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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Marketing your program: That’s the ticket!

A bank director recently revealed that air travel was becoming overwhelming to her.

“To take 30 or 40 people through an airport, get checked in, go through security and finally board a plane — all have become herculean tasks. We no longer receive any help from the airlines; we’re on our own when it comes to toting the luggage, and while I’m not a prude, I’ve personally been uncomfortably touched and searched by a TSA agent,” she reported.

Although this travel leader did not want to be identified, she can rest assured that she is not alone in her frustration. Bank directors usually wear a happy face in front of their customers, but at the end of a travel day, many are closing the door and collapsing in exhaustion even before the tour begins.

Expert tips
Two seasoned professionals chimed in with advice for these weary directors, and both have had their share of airports.

Ann Davis, president of Cruises and Tours Worldwide in St. Louis has been in the business for 30 years, works with approximately 50 bank clubs nationwide and, in the past 12 months, has taken 21 trips.

Suzie Glisson has been a bank director for 13 years and takes around four extended trips annually with her Prime Time club from the Jacksonville Savings Bank in Jacksonville, Illinois. Typically, there are 35 to 50 customers on each of her journeys.

These two globetrotters first addressed the issue of luggage.

“We’ve all heard it before, but it’s so important to instruct your travelers to pack light,” said Glisson.
“Twice in the last year, we have had to disembark on the tarmac — you never know when this is going to happen. With 50 people gingerly making their way down those skinny, metal stairs, it was nearly impossible to carry heavy carry-on luggage, and it didn’t matter if the luggage had wheels. My husband happened to be with us, but he could only carry so many suitcases.”

Davis emphasized that it is especially important to keep it light and simple when traveling overseas. “Oftentimes in foreign countries, you have to carry that bag up and down stairs and on and off shuttle buses as you make your way to and from the aircraft,” said Davis.

Glisson added that regional planes will often require carry-on baggage to be checked at the gate, and people panic when they have put their medication and passports in that bag.

“Believe me when I tell you we have had one of those gate-checked bags lost. Medication and passports should be on your person at all times.”

Preparation is the key
Davis reminds bank directors that a smooth check-in process with the airlines can be accomplished if directors supply tour operators with each traveler’s name exactly as it appears on their identification cards, and the birth dates and genders of their travelers.

“We can never assume that ‘Billie’ is a male or female. And for international flights, be sure that your tour operator is supplying the airline with passport information on all of your guests, as this can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to check in,” she said.

Before her group even leaves the bank parking lot, Glisson takes the time to check passports on the motorcoach. “People keep their out-of-date passports, and I admit I’m guilty of this. It’s too easy to grab the wrong passport before you walk out the door,” she said.

Having moved hundreds of customers through airports each year, Davis is convinced that travelers view going through security as the biggest hassle of their trip. “If you prepare correctly, that process really doesn’t need to be difficult,” she said.

Davis advises bank directors again and again to keep liquids, gels and creams in three-ounce bottles in light, carry-on bags that can be easily taken through security lines.

“Place those bottles in a quart-size bag, pack it, and keep it easily accessible to place it in the bin. On flight days, women should not wear heavy jewelry, and men should not wear large metal belt buckles or carry pockets full of change. Be sure to have the guys leave those pocketknives at home or in their checked bags.

“And if needed, make arrangements for a wheelchair in the airports as soon as possible,” she added.

Put yourself in good hands
Glisson was referring to Davis and many other favorite vendors when she offered her last piece of advice: “Hire a good tour company,” she said.

“There are many reasons why this is important, but I can’t tell you how many times my group has been threatened with a delay or cancellation in a foreign place. While that is bad news for any bank director, it is extremely comforting to know that these situations won’t become disasters because I know the tour operator is following our every move — even though they aren’t always physically with us.

“When I see the words ‘delayed’ or ‘canceled’ posted beside our flight, I am confident that hotel reservations have already been made for us, and no one will be sleeping on an airport floor that night.”

Davis added that bank directors should be confident that their tour operator will secure the best possible flight schedule.

“There is rarely a reason to have a double connection and a long layover if the proper research was done at the outset of the trip planning,” she said. “Also, be sure to have the tour operator include luggage handling whenever possible. We use airport skycaps so our travelers don’t have to haul their luggage into the airport, onto the scale and over to the TSA X-ray.” 

Finally, a rarely weary Davis advised travel leaders to lead in attitude as well as instruction.

“It just absolutely befuddles me when people say they don’t fly because they don’t want to go through the hassle. My feeling is that those people have allowed Osama bin Laden to win by taking away their freedom to travel. Travel is rejuvenating and fun, not to mention that it connects cultures and enriches lives.

“Prepare yourself properly before you leave home, put on your happy face, and you’ll have a wonderful trip.”