Change is in the air

by Brian Jewell 22. May 2013 01:26

Change is in the air this spring. It’s not just the flipping of calendar pages that lets us know that life is changing. Examine the group travel landscape around you, and you might notice that it looks remarkably different from the industry you remember of 10 or even five years ago. The passing of the World War II generation and the entry of baby boomers into the group travel market have brought a profound shift in the way we think about tourism.

Along with this new generation and new attitude have come new travel tastes and habits. Savvy tour operators and destination marketers are finding new ways to package trips, even to the cities, states and countries that have been strong players in the tourism market for years.

Group leaders would do well to bring some of this new energy and perspective into the way they plan travel as well. Last year’s itineraries won’t cut it in 2013. This year, it’s time to take some risks and try something new with your travel plans. Just because you’ve never done something before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done; it just means you have new adventures to discover.

In that spirit, we at The Group Travel Leader always try to highlight a number of new opportunities and new approaches to tourism that you can use to plan creative, enriching group experiences. For example, we recently included a round-up of outdoor music series and venues around the country where you can take your group to hear everything from symphonic performances to indie rock and electronica DJs. We’ve also shone a spotlight on shows around the country that go beyond standard musical revues to offer unique and memorable entertainment options for groups.

For a really groundbreaking experience for your group, consider taking a tour to Cuba. Since the U.S. government created provisions for certain types of group travel to Cuba in 2011, this country has become one of the most sought-after destinations in our industry. I was fortunate enough to visit with a group last summer, and wrote a feature article on my travel there.

We hope our articles inspire you to do something new with your group in 2013. Take a look at these ideas with an open mind, and let us know what you think.

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Travel Thoughts

2012 Cactus League Baseball

by Bob Hoelscher 7. May 2012 20:15

During the second half of February, the “Boys of Summer” traditionally report to training camp in either Florida or Arizona to get in shape and hone their skills for the upcoming Major League Baseball season. March, however, features a full schedule of “practice” games which allows managers and coaches to evaluate their minor league talent and determine which “rookies” are likely to best complement the team’s established major leaguers.

Nobody takes these “Grapefruit League” and “Cactus League” contests too seriously. The weather is not only nice, but fans can also get relatively close to their favorite stars. Consequently, the annual one-month spring training season has been the primary reason underlying a tourist “migration” for decades. 

This spring I was able to make a substantial number of Cactus League games, all held in ten different stadiums throughout the Phoenix “Valley of the Sun” area, due in part to accompanying groups for tour operator friends who offer packages featuring their favorite teams. Attendance in general this year appeared to be up substantially over last with numerous “sell-outs” being recorded. Major attractions included Albert Pujols, the top slugger lured away from the St. Louis Cardinals by a $240 million, 10-year deal by the Los Angeles Angels, the unexpected success of the home-town Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the 2011 National League Western Division Championship, as well as the sometimes laughable but ever-lovable Chicago Cubs, who, other than the aforementioned “D-backs,” can apparently claim the biggest Arizona fan base.  

A disappointing situation that came to light, however, unrelated to baseball, is the apparent passing of any value in using the once universally popular Traveler’s Checks due their advertised capability of being “easily replaced if lost or stolen.” One of the members of a Mayflower Tours group that I assisted was a charming and well-spoken older lady from Chicago, who encountered nothing but grief in attempting to get an American Express Traveler’s Check cashed, not in some place like Outer Mongolia, but in a major U.S. city!  First, I found it strange that the Hampton Inn where the group stayed for five nights declined to cash the T.C. for a registered guest. 

Next the nearby local bank refused to do anything for someone who did not have an account there.  Finally, her last option was the branch of a national bank (Wells Fargo), which would only cash the check for a 10% service fee ($10 on a $100 T.C.!), which, at least in my humble opinion, is outrageous. Has our society really sunk to the point where common courtesy and modest service to one’s fellow man (woman, in this case) have taken back seats to indifference and corporate greed?  I sure hope not!

Pickoff Play at First Base

Troy Tulowitzki Awaits His Turn at the Plate

Here Comes the Pitch

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Springtime in the Southwest

Roswell's Southern Trilogy

by Brian Jewell 9. April 2012 23:55

Barrington Hall

Roswell, Georgia, has all of the characteristic elements of a Southern village — a picturesque town square, a lush green park with a white bandstand and a historic river mill. But Roswell also has something that most of the other small towns around Atlanta don't — a trio of antebellum homes.

"Roswell has three antebellum homest ath are open for tour three days a week," said Marsha Saum, tourism sales manager at the Historic Roswell Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We call them the Southern Trilogy."

Civil War buffs know that Atlanta and much of the surrounding area were largely destroyed by Sherman and his troops in 1864. But Roswell escaped the path of Sherman's destruction, and today the Southern Trilogy gives visitors perhaps the best look into what the lifestyle of the Atlanta-area elites would have been like in the time before the Civil War.

During the short time I had to tour Roswell, Marsha and I made stops at all of the homes. The first, Bulloch Hall, is a temple-style Greek Revival mansion built in 1839. The family that lived there were influential members of the area — Margaret Mitchell once wrote about them in a newspaper article — and ancestors of president Theodore Roosevelt. The home has furnishings from the period, along with the stories of both family members and slaves that spent time at the estate.

The second member of the trilogy, Barrington Hall, is another classical Southern mansion. The most notable aspect of this home is its antebellum garden — curators and local gardeners have gone to great lengths to re-create the garden that the home's original owners planted in the back yard. The garden features historic heirloom botanicals, planted in the same arrangements that the property's first gardener created.

An estate called Smith Plantation rounds out the trilogy. Smith Plantation features 100 percen original furnishings, so groups visiting today will see a home interior that looks just the way it did when the Smith family lived there. The home also has 10 intact outbuildings, including slave's quarters, an ice house, corn crib, guest cabins and a covered well.

On a perfectly sunny spring day, these beautiful homes and the flowers blooming around them made Roswell seem as picturesque as possible.


Barrington Hall's antebellum garden

Dogwoods blooming on the grounds of Smith Plantation

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