivals like the Feathers & Foliage Festival and Wine & Art Fair on Kelleys Island.

We hope you’ll consider the shoulder season to take advantage of all the great experiences available to groups. Businesses mentioned in this post are all partners in our Group Tour Co-op (shoresandislands. com/groups/itineraries). Each of these businesses specializes in amazing group experiences.

For more information on group travel to Shores & Islands Ohio contact or visit 21
Photo © Shores & Islands Ohio

Going on a FAM Trip?


FFamiliarization trips, also known as FAM trips, are an incredible way to experience a destination and all it has to offer first-hand—exactly how your groups would. And while FAM trips are common for group travel planners and aren’t a new concept, there are a number of strategies you could implement to ensure you’re getting the most out of each and every FAM.


Once you know your itinerary or broader destination, start immersing yourself in the area’s history and what it’s known for today. So much of your itinerary will have a deeper context behind it if you experience it while knowing what many locals already do. It’s also a good idea to brush up on and be mindful of any local etiquette or current events.

While many CVBs and DMOs will provide an incredible array of information on their destination, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort to delve deeper and learn background that you could then pass along to your groups.


As you’re doing your research, jot down any questions you may think of which could be answered during the FAM. Even if you think you’ll remember these in the moment, chances are you’ll miss asking a question you’d love to have answered. Also, preparing in advance gives you time to think about other aspects of the experience that might not come to you in the moment.


As you make your way through your FAM’s scheduled events,

notice the people around you who are simply visiting the destination. Are you surprised by the number of bachelorette parties you see? Are there more senior groups than you had imagined? By noticing these details, you can realize the potential to market a certain activity or destination to a type of group you may not have considered before.

It’s also worth exploring some local businesses if you have any downtime in your itinerary (depending on your energy level; rest is important).

Remember: Take lots of photos and videos, as they could be utilized to create marketing or visual content for

22 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023

your social platforms like Instagram, Facebook or TikTok.


While on your FAM, make a conscious effort to network and connect with others on the trip, whether they’re a fellow group travel professional, supplier or otherwise. Bring a notebook and folder so you have

a single place to keep all the materials you’ve gathered organized and from getting crumpled in your luggage. Don’t forget to bring your business cards and to follow up with your new connections after the FAM has concluded! You could even send a snail mail thank-you card to show your appreciation.


While FAM trips are indeed working

trips, they’re also meant to show you— the person selling and organizing these trips for groups—how good of a time your clients could be having on their own adventures. CVBs and DMOs want you to be just as excited about their destination as they are! So take advantage of every opportunity presented to you—even if that means stepping outside of your comfort zone. You never know what you may learn! 23
Temecula FAM Trip. Photo © Sarah Suydam



IIf you want to get a sampling of much of what the U.S. has to offer, but a road trip across the country isn’t in your schedule, there’s one place your group can go that checks so many boxes it’s actually nicknamed America in Miniature.

24 GROUPS TODAY September/October 2023

Maryland, the seventh state in the union, is packed from border to shoreline with incredibly diverse terrain, including the rolling Allegheny Mountains, the marshy Chesapeake Bay, the sandy Atlantic Ocean waterfront, and a blend of rural and urban landscapes in between.

Maryland is steeped in history, with important sites and landmarks throughout the state, and it’s rich in African American roots and culture as well. In addition, it’s home to a variety of arts, entertainment, cuisine, and points of interest, offering plenty of options to build a robust and exciting itinerary. Let’s take a gander at some of the highlights in the state.

Hagerstown , near the Pennsylvania border, is an ideal starting point, being a “Hub City” with ties to railroads, canals, historic roads and aviation. There are a number of museums, including the Ritchie History Museum, located on the original grounds of Fort Ritchie Base, and the new Hagerstown Aviation Museum. With an emphasis on World War II, the Ritchie History Museum features an expansive collection of memorabilia and artifacts, plus exhibits, photographs, publications and more, commemorating the lives and contributions of military trainees over 70 years of military history. At Hagerstown Aviation Museum, groups could view the largest collection of Fairchild aircraft and memorabilia in the world, with 23 historic aircraft and over 10,000 photos and artifacts spanning more than a century of aviation in Hagerstown. There’s also Antietam National Battlefield, a popular stop for those interested in the American Civil War.

