Around the World and Back
When deciding where Northwestern University alumni should venture next, Klus thinks globally.
“We try to spread our trips across the world with a few in each continent,” said Klus. “A lot of our trips are in Europe because those are the most popular.”
The program even ventures to Antarctica every couple of years. However, the alumni can also opt for tours closer to home.
“With everything going on in the world, our domestic trips have picked up quite a bit,” said Klus. “Our trips to national parks, Alaska and the Canadian Rockies have sold very well. We’re seeing a lot more interest in staying in North America.”
The alumni program uses tour operators for all its tours except for trips to Northwestern football games and a yearly Broadway-themed trip to New York City.
“Northwestern has a very big theater program, so there are a lot of alumni involved in theater,” said Klus. “We plan the trip around shows that are either produced or starring Northwestern alumni.”
Connecting the trip to other alumni has become a focus for the travel program because of the enthusiastic response from travelers. Anytime a tour visits a city with a large alumni population, Klus invites the resident alumni and students to an event with the travelers.
“When we went to South America in February, we had a lot of alumni and actual students join us at the reception,” said Klus. “People really enjoyed it. We have four to five events a year to cities where we can invite the local alumni.”
Keeping in Touch
Instead of referring traveler inquiries to her tour operator partners, Klus keeps the alumni travel program’s phone number on all of the association’s marketing materials.
“We want them to call us instead of the tour operator,” said Klus. “They feel taken care of by us this way.”
Not long before each trip, Klus asks each traveler for a personal biography that she can mail out to travelers as a sort of early introduction. The program also sends out numerous souvenirs branded with the college’s logo, such as stickers, luggage straps, umbrellas, posttrip photo albums and bookmarks with upcoming trips, to keep Northwestern top-of-mind for travelers.
However, after all of these customer service efforts, Klus says it’s the connections made during the trip that keep the alumni engaged.
“People love to travel,” said Klus. “If they can travel with their university, all the better. You really bond with people when you’re with them for seven to 12 days in a row. It’s a great way to connect with your university. You’re more likely to come to other Northwestern events if you have a great experience on one of these trips.”
• Establish relationships with people who do the same job at other organizations. They are great resources for asking questions and benchmarking your program.
• Plan events where your travelers can meet alumni living in the international destinations they’re visiting.
• Send well-prepared hosts. Make sure they know their travelers, the tour itineraries and their responsibilities inside out.