If you have spent any time at national tourism conferences lately, you have probably seen Wendy Dobrzynski. As the executive director of Circle Wisconsin, it’s her job to travel the country encouraging groups to visit her home state. But her entry into the business came a long time ago in a very different role.
“I’ve been in the industry now for 30 years,” Dobrzynski said. “In 1988, I started working for a bank that had the largest bank travel program in the country. Eventually, I became the director of it. We ran lots and lots of tours, both international and domestic. I have that background and know how to run a tour and what goes into creating a tour.”
After 16 years at the bank, Dobrzynski took a job at the Milwaukee Public Museum, an attraction she grew to love while visiting with her kids on field trips. That led to an opportunity at Visit Milwaukee, where she spent nine years in the group sales department. Then, when the director of Circle Wisconsin retired in 2014, Dobrzynski was a natural fit to take her place.
“We’re a private, nonprofit marketing organization,” she said. “We’re a pseudo-DMO [destination marketing organization]. Our mission is to promote our members and the state of Wisconsin to the group travel industry. I’m the person that attends the shows and meets with group leaders and tour operators and helps them with itinerary ideas. I show them around the state when they come in for FAMs.”
That work takes Dobrzynski to several major tourism events, including the American Bus Association Marketplace, where she sponsors the popular cheese booth; NTA’s Travel Exchange; and the Select Traveler Conference. She also runs the Circle Wisconsin Midwest Marketplace, an event that highlights destinations in Wisconsin, adjacent states and the Dakotas. This year’s conference in April included 40 tour operators and about 115 tour suppliers.
These wide-ranging experiences in tourism have convinced Dobrzynski that, contrary to what some believe, group travel has a bright future.
“Motorcoach travel is always going to be around, and people are always going to want to see different destinations,” she said. “We see motorcoaches all over the state. It’s not a dying industry. The boomers are coming in smaller groups — 50 people on a motorcoach isn’t as common as it used to be 10 years ago — but the groups are coming. People are realizing that getting on a motorcoach is much more convenient and easy than getting in a car and planning trips themselves.”
For Dobrzynski, who dreamed of traveling the world when she was a child, this career has proved thrilling and fulfilling.
“It’s been a nice progression over the last 30 years,” she said. “I started out getting people out of the state of Wisconsin, and now I’m getting them into the state of Wisconsin. It’s been an interesting progression, full circle, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I love tourism, I love travel, and I think getting people out to experience their dreams is an incredible thing to do, whether it’s the Wisconsin Dells, Door County or New Zealand.”
Sales Tip from Wendy
“I’m a big proponent of using your CVB or DMO. If you do a travel show, have someone from the DMO come. Nobody can get people excited about a destination like someone who lives there. This is my home. There’s a reason I live here. I can connect with those people and help them get excited about the destination.”