Hagerstown Cultural Trail is another visitor favorite. This one-mile trail is easily accessible and filled with

attractions, artwork and sculptures along the way. While strolling the trail, tour the Maryland Theatre and the Jonathan Hager House, home to the founder of Hagerstown; dine at one of the many group-friendly restaurants; and explore Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Southwest of Hagerstown is Frederick County, with much to see and do in its namesake city and beyond. Make the Frederick Visitor Center your first stop to get acquainted with the area, then venture into downtown for boutique shopping, a tour and a show at the Weinberg Center, and a stop to browse the wares at McCutcheon’s Apple Products. The Museum of Frederick County History and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine are both downtown, too, and are considered must-sees for groups.

Outside of downtown Frederick, there’s the city of Catoctin Furnace, which features several Black history and cultural sites, including the Museum of the Iron Worker. Catoctin Mountain Orchard—open May through January—is nearby and offers fruit picking, a bakery, market and gift shop. As your motorcoach departs, be sure to make your way to the county’s three covered bridges: Utica Mills, Loy’s Station and Roddy Road—all within twelve miles of each other. And, don’t leave Frederick County without a scenic excursion or dinner train with Walkersville Southern Railroad. They also offer murder mystery trains periodically. Regular trains operate on weekends from May through October, and charters and special trains run year-round.

Baltimore , is, of course, a requisite destination for groups, with so many draws we can’t begin to mention them all here. Let’s look at some highlights.

With 60% of the city’s population made up of African Americans, Baltimore celebrates its heritage and community through a number of museums and sites. Topping the list is the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, which has art and artifacts dating back to 1784. Groups can take a guided or self-guided tour of the third floor and receive a discounted rate for 10 or more adults. In addition, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum, Maryland Center for History and Culture, Lillie Carroll Jackson 25
(L) Maryland Theatre. Photo © Visit Hagerstown (R) Lexington Market. Photo © Shan Wallace

Civil Rights Museum, National Great Blacks In Wax Museum, and James E. Lewis Museum of Art all give a broader view into Black contributions in the region. Baltimore is also home to a booming art scene, ranging from traditional to unconventional. Check out the Baltimore Museum of Art, which has the largest collection of Matisse works in the world and the Walters Art Museum, with its collection that dates back to 5,000 BCE. There’s also the American Visionary Art Museum—the Nation’s official museum for self-taught artistry—as well as the recently renovated and reopened Peale Museum, one of the oldest museums in the country.

Stage performance is also big in Baltimore, and groups can take in larger productions at the iconic Center Stage, classic plays at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Theater, or Queer theater at the Iron Crow—to name a few. Just about a half hour outside of the city in Columbia is Toby’s Dinner Theatre , a not-to-be-missed destination for groups. Award-winning Broadway plays and original musicals are paired with a plentiful buffet-style dinner featuring a salad bar, carving station, a variety of desserts and a full service bar. Accompanied by a live orchestra, performances are “in-the-round,” providing each guest a seat within 30 feet from the stage.

Group planners should also consider visits to the National Aquarium, Maryland Zoo, Maryland Science Center and Fort McHenry (birthplace of the National Anthem) as part of their itineraries. And, a ballgame at Oriole Park at Camden

Yards is a great option for sports fans. Finally, don’t leave Charm City without a stop at Lexington Market for fresh food, local goods and regional culinary delicacies. It’s the country’s longest continuously operating public market, serving Baltimore for over 230 years.

