Jones has learned over the years how to select destinations that will attract the attention of her numerous alumni members despite the fact that they live all over the world — a challenging proposition, to say the least.
“Choosing trips that will sell is one of the hardest parts of the job,” said Jones. “We had one golf trip to Ireland that was really successful, and we’ve offered others that weren’t. We listen to travel companies to see what they recommend. We look at our past history and where the world seems to be the safest at the moment.”
France, Italy, Peru and China have proven popular choices for Hopkins alumni lately, though Jones works hard to also sprinkle in new destinations. She enjoys offering some of the more exotic destinations, such as Tanzania, Cuba and Bhutan.
“Bhutan is so remote and so limited to tourism,” she said. “That trip brought out the traveler that really wants an adventure or something different. Hiking up to Tiger’s Nest with our group was really memorable.”
About half of Johns Hopkins’ trips feature a faculty member.
“The Hopkins faculty that go add so much to the program,” said Jones. “They will add another dimension to the program. It’s hard to get them on every trip, so when we can’t, we’ll send a Johns Hopkins host, who is very conversational and helpful during the trip.”
Her office will often send out a list of books or articles provided by the faculty or from the Johns Hopkins’ alumni virtual library that relate to the upcoming tour. During the tour, they will speak on a topic from their field of study that lends a new perspective on the location.
Since the university’s alumni live around the globe, Jones has to rely on numerous methods to keep her travelers connected. She will send out journals, hats, luggage tags and informational material by mail before the trip.
After the trip, she encourages travelers to share their contact information and photos with each other by email to stay in touch. She will then follow up with a thank-you note from the host or professor, with photos from the trip in a photo card.
A consistent highlight in Jones’ job comes whenever her alumni make new friends and come back with their own “baboon in the window” stories they will tell for years to come.
“We use evaluation forms on every trip,” said Jones. “It’s so nice to read when they give the trip a 10. A lot of institutions can provide travel, so if we can make them feel the Hopkins program is the one they want to connect with, then we are doing our job right.”
Travel Tips from Jones
• Carefully vet your travel providers.
• Create as many touch points with travelers as possible with things like welcome and farewell letters, reading materials, posttrip photo sharing, email sharing, surveys and social media.
• Send a professor who can provide both an educational and a social dimension to the trip.