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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Checking in with Jill Becker

Hyped for Hydroponics

Becker doesn’t just stick to familiar travel favorites. Her ability to continuously suggest new, outside-the-box ideas helps keep the group interested.

For example, the club recently visited a hydroponic factory, which appealed to the local agricultural community in northern Illinois. The visit attracted the curiosity of members who knew a lot about farming but hadn’t seen produce grown in a factory setting before.

Becker knows her group well enough to think of attractions that might interest her members, such as a World War II Memorial trip that appeals to the group’s veterans and a Girls’ Day Out to treat the numerous female travelers. Instead of sticking to one demographic, Becker tries to include a variety of travel preferences.

From April through December, Becker stays busy with one day-trip a month; a handful of overnight trips; and about four longer trips a year, one of which is usually international.

Over the years, Becker has noticed that the group’s age range has expanded. Instead of writing off those still in the workforce, Becker tries to include trips to attract her 50- and 60-year-old members.

“We are seeing more people at a younger age get involved,” said Becker. “We’ll be talking to people who say they can’t wait to turn 50 so they can go on these trips. That’s good to see people getting involved before they are retired. These are people interested in discovering beautiful and exciting places.”

Small-Town Effect

Becker and Simkins credit some of their program’s success to the bank’s rural location, where locals might not be as travel savvy as those from larger cities and are thus more attracted to group trips than to individual vacations.

“People from here are hesitant to take trips,” said Simkins. “They’re worried about what to do with their cars and how expensive it is. They aren’t used to driving in the city and don’t want to. People are grateful and excited to have the conveniences of group travel available to them so they don’t have to worry about anything.”

Becker and Simkins send out quarterly newsletters and plan informational events promoting their trips. However, Becker believes a lot of the group’s marketing comes from word of mouth.

To encourage members to spread the word, Becker enlists a board of members each year that serve as ambassadors for the club out in the community. Other new members come from firsthand experience.

“Our members are welcome to bring a guest with them on our trips,” said Becker. “That’s how we get a lot of new members. They go on the tour and then immediately want to sign up.”

Demand for the Vista Club’s trips stays high enough that planning for 2017 has wrapped up, with the focus now on 2018 and 2019. Becker’s excitement for those future trips is contagious and will no doubt continue to fuel her program’s growth.

Travel Tips

  • Never forget the power of a smile.
  • Know your travelers, and take them to places that will interest them.
  • Personal experience is the best knowledge. Go and experience a place for yourself, and then bring your group.