A Chamber Travel Tradition
Though most COC travel programs have begun during the past few years, the Visalia COC has been hosting tours since 2007. A leader in the chamber group travel trend, the Visalia COC increased the number of tours it offers to six a year in 2016.
“We’ve upped the number of tours to give our travelers more options,” said Wissler. “The number of passengers we book depends on the particular tour. We’ve done tours with as few as four, all the way up to 20 individuals in the time I’ve been here.”
If a tour attracts fewer passengers than expected, Wissler doesn’t worry. Her strong partnerships with tour operators allow her to send smaller groups to combine with other groups on a particular tour. The Visalia COC also offers trips to the general public instead of restricting travel membership. This gives her a wider pool of potential travelers, around 500 people currently.
Wissler takes her job of giving her members the trip they want seriously. She sends out surveys to her travelers asking them to indicate their preferences in tour location, price and length.
“We’ve recently realized river cruises are very popular,” she said. “We’ve tried to focus on those and offer one or two of them a year.”
The group often tours Europe, which remains consistently popular. The group has plans in November to explore one of the continent’s most popular countries: Italy.
“We also try to make sure one or two trips are domestic,” said Wissler. “A large percentage of our travelers are retired teachers. They enjoy traveling domestically to historic sites, as well as internationally.”
Job With Many Hats
Just as the Visalia COC offers members much more than a travel program, Wissler’s job duties change daily. On one day, she might work on developing a tour, and on another, she might facilitate the Entrepreneurs Academy for high school students who want to start their own business.
“We have a relatively small staff at our chamber, which means we all wear many hats,” said Wissler. “Because of this, we cannot travel with our group most of the time. Our groups are comfortable traveling together on their own because they are able to meet up with other groups that do have chamber staff members traveling with them.”
Since Wissler’s schedule doesn’t allow her to accompany the travel members on all their trips, she instead makes sure she prepares her members as well as she can before they depart.
“They know I’m the one who is in charge of travel,” said Wissler. “It’s more of a personal relationship. I usually know what they’re going to ask before they ask it.”
• Survey your travelers. Each year, we send out an electronic survey to our travelers asking them to rank 10 to 12 locations.
• Get to know your account representatives at the tour companies, not just the sales rep. It makes a huge difference when you need tour information.
• Travelers always have a lot of questions. But it really is all about customer service.