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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Travel industry sees bank business as a ‘cut above’

Courtesy New York Wine and Culinary Center

New York Wine and Culinary Center
Tanya Hasseler, event sales manager for the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, New York, cites banks’ upscale clientele as her reason for attending the BankTravel Conference in Memphis for the first time.

“Actually, this conference was brought to my attention by someone at the Finger Lakes Visitor Connection,” said Hasseler. “We’re going to go together and present a united front to these banks in Memphis.

“This is a market that fits us as a destination,” she said. “We do our share of regular motorcoach tours, but we have a little more to offer in the way of culinary experiences to more discerning groups.

“We’re one of only two wine and culinary centers in the country — the other is in Napa Valley.”
Hasseler seeks groups that will return to the center as opposed to just coming once and marking it off their sightseeing list.

“I think these banks are groups that will come back to the area. My husband works with a bank up here, and I know many of his customers. These are people who would want to come back once they’ve been here and maybe do a chef’s demo or cooking class.

“A group of 10 to 25 is ideal for a cooking class and for a chef’s demo it would be 10 to 50 or so. For a bank travel program, these experiences are perfect, I think.”

Hasseler will also be sure that bankers understand the allure of the Finger Lakes area in general.

“We want them to hear about the entire spectrum here. This is a wonderful all-around destination for a bank group. Our fall foliage, our winter skiing, our year-round event schedule — it all makes the Finger Lakes a very attractive trip for a bank.”

Newseum Washington D.C.
Linda Jeffries, a sales executive with Newseum, the Washington, D.C., museum that chronicles the history of news and media, attended the BankTravel Conference for the first time last year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She’s coming back.

“I see potential in this market for Newseum,” said Jeffries. “We are expanding our market reach, and what I saw last year was very professionally-run. I was impressed with the conference, and I was impressed with the bank directors as travel producers.

“It didn’t take me long to realize in speaking with bankers last year that their clientele matches our visitor profile,” said Jeffries. “We appeal to better-educated, higher-income travelers who seek interactive experiences and not just sightseeing.

“We also think Washington is somewhere everyone will or should visit, so when banks visit, we want to be on their itineraries.”

Jeffries is still introducing the Newseum to a lot of banks.

“My message in Memphis will be about everything we do as opposed to specific exhibits or events. My sense is that many banks still need to be educated about who we are and what we offer in general for their travelers,” she said.

Jeffries ended with a clincher for this market.

“Last year, when I was planning my appointments, a banker called me when she saw our name on the registration list. We talked, and she ended up booking a group into the Newseum before I ever came to Baton Rouge. I knew then I was talking to the right group of people for us.”

Hardy Flying Reindeer Ranch
Julie Hardy, owner and operator of Hardy 
Flying Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul, Illinois, has been 
attending the BankTravel Conference for “at least the last eight years.”

“I market the ranch as a mystery tour destination, and that really works with these banks,” said Hardy. “We’re in a part of Illinois that you might not think about coming to unless you are looking for a mystery tour.

“Then a lot of these banks return once they’ve come. Frankly, I think a lot of these banks have a more close-knit following than a lot of tour operators do who are filling trips one or two people at a time.”

Hardy likes the word of mouth effect she gets at BankTravel.

“These banks talk a lot to each other at the conference,” she said. “We get very good word of mouth from those who have brought a group to the ranch. That’s very important. If I can get recommendations from other banks, it works to my advantage. They trust one another. 

“And we also get good repeat business from banks,” said Hardy. “Some will ask me to put together a different experience the second time they come, others just bring a new group for the same experience. It varies.”

Hardy is a creative marketer who isn’t afraid to try new things.

“I call us an ‘Alaskan reindeer ranch with a Wild West theme on a Midwest farm,’” she said. “That describes us very well.

“I also put together a three- to four-day package using the surrounding area that I call ‘Looking for the Klondike Kid.’ We use that theme to run the trip, and a posse looks for the kid for three days until they finally find him back here at our ranch. Groups have a great time with it.”