Shorter tours keep operators afloat

Tour operators have weathered a faltering economy with a focus on short trips and the continued draw of several favorite destinations.

Village Tours & Travel, Wichita, KS released its new tour catalogue and according to its vice president, Jeff Arensdorf, the company made a conscious attempt to add shorter tours and what he considers value tours. The company’s most popular longer tours include Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and Washington D.C. Arensdorf says these tours fill up every year no matter what.

According to Sandra Allen, president, Royal Coach Tours, San Jose, CA operators should plan many shorter, affordable trips as a method to get customers on the bus.

“Casino trips are a great way to get customers on the bus,” she says. “These are quick trips without the worries of lodging, food or attraction admission costs. When we give the customers a great trip we have seen they come back and book longer, more expensive trips.”

Travelers still enjoy casino trips because they are affordable says Arensdorf. Village Tours currently has four casinos that book one-day trips.

Show tours are gaining traction as a less expensive alternative for travelers. Peter Pan’s popular ShowBus Tours takes travelers to Broadway shows in New York City, as well as sporting events and concerts. The trip is so popular Peter Pan schedules buses for every Wednesday and Saturday matinee performance on Broadway.

Village Tours has taken a similar approach with updated trips to Branson, MO and Oklahoma City, OK.

“Everybody has been to Branson, but it continues to be popular,” says Arensdorf. “There are many new shows lined up this year, as well as several limited engagement shows. We try to keep our pulse on the shows in Branson.”

According to Arensdorf the key is to understand your client base and know what types of shows would be of interest.

“We have a conservative client base,” he says. “We do not hit the racier shows and try to stick to what has proven popular. When the Lion King first opened, the closest it came to Wichita was Denver. We were able to take three busloads there. Now it is in Oklahoma City and since it was so popular we know we can send a few buses down there.”

Village Tours keeps in regular contact with its customers. Arensdorf says the customers have proven to be very Internet and email savvy. He sends out regular emails with discounts or new tour packages and customers are quick to reply, often with suggestions for possible tours. He says any tour that is booking slowly always gets a boost when he sends out an email.