Next stop, the National Harbor ! It overlooks the Potomac River, and is bursting with sights and activities galore. Stop at Spirit Park, an exhibit that honors the American flag, and stay to enjoy entertainment or a picnic at the amphitheater. Or, rent a boat, walk the promenade, ride the iconic Capital Wheel, shop the Tanger Outlets and the boutique-y Waterfront District, or dine at signature restaurants. For overnight accommodations, two group favorites are MGM National Harbor, a luxury casino resort that also has a state-ofthe-art theater, and Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, the East Coast’s largest non-gaming hotel and convention center.

Any trip to Maryland would be incomplete without partaking in the state’s renowned seafood, and a trip to the Chesapeake Bay area will satisfy that craving and more, with all things crab (and Old Bay), plus lighthouses and maritime history to explore.

(L) Carroll Creek Downtown Frederick. Photo © C. Kurt Holter (R) White Christmas. Photo © Toby's Dinner Theatre Photo © National Harbor 27 AD INDEX Broadway Inbound 14 Disney Theatrical C2 Fly My Group 23 Garrety County Chamber of Commerce 27 History Colorado 27 Maryland Office of Tourism 23 New York City Ballet 5 Rise NY 15 Saratoga Performing Arts Center 12 Sevierville Convention & Visitors Bureau/Chamber of Commerce 19 Shores & Islands Ohio 11 SoIN Tourism 5 St. Louis Symphony Orchestra 15 Toby's Dinner Theatre 15 Top of the Rock Observation Deck 14 Tourism Council of Federick County 19 Visit Atlantic City C4 Visit Baltimore C3 Visit Montgomery County 3 ADVERTISER PAGE

Kelly Craighead


There’s a tremendous opportunity for our industry to expand its meetings, events and group business. Cruise ships have state-of-the-art facilities, entertainment, dining and activities for every interest—all in one location. There’s also the advantage of visiting several destinations along the way.

With such a wide variety of ships, experiences and itineraries, there’s a fit for every occasion. Ship staff are skilled at working with groups, whether multigenerational families, corporate events, meetings, conferences, affinity or incentives groups. Most cruise lines have a dedicated department to support the specific needs of group travel planners.

Group cruising is an effective way to introduce the experience to those who have never sailed, and growing new-to-cruise business is essential for the industry’s future. By 2027, we predict nearly 40 million passengers will cruise—30% more than in 2019. The new ship order book through 2028 shows 62 new cruise ships set to sail, representing a range of ship types and more than $40 billion in investments from cruise lines. Additionally, the appeal of cruising continues to grow, with intent to cruise among both past cruisers and those who’ve never cruised before being higher now than in 2019.


Our latest research ( highlights several trends, including increased interest in cruising by Millennials and GenX-ers. Interest in immersive cruise travel is growing, such as expedition cruising and itineraries with longer stays and overnights. And cruising is especially appealing for multi-generational travel, with family and friends having the most influence on the decision to book a cruise.


KKelly Craighead joined CLIA—the world’s largest cruise industry trade association—in January 2019, bringing 20 years of executive leadership experience from both the public and private sectors, including serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In this role, Craighead served as the U.S. government’s senior representative for all travel and tourism matters.

At CLIA, Craighead is responsible for leading the organization’s efforts as the unified voice of the global cruise community. CLIA’s members are oceangoing and river cruise lines, industry partners, including ports and destinations, and 75,000 travel advisors globally.

Groups Today caught up with Craighead to learn the latest.

Cruising is back, and we’re estimating 31.5 million people will cruise this year, more than ever before. There’s a ship and experience for everyone.

That said, our biggest challenge is misinformation in the public arena that can influence how people view our industry. Often, this is centered around sustainability and responsible travel. Cruising is actually a leader in accessible, responsible and experiential travel, with facts and data to demonstrate this.


The industry is pursuing net-zero carbon cruising by 2050. Cruise lines are investing billions of dollars in reducing emissions both at sea and when visiting ports of call around the world. New energy solutions are being pursued with fuels, electric batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and more. On shore, we’re collaborating with ports to expand the availability of shore power in more locations. And we are working with destinations to help preserve the integrity, culture, heritage and beauty of the places we visit.

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President & CEO Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Photo ©