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Career Corner: The Learner

The challenge of group travel is keeping a collection  of individuals happy. To provide great experiences that encourage people to travel with your group again, you must not only determine what your travelers like but also deliver those wish lists with gusto.

To assist, Select Traveler is featuring a six-part series in 2014 on the many travel personalities you’ll find on the motorcoach, along with suggestions that just might be more than memorable to those diverse personalities. While it is impossible to offer an excursion that will make everyone happy, here you will find opportunities to create special-interest tours and even ideas for free time, those times when participants can choose to enjoy what pushes their personal buttons.

In the last issue, we discussed the connector. In this issue, we are discussing the learner. In the next issue, you can look forward to the vacationer, the final travel personality in this series.


Most seasoned travel leaders will smile and nod their heads when they read about the learner. They’ll recognize that guy on the motorcoach who has brochures stuffed in his pocket, a pen behind his ear and a thick journal tucked underneath his arm.

He is the one who most appreciates your educational venues, and he is sometimes a few minutes late returning to the bus when you’re visiting places he can’t resist. Stop by the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and he will return to the motorcoach being the only one who knows how many shuttle missions were launched from the facility (135). Visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville? Your learner will have Derby trivia memorized and test his fellow travelers over dinner that night with questions about horses that have won the race.

And when a local tour guide is onboard? Let’s just say that guide had better know her stuff because the learner will ask detailed questions — and lots of them.



A Textbook Example

Lynda Stenseng, director of 55 Connection at the First National Bank Bemidji in Bemidji, Minnesota, did smile in recognition when asked if she had a learner in her group.

“Indeed. Betsy [not her real name] is a retired educator, has traveled with us for 20 years, and everyplace we visit is like going into a candy store for Betsy,” Stenseng said.

As the one who tediously plans much of 55 Connection’s travels, Stenseng appreciates the rewards she receives when Betsy showers her with appreciation after every stop.

“You know she is going to praise everything, and you know she goes home and thinks about all she has learned,” said Stenseng. “And when a tour guide asks if anyone has any questions? Oh, boy — you know she is going to ask questions that no one ever thought to ask. Betsy could never come up with a favorite trip she has been on because every trip has been her favorite.”

Though at times those endless questions frustrate her fellow travelers, Stenseng said, “I think all of us would agree that if everyone could see the world through Betsy’s eyes, the world would be a better place.”


Extended Learning Tours Aim To Please

Travelers like Betsy choose their trips with their personal learning in mind. “For instance, you’d never see Betsy take a casino trip,” said Stenseng.

But Stenseng said Betsy would be enthralled to have a behind-the-scenes tour at any educational venue they might visit. Lucky for Stenseng and all travel leaders with learners onboard, behind-the-scenes tours are abundant these days.

At the Toledo Zoo in Ohio, those tours include visiting a VIP area to observe the polar bears. At the Huntsville Botanical Gardens in Alabama, a behind-the-scenes visit tells the personal stories of the Garden of Hope, which is dedicated to cancer survivors. And at the Hershey Theatre in Pennsylvania, groups are led through and given details on the Grand Lobby, the balcony, the dressing rooms, secret passageways and more.

Factories producing jewelry, candy and cars are also inviting visitors to observe the tricks of their trades. The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, a historic home in Michigan, offers a variety of behind-the-scenes tours that show off this private estate’s massive gardens, the renowned architecture, an impressive collection of art and antiques, and the quarters where the staff once lived and worked.

“What is attractive about behind-the-scenes tours is that they appeal to everyone,” said Stenseng. “Giving my group members, including Betsy, the opportunity to go above and beyond the usual sights, sounds and tastes of your run-of-the-mill tour is a way to make everyone happy.”