As a part of Connect Travel’s ongoing “Connect with” series, two of the most widely known names and brands in the U.S. domestic tour operator business—Bob Cline, president of U.S. Tours; and Tim Patrick, director of product development of Mayflower Cruises & Tours—highlighted last week’s “Connect with Domestic Tour Operators Virtual Roundtable” to discuss the latest in the current climate for business as we all cope with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Sponsored by TourOperatorLand and moderated by Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel and general manager, Connect Travel Events, the session attracted more than 350 participants, as the three panelists discussed a series of issues and commented on numerous questions posted during the event.
When all was over, five key takeaways emerged:
1. Cautious Optimism: Operators feel travel will open in late summer and fall of 2020 with July – December domestic programs still on the books. However, it should be noted any 2020 bookings are fully changeable and refundable with travel closer to home.
2. Positive Outlook: 2021 looks positive and operators are actually contracting products and creating programs for 2021 & 2022.
3. Partnership: Co-op marketing, social media, unique or exclusive offerings, and promotional opportunities are just some of the ways to partner. Create offerings based on the customer at hand; one size does not fit all.
4. Pricing Matters: Roll over rates provide shorter cancellation policies, allow relaxed comp ratios, enticements and values-adds for booking now; everything helps now and into 2021. It may take time to sell new tours, so holding true to quoted pricing is key.
5. Connect and Communicate: Tour operators want to hear from you. Make sure they have updated contacts in your area and share any authentic messaging you are using to make visitors feel safe and welcome.
The panel (Clockwise from top left): Shari Bailey, Bob Cline, Tim Patrick
Following are excerpts from the webinar’s give-and-take.
Shari Bailey: “I think every webinar I’ve sat on has said that domestic is going come back first so everyone’s on pins and needles trying to figure out when that is and what they can do to help you come out of this.”
How’s it Going?
Not All is Drear and Dross. Bob Cline is known for his droll wit. And while he doesn’t look for opportunities to display it, he doesn’t turn them down either. As he did here …
|Shari Bailey: How’s everything going for you right now Bob? Bob Cline: Personally or financially? (laughter) Shari Bailey: Personally, you look great right now. Bob Cline: Well, I’m gaining weight and I own a business that doesn’t have any customers. (laughter) It’s a good day.|
Tim Patrick: “I’m not really a work-from-home person. I really like being in the office where everything is busy … but, you know, we’re doing we’re doing well. We pretty much are not operating anything through June right now. We had some March departures and then that pretty much stopped. We haven’t done any cancellations past June. We’re still optimistic. We’re taking it one day at a time and just waiting to see what happens.”
Shari Bailey: “There are many challenges right now. Is there a way to pinpoint what some of the biggest challenges have been?”
Tim Patrick: “I think that, from a sales standpoint, we’re still trying to, we’re very active in, staying in touch with our customers. People that were on departures that we had who were possibly going to go in April or May—we’re pushing them to the fall. We’re trying to keep them engaged in and wanting to travel and to trying to stay optimistic.
“I’m pricing into 2022 right now and our goal is, once we kind of get back to whatever the next normal is going to be, to kind of hit the ground running. We have all of our 2021 product out there and some 2022 products so that people can get back into it.”
Shari Bailey: “You say 2021 and 2022. I think everyone’s kind of understanding the point that that 2020 is what we can salvage from it. We would all like to reschedule things instead of cancelling, so we’re kind of pushing that down the road. you mentioned product for 2021 and 2022. Irene from Flight Centre (Irene M. Vecchi, global chains leader-global procurement network, Flight Centre Travel Group) has said the same thing–that they’re contracting 2021 and 2022 as well.”
New Product Notes
Shari Bailey: “Bob what are what are you looking out for product into next year?”
Bob Cline: “We’re opening up a couple of new things. In cooperation with Leisure Group Travel magazine. We’re introducing Bounce Back tours. These exist for the first 60 days after the quarantines are lifted. We have destinations where hotels are willing to take half price to get somebody in the room. Theater is doing the same thing. We’re managing at cost, while Leisure Group Travel does the marketing.”
“So, we’re playing with that in the short term. We’ve taken two of our event tours and we’ve made ABA (American Bus Association) an offer to join with us on these and turn them into “Tourism Recovery Parties.” Or, we have “Rocking the Boardwalk in Virginia Beach, and New Year’s Eve in Myrtle Beach. Both will have 14 or 15 buses all by themselves—that’s what we typically get. We’ve got room for another 20 or 30 buses, though. The facilities are large enough, so we’d love to see this as the place where the industry comes together, and people can take some great photos, and dance in the moonlight and celebrate the end of the virus.
“Also, today, we are introducing “Tour Tennessee.” Last year we opened “Tour Smokies”—a receptive operation in Pigeon Forge. It was very successful in the first year, so we’re expanding it to the entire state.
“All of this is kind of a current focus for the fall in the winter and early 2021. We do have Bank groups that are buying in 2022—different things. Right now, we’re just trying to still pick up the pieces for this year and early in the next year.”
Shari Bailey: “I know that everyone who has tuned into this is going to be asking what else are you doing when you consider something else. How do we get involved? So, I would prepare yourself for those questions.
“One of the things that we’ve learned from other types of instances that we’ve gone through on a smaller scale, in which enticements generally help people come out of this, is the hotel discount. You mentioned that hotels are willing to take half price on the rooms to get someone in there now. Are there other enticements that suppliers should be looking at that are going to help you at the end of this year, or moving into 2021, when those sales start picking up?”
Bob Cline: “Yes. What destinations want enticements? That’s a difficult thing to pin down. The whole concept with the Bounce Back tour is: A dollar spent in tourism recirculates seven times. A social posting made by somebody in tourism and recirculate hundreds of times. So, we just need to get people on the road. And you get people talking about travel and sharing their experiences. If we can do that in the short term, it’ll benefit all of us in the long term because they’re getting the social media are talking about travel.”
