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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Checking in with Webb Brown

Memory Maker

Choosing the lesser-known destinations has created some incredible cultural experiences for Brown and his chamber members. Cuba in particular stuck with Brown long after he left.

“In Cuba, we saw people living in difficult situations,” said Brown. “They were some of the friendliest and happiest people I’ve ever met. It’s those little things that you remember.”

Brown uses these priceless reminiscences to reconnect with group members even after the trip has ended. He will forward articles he finds on Cuba and other past trips to former members of those tours.

“The article will rekindle that memory and reconnect the people who had that experience,” said Brown. “It’s an opportunity for them to keep the trip alive in their memory going forward.”

On each trip, Brown makes sure at least one employee from the chamber is accompanying the group. The employee can help keep an eye on the group to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves, and the head count is always double checked.

“The trips have become like a chamber employee reward,” said Brown. “Everyone has taken a group somewhere. So it’s a little bit of a reward to go on some of these great destinations.”

Since the Montana COC members take international trips, Brown makes sure the travelers receive all the information they will need, such as electrical outlet information, currency exchange numbers and how to set up an international cell phone plan.

The chamber also plans predeparture get-togethers to give the group information on the destination’s culture and build anticipation. At the predeparture party for China, the group practiced with chopsticks and won prizes relating to Chinese culture.


Mixing Business with Travel

Unlike many other group travel operations, Brown doesn’t use his chamber’s travel program solely as a reward or a fundraiser. Brown also seeks to promote international trade through the tours, as well as raise funds.

“If people are traveling internationally, they start thinking, ‘Well, I could do business internationally, too,’” said Brown. “[But] we learned early on not to sell it as a business trip. Don’t give people that idea.”

The trips not only plant the idea of international trade in travelers’ minds, but also raise funds for trade missions that the Montana COC supports. Mixing travel with business has worked for the chamber as well as for Brown.

Brown has plans to visit his 50th state, Ohio, later this year. He is also considering numerous future trips for the chamber group, including South Africa, Vietnam and the group’s first domestic destination.

“We don’t want to compete with our local travel agencies that are doing domestic destinations, so we’ve talked about partnering with them,” said Brown. “One of our local chambers is doing a trip to Music City. So we’re watching to see how that turns out.”


Travel Tips

• When chambers take group tours, they should try to work a little business into them. What revenue we raise, we plow right back into international trade efforts.

• Always have somebody from your organization on the tour, if you can.

• Keep your travelers engaged even after the trip.