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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Checking in with Nicola Wissler

Visalia Chamber of Commerce

Visalia, California

The Visalia Chamber of Commerce has hosted group travel since 2007. The travel program offers five to seven tours each year to its members and the general public. The chamber has about 500 people on its travel mailing list, with more than 60 people expected to travel with the chamber in 2016.

Born: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Education: B.S. in political science at Northern Arizona University

Employment:  After college, Wissler worked for a nonprofit to promote civic education to high school students and at a nonprofit management company. She joined the Visalia Chamber of Commerce three years ago. 

Family: Married to Daniel for 11 years, with two boys, ages 7 and 5.

Hobbies: Wissler enjoys volleyball, soccer, reading, movies and volunteering.

The moment every travel planner dreads is when a traveler’s flight is canceled. Nicola Wissler, education and workforce development manager for the Visalia Chamber of Commerce (COC), hates these types of difficulties, since she has to rely on others to fix the problem.

“The hardest part of my job is when something doesn’t go right that’s not in my control,” she said. “They’ve missed a flight, or a hotel room wasn’t available. Those are things that are part of travel that I can’t do anything about, except assure them that people are doing their best to help them.

“I try to just keep them calm.”

Tour operator partners handle a lot of the travel ins and outs for the chamber, and Wissler works to build personal relationships with her travelers. Though bumps in the road are her least favorite part about the job, the rewards of satisfied travelers more than make up for it.

“We’ll send out a survey once everyone’s returned from a trip,” said Wissler. “They are usually so grateful that we were able to provide them with the opportunity to travel. They are a really fun group.”

Wissler takes the highs and the lows of working with the Visalia COC’s travel program in stride because, at the end of the day, she loves making travel dreams a reality.

From Poli-Sci to Group Travel

Wissler began traveling in her youth when she left Visalia to work toward a college degree in political science at Northern Arizona University. She moved to San Francisco before eventually returning to Visalia six years ago.

So when she was first approached to head the travel program for the Visalia COC, Wissler had a wealth of travel experience upon which to draw.

“I’ve always done a lot of traveling,” she said. “My family traveled a lot, and my previous job required that I travel internationally. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing.

“So when I came to work for the chamber, and they said there was a travel program, I thought it was something that I would really enjoy doing.”

The differences between traveling solo and planning group travel for strangers are vast, so Wissler learned on the job what matters most to her members.

“Luckily, we have really great travel partners who take care of the basic travel stuff,” said Wissler. “It’s interesting to learn from my travelers what their concerns are. Everyone is concerned with the weather and the level of activity. Those are things I wouldn’t have thought of myself, but when we’re planning these tours, we have to take them into consideration.”