Along with another employee at the bank, Day started overseeing the travel club in 1987. One winter 20 years ago, an unusual idea breathed new energy into the program.
“It’s so hard to plan things during the wintertime,” said Day. “You don’t want to get stuck with nonrefundable tickets. Valentine’s Day was a sad time for our widowers and widows, so we wanted to plan a Valentine’s Day party for them. We decided to do a talent show with our staff.”
The community proved extremely enthusiastic about this idea. The first year brought 200 attendees. The second year, that number almost doubled. The bank eventually opened the event to the public and had to book the local municipal hall just to hold everyone.
“We had 1,800 people the first year we opened it to the public,” said Day. “The bigger the audience, the more pressure to up the quality. People were coming from everywhere to see the show. We hired caterers, a production company and marketing company. It was the Golden Club chicken that laid an egg.”
Day developed each show around a theme, such as a cruise, then worked in jokes and acts from talented bank staff and their relatives. Proceeds went to local charities, but the bank received plenty of new business after each show. Though Day had to quit organizing the show four years ago because of time restraints, she still remembers the time fondly.
Selling Like Hotcakes
Instead of taking a gamble on an untested destination to see how well it will sell, Day intentionally chooses trips she knows will sell out fast and offers eight to 10 of them each year.
“A lot of group leaders throw stuff against a wall and see what happens,” said Day. “They will have to cancel a lot of trips. I feel like I’ve failed my group if I have to cancel a trip. In the last newsletter we put out, there was a waitlist for a second departure to the Canadian Rockies. Our Ohio Amish trip sold out within five days. Our mystery trips, especially, sell out in 24 hours or less. If it doesn’t immediately sell out, I freak out because it literally sells like hotcakes.”
Each year, Day plans at least one international and one longer North American trip. She often adds second departures for these trips to meet the demand. To leave nothing to chance, Day even spends time customizing every tour rather than simply plucking it from a catalog.
To advertise these crowd-pleasing trips, Day merely sends out two newsletters a year, and she relies on word of mouth for the rest. She credits her trip-selection process and customer service for the club’s ongoing success.
“If you don’t love people, then you need to find something else to do,” said Day. “In my opinion, another thing that has helped is that I ask them repeatedly where they want to go. The success of the club was not losing sight that it’s their vacation and not ours. I have eaten at the same places and gone to the same places because it’s their vacation.”