Why Should Tour Operators Choose Our Destination?
By Kate Kane

If you’ve ever been in charge of your family’s vacation plans, you know that picking the right destination with just the right itinerary is a lot of pressure. You want everyone to have fun, and you want them to have great memories of the trip.

Now imagine choosing that perfect destination for 15-50 strangers and convincing them to trust your vacation planning skills. That’s what a group tour planner must do. And they need to make money on top of that. It is a business after all.

There are so many wonderful places to see in the both the U.S. and abroad. How do you choose for your family? Do you think it would be tougher for a tour operator or group leader?

The challenge of the destination is to give them a compelling reason to visit.

Tour Operators and Group Leaders: How They Plan

When considering future destinations, tour operators often look at some of their most successful trips. They ask themselves why those were successful. They may even decide to run the same tour again in hopes of getting new customers. But what do they offer loyal customers who are looking for new vacation experiences?  They research similar destinations.  They look at new destinations. They look at getting lots of bang for their buck.

Established destinations that draw millions like New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. may not have to work so hard to sway tour operators or group leaders. Though we residents know SoIN is a special place, we are not an established tourist destination.

How Do We Attract Tour Planners?

One of our organization’s top priorities is to market Southern Indiana to these tour planners.  We sell the idea of our assets and partners to these tour planners. We are constantly selling them on the idea that our destination will give them:

  1. Lots to see and do
  2. Value for their hard-earned money
  3. A successful tour: a combination of comfortable accommodations, group-friendly dining, interesting attractions and experiences

When I meet with tour planners, I ask what they’re looking for, and I try to deliver it to them. Some may want a basic tour centered around vacation. Some planners may want a themed tour around topics like African-American history, food, drink, or Lewis and Clark. Once we know what a group is looking for, we can craft an itinerary around their needs. Not every attraction will be on every itinerary, but we will definitely provide every option we can.

Experiences = Success in SoIN

Southern Indiana has had the most success selling experiences. Derby Dinner Playhouse – one of our top group tour attractions – delivers high caliber entertainment where the audience is so close to the actors they could reach out and touch them. Both Huber’s Orchards, Winery and Vineyards and Joe Huber’s Family Farm and Restaurant offer experiences like pick-your-own produce and tasting wines. Schimpff’s Confectionery has been demonstrating their cinnamon red hot candy making to groups for years.

These experiences put groups on the front row of the process.

These days, travel and vacations are all about experiences. Big or small, destinations must be able to deliver experiences that leave visitors with an emotional attachment. And each partner must play his or her role.

Thinking beyond local is the key to our success. The CTB is working with our partners to cultivate even more experiences so we can sell them to tour operator and group leader clients.

Do you have an experience at your place that we can help promote? Contact Kate Kane for assistance.

So, what’s the difference between a tour operator and a group leader?

  • A Tour Operator is a company that makes a living by running tours. The company may or may not own its own buses. It can take many tours throughout the year.
  • A Group Leader is a person who runs a group that may take a few trips in a year but who doesn’t make a living by running tours.