Don’t forget the times
Albany County’s Toth, a former tour operator, said she always puts times in her itineraries. “I like to see the timing,” she said. “How close is it to the next attraction, how long for lunch. It gives the tour planner a better idea.”
Many of the itineraries are built around themes.
“By themes, it sounds more intriguing,” said Stien. “If it’s an itinerary with just the basics, it’s not as inviting. But if you put in ‘Red, White and Blue’ or ‘What’s New,’ it sounds like this is something I would like to try out. We try to come up with catchy names. I always have the staples, but what makes the sell are unique things, like behind-the-scenes-type venues.”
“The most critical thing is giving that itinerary a flourish down to the local level, feet on the street,” said Eckhart, “where you can meet with someone from the area who is not intrinsically tied to tourism, such as a chef, and have some sort of local experience, whether it’s a local neighborhood pub or brewery or store that gives it a flourish. You want to experience what the destination is like as authentically as if you were a resident.
“If you do a good one, you can use it for years. It is a big, big part of what we do.”
“You can have a theme, whether it is history or nature or entertainment, or you can show you have a very diversified destination, say nature by day and entertainment at night,” said Toth. “You can show it in two different ways: what your strong points are and fit that in with what type of groups they deal with.”
Although CVBs spend time and resources developing itineraries, they don’t expect them to be used without change, and most help groups customize the itineraries to meet their interests or time frames.
“I don’t know if anyone takes them word by word, but they can piece them together,” said Stien. “What we get most of the time is, ‘We like this one, but here are a few places we would like to tweak,’ and we will give them a few more suggestions.”
“Most of the time, we know that people are going to adjust it,” said Cheek. “While we do try to put something that is logical, we can always adjust to groups once they call in with an interest.”
It pays to customize
“Most of my planning for operators is customizing,” said Hiebert. “They will see the suggested itineraries and want to tweak them. Maybe they are not particularly interested in one thing, or their schedule may be such they can’t include it all, or they want more.
“We will tweak them. We pride ourselves on personal service. I talk with operators and group leaders, and help them with itineraries.”
“Although we like to lay them out in a logical order, where they can almost turnkey them into their own product, within that we give other opportunities; so if they want, they can pull one thing out and put another in. It is a modular tour that works,” said Portland’s Eckhart.
“They are starting points,” said Dobrzynski. “Rarely do I find they [planners] take them exactly as I say. We constantly tweak them [itineraries] and will customize for anybody.
“In the end, we can offer suggested itineraries and plan them out. But when you are booking, it always ends up being a customized tour.”