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Bureaus use personal touches to help close the sale


Courtesy Lake Charles CVB

Personal greetings

With a destination that features a popular national historic park, the folks at the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau see a lot of tour groups come to town. The CVB’s group sales staff goes out of its way to make sure each group gets a face-to-face greeting.

“We try to greet every single motorcoach when they arrive at their hotel,” said director of tourism sales Tom Haberland. “We find out what room the group leader is in, and we get a basket with nonperishable items and put it in their room, with all of our business cards.

“We’re telling them that they’re really important to us because service brings them back after you’ve sold them once.”

Group leaders aren’t the only ones who receive gifts. At the meet-and-greet, the CVB staff hands out logo items to each member of the tour. Adult travelers receive a bottle of hand sanitizer, and student travelers get a keychain carabiner with a compass.

In addition to 50 to 70 greeting sessions a year, the CVB also helps groups make the most of their visit to Valley Forge National Historical Park, an important Revolutionary War site.

“For a group that hasn’t been here in two years or more, we’ll pay for their step-on guide in the park,” Haberland said. “If people come in on a tight budget, we don’t want them to just drive through; it’s just a park if they do it that way. So we pay for a guide in Colonial costume because we want them to experience the site the way that it should be experienced.”

Fully escorted
Meet-and-greets are memorable in Lake Charles, La., where the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau leverages the area’s Mardi Gras heritage to give groups a colorful welcome.

“We can have Mardi Gras krewes come out and welcome them,” said Tico Soto, sales director at the CVB. “It’s a win-win for everyone. The local krewes get to wear their costumes again, and the group gets a personal Mardi Gras experience from start to finish. They get the food, the flavor and the pageantry.”

Although Mardi Gras is the most famous festival in the area, southwest Louisiana celebrates some 75 fairs and festivals throughout the year, and the CVB can help groups arrange a theme party around any of these events.

During the March Rabbit Festival, groups can visit the event and then go to a cooking demonstration where local chefs prepare rabbit dishes. Many of the festivals will provide similar parties and demonstrations for groups, even when their annual events aren’t taking place.

In addition to all of the revelry, the local CVB goes the extra mile to make sure tours run smoothly while groups are in their area.

“Our group services manager goes to all of the different points and makes sure that they’re ready,” Soto said. “We also send someone from the CVB with the group everywhere they go. It really gives the tour groups a personal touch.

“Our staff member gets on the bus and gives the driver directions so that the tour guide can give the tour and answer questions.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.