Courtesy Gaylord Opryland
It’s November and lots of travel destinations are putting their plans together to sell to banks at the BankTravel Conference in Virginia Beach, February 5-7. In light of that, we at Bank Travel Management took a look at where banks are headed based on the comprehensive travel profiles we gained from nearly 200 different bank programs through our annual membership directory, published in July.
“This is a great time to reflect on where many of these banks are going this year and next,” said Bank Travel Management publisher Mac Lacy. “Many travel industry members are doing their planning now for the upcoming conference, and recognizing how widespread the travel is, both domestically and internationally, really underscores what can be accomplished during your appointments at BankTravel.”
We had conversations with three bankers who plan to be in Virginia Beach. Margaret Dean of Alliant Bank in Alexander City, Alabama; Betty Snitchler of Sterling Federal Bank in Sterling, Illinois; and Karen Geersen of Security First Bank in Martin, South Dakota, were all happy to talk about their upcoming trips.
“Nashville, Tennessee, is always a hit for us,” said Dean. “We stay at the Opryland Hotel, which is awesome itself, and we take in the shows, the food, everything. Sometimes we go downtown, and sometimes we just stay at the Opryland complex and have a good time right there. I can always get a group up for that.”
Branson’s a winner
“Branson,” said Snitchler, when I asked about a sure winner.
“We did it last year, and we’ll go again next year. Our groups love the shows, and this past year, to change it up some, we went out to the College of the Ozarks, and the students there served us lunch. It’s a bit outside Branson, and we really enjoyed that, too.
“We also do very well with Door County in the fall,” said Snitchler. “The colors are outstanding there. We’ll do a traditional fish boil, visit the apple orchards and maybe do a cruise on the lake.
“And we’re doing a New England/Canada cruise this month [October],” she continued. “That’s a nine-day cruise we’re doing with TBI Tours on Norwegian Cruise Lines.”
“Well, we mix it up a lot, but we can always get a group up for Deadwood, South Dakota,” said Geersen. “That’s a go-to destination for us. And we can always take a group to Branson and to New England for fall foliage. Those are trips you can count on, too.”
International destinations also have a few shining stars with today’s banks. The research this year tabbed Ireland as the top foreign destination, and Dean plans a trip there soon.
Pubbing in Ireland
“We’ve been twice already,” she said. “We do the southern part of the country primarily. We go to Blarney, have dinners in pubs, visit an Irish farmhouse for tea and scones: It’s all great. We’ve done that trip with Trips. And we did a Greece cruise with Trips, too, using Oceana Cruise Lines. If things settle down over there, I’m sure we’ll go again. It was wonderful.”
“Most of our international travel is to Canada,” said Snitchler. “We actually took two groups to the Canadian Rockies this summer. We went back-to-back in July and August because there was so much interest. We took 44 on the first trip and 34 on the second.
“We did those trips with TBI Tours and had great weather both times. We stayed in Banff and had dinner in Lake Louise. And on the way, we went to Montana to Glacier National Park. We stayed in the lodge there. Everyone should go there at least once, I tell you.”
Snitchler even made the trip out there an experience.
“We took Amtrak from Milwaukee out to Montana to start the trip,” she said. “That was fun, and we spent one night out there at Whitefish. I’d recommend that to anyone.”
Geersen said her travelers are sitting tight right now for international trips due to the economy both here and in Europe, but her bank is headed to Hawaii next spring.
“We’re going with CTN Travels,” she said. “We already have 54 signed up to go.”
The conversation then turned to younger travelers, girlfriend getaways and culinary trips, three of the more nontraditional areas our research touched on this summer.
“I think I can get some younger travelers on a Mediterranean cruise next October,” said Geersen. “I’m going to try. And we had a younger crowd go with us a while back to Las Vegas for NASCAR in Vegas. We took about 20 for a weekend out there including the race and a trip to Hoover Dam. They really enjoyed it.”
“My travelers are still mature,” said Dean. “I’m not seeing the baby boomers just yet. But I did take a New York trip that was entirely women because the men don’t care about shopping and the shows. And I took women to Atlanta for ‘Menopause the Musical.’”