Young quickly realized that one of the keys to the alumni travel program’s enduring success lay in focusing the tour back on the college.
“When I first started the program, we met a lot of other schools that were sending only a few alumni on a trip,” said Young. “How is that building affinity? Our program has to be more than a travel agency. Instead of selling a lot of tours, we prefer exclusive trips that are only Oberlin travelers.”
Young takes a group photo with an Oberlin banner, includes visits with Oberlin students studying at the destination when possible and makes sure a current faculty member goes on every trip.
“Pairing a faculty host on each trip is really a priority for us,” said Young. “Faculty can add an educational component that the tour might not otherwise have. It’s also important to have someone who is connected back to the college on the tour.”
Young also partners tours with the college’s art museum and conservatory for customized art-themed and music-themed tours.
“I think the travel program really brings people closer to the college,” said Young. “Many of our travelers are alums who haven’t interacted with the college in other ways.”
Small but Mighty
Though the program offers only four trips a year, those tours stay in demand with many repeat travelers.
“I am proud of our program,” said Young. “It is respected because we have kept it a small program with high-quality trips. We try to find a good balance of trips that span the globe. A lot of our alums are very serious travelers and are excited to join our trips.”
Oberlin alumni journey across the continents, with trips to Galapagos, China and Europe regularly scheduled. The group also plans a yearly domestic trip with an active itinerary filled with camping, biking, kayaking and hiking.
Of all the exotic locales Young has explored with the college, China’s Lhasa in Tibet stands out.
“I fell in love with Lhasa,” said Young. “It’s one of those trips that had both the amazing and the challenging. Lhasa is about 12,000 feet altitude, so it is one of the highest cities in the world. We, of course, had warned our travelers about this.”
But even with the cautions, three travelers came down with altitude sickness almost immediately after landing. Despite these worries, she reveled in the city’s monasteries, markets and mountains.
“It’s such a gorgeous city,” said Young. “The people are so friendly, and their clothing is so colorful. It was a highlight, and simultaneously, I had a lot of anxiety.”
Even with the unavoidable complications that come with travel, Young remains just as dedicated to traveling as she did after her first taste of it in Germany.
“If I don’t have a trip coming up in the future, I’m nervous until I can figure out where I can go next,” said Young. “I’m always looking for some new adventure.”
- Include as many touch points for your travelers as possible, such as welcome letters, post-trip photo sharing and thank-you notes.
- Enhance the educational travel aspect of your tours with faculty hosts who have relevant expertise and a willingness to socialize with your travelers.
- Offer as many exclusive tours as possible, since they enhance the connection your travelers have with the college and each other.