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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Good Day Trips Can Build Years of Loyalty

When Mary Beth Kurasek of Busey Bank started digging around, she realized that a plethora of incredible destinations lay within easy driving distance of Champaign, Illinois. Previously, her bank had only booked longer trips. But once she saw the fall foliage tours, baseball games and other enticing festivals that lay within a short drive, she began embracing the group day trip.

Though exotic destinations immediately attract attention, there is normally a significant portion of loyalty program members who don’t want to expend the time or money involved in a long international trip. Engaging a wider net of travelers with day trips develops more loyalty to your organization, as well as a stronger comfort level with the group. Someone who loved a day trip to a Chicago Cubs game is much more likely to find the money and time to go on a longer trip than someone with no previous group travel experience.

For day trips to be successful in encouraging engagement and recruiting travelers for longer trips, they must be impressive. These tips can help you plan an exciting day trip.

The Three-Hour Rule

Generally, a day trip’s destination is no farther than three hours away. Any farther requires a rest stop, which adds more time onto the trip and starts to feel like you are spending more time riding than at the destination.

Contact your local or state convention and visitors bureau to discover what travel possibilities exist within a three-hour radius of your town. These tourism officials will often know of attractions and group experiences previously unknown to you.

While deciding where to go, also experiment with what day of the week to attract different age groups. When Carolyn Grieve with Arvest Bank Benton County in Arkansas looked over her past trips, she noticed all the bank’s trips fell during the week.

“The only people that can go during the week are retirees,” said Grieve. “So I put together my first nontraditional trip on a Saturday night. It’s designed for the person who can’t go at other times.”

Thanks to her efforts, the travel club started attracting people 41 to 93 years old, with about 50 percent of the participants still in the workforce.

Trying day trips at various times can surprise you with who shows up.

Think VIP

Instead of simply taking the group to a nearby city’s museum, make the tour more tempting with a behind-the-scenes tour or an experiential activity. If the focus lies on an experience that only groups can access, it makes a place that may seem everyday to a local suddenly worth traveling for.

For example, sell your trip to the Indianapolis Art Museum with an Evergreen Wreath Workshop or a Ladies Night Out tour that combines both an impressive museum with an event they won’t want to miss.

Local tourism officials can help you construct a themed tour or experiential activities that give your trip more interest than if you planned everything yourself.

Susie Cleckner of Mechanics Bank in Mansfield, Ohio, always tries to choose day trip themes she knows her travelers will sign up for, such as a wine tour of Geneva on the Lake or a nostalgic musical theater trip to central Ohio. If not a themed trip, she relies on another popular day-trip angle: events.

Watching the Cleveland Indians play while enjoying club seating and dinner remains one of her club’s favorite outings. Day trips often revolve around sporting events or festivals. These types of events appeal to travelers who want to avoid the logistics of parking in a crowd, acquiring tickets and other hassles present at certain events.

Attention to Detail

For many loyalty travel program directors, organizing a day trip can sometimes seem like more work than an international trip, since they can’t hand off all the details to a tour operator. However, by partnering with a convention and visitors bureau, you can receive a lot of direction for choosing restaurants that accommodate groups and other planning logistics.

Even with this assistance, you will need to plan everything, including a backup plan in case something goes awry. Because you have only a day, it’s important to make every minute count, but not to the point where the group members feel rushed. Build in extra time at every stop so members don’t feel hustled through the day.

Day trips always involve some time on a motorcoach, so try to add fun to the ride itself. Kimberly Dockery of Merchants Bank of Alabama in Cullman fills her motorcoach with drinks, candy, cookies, snacks and anything else she can think of to add to the experience. The snacks can set a more sociable tone to the trip from the start.

Other group leaders help pass the time on the motorcoach by playing movies, passing out games or even providing entire meals. For example, if your motorcoach sets out early in the morning, providing a boxed breakfast of muffins, miniature ham biscuits and juice both avoids a meal stop and adds a tasty element to everyone’s morning.

Once everything is planned, use these short and sweet trips as an appetizer for any longer trips your program offers in the future.