Shari Bailey: What works for Mayflower or helps Mayflower, or has in the past, with some type of enticement or value add?
Maintaining Group Rates
Tim Patrick: “We haven’t written 2020 off by any means. We fully intend to operate programs this year the load factors may be a lot lighter and if they are, so for running coaches with the with the you know dozen to twenty people instead of forty or fifty people, you know we’d like to be able to call upon our suppliers to make sure that they’re still honoring group rates if we fall below the number or maybe even help us out on the bottom line you know if we’re going take the hit on all the fixed costs of putting a tour manager out and a motor coach on the road, that we kind of work together.
“And that has happened in the past that I’ve been through. you know something similar back in on 9/11, when the bottom fell out of international travel and everyone moved to domestic travel and it was a tough go, but we got through that. We’ll get through this.”
Shari Bailey: “From the Flight Centre side, Irene Vecchi, as I mentioned, said she was scheduling those or contracting those 2021 and 2022, and one feature that she was looking for was rollover rates into 2021 that would keep things easy—and help them as a company—and she asked for everyone to look at their cancellation rates and/or their translation cancellation timing, and if that could be within a 24-hour period, then a longer period that that would help her as well.
“One thing I found interesting is that she still has some bookings coming in for 2020, but everything right now is that booking now has to be completely refundable and completely changeable. She wants to entice people to book now and so she’d like to talk with people about free nights: Book three to get one free. Everything that we’ve done and seen in the past, but to have it specifically for somebody that would book right now and get something on the books—if that’s something that has worked for both you, Tim, and for Bob in the past?”
Bob Cline: “I think Tim’s right on. Suppliers need to give us those comps. We might only have eight or nine rooms but we’ve brought you somebody. We’ve got people traveling. We’ve got to rebuild the whole industry. Paying for that comp room with half the bus—it’s hard for us. Paying for the bus itself is hard. So, whatever incentives you can give us, they’re going to be needed.”
Tim Patrick. “Right. One of the one of the concerns that I have with my job is, basically, to price 12 to 18 months into the future and so I do a lot of estimating on cost because, I understand the suppliers may not necessarily be able to commit to rates and such but I’m just worried about coming into 2022 and the 30 dollars that I had budgeted for that dinner has now it becomes 38 or 40 dollars. I’m concerned about where these rates are going to be two years from now. If everyone’s we’re all back at work and we’ve got suppliers that are trying to make up for everything that’s lost in one year. Is that a concern? Do you think so Bob?”
Bob Cline: “Yes, but I don’t know how to gauge it. Any advice? I’m willing to take it”.
Tim Patrick: “Well, my rule of thumb is 3 percent. For hoteliers, isn’t there a percentage out there that the amount—there’s a percentage of your overhead … your sales, that goes back into your business to maintain your property. Usually that kind of percentage is a number that I generally go with in terms of seeing increases over from one year to the next, and some hotels don’t raise their rates for three years; and then they’ll do a five percent increase. And others will gradually go two percent a year or three percent a year and that’s kind of what I work with, based on the history of that hotel that I’ve been working with.” (One person attending the webinar indicated that her property tries to do one-to-three percent, year-over-year.)
Shari Baily: “And I think that in this time, and what we’ve learned from past events and everything we’re doing now in communication, and being open-minded on how we move together in the future, is what’s going to help us.”
Tim Patrick: “Another thing, too, is that a lot of times so the people that are attending this—if their hotel, or if they’re working for an attraction or restaurant, I know that a lot of the times you’re not the decision-maker. But we need you guys to be able to go to that–you know, for lack of a better word the “bean counter”—who says “No, no we’re wasting our resources”- and be able to say what we’ve been through. We can’t afford to raise the rates this much. We need to be a little more moderate, or maybe hold it for a year. And if we hold it for a year, maybe we’ll get more business.”
Bob Cline: “If you do if you do quote rates for 2022 and it takes just three or four months to get the customer to commit to it, you need to if you have to note on what that quote was. We still need to be able to deliver it. The bank customers, especially—it takes several months to get them to confirm.”
Shari Bailey: “One of the questions we received asked is “What are you hearing from your customers?” Tim, you mentioned that you’re not writing off 20/20 yet, and still have some things in the pipeline and from clients that you’re talking to—there’s no magic crystal ball but when do you think that they might be willing to travel again?”
Of Groups and FITs
Tim Patrick: “We kind of deal with two different animals. We deal with a group leader who makes the decision for the group, and then we have our FIT people who just call in. What I’ve seen with the group leaders is that the groups are pushing more to the following year. So, if we cancelled a March departure for them for this year, they’ve rebooked it for March of 2021. With the FIT people, we just tried to push them to the fall, so they want to go to the National Parks in May… well we’ve got a September departure. Push them because those are the ones easy, who we’re moving, whereas with the groups, it could be groups of 30 or 40 and we may not have the inventory for the fall to move them. So, we’re encouraging them to jump a year and a lot of them are doing that.”
Shari Bailey: “That’s good that they’re rescheduling. Bob, what have you heard from your clients?”
Bob Cline: “We don’t have the FIT business. So, we’re all groups. But we do have the two types of customers. The bus companies? They’re not even thinking about creating anything for the rest of this year. They hope they’ll have something in the fall, but they’re not planning, they’re not marketing. They’re sitting back shell shocked. The bankers? they don’t have 200 buses sitting outside in the yard. They don’t have that same ‘glazy-eyed’ look. They’re planning in the future.”
Different Arrival and Departure Dates?
Shari Bailey: “In order to keep the rates lower, even flat, would you guys be willing to look at different patterns, different days of the week, different arrivals and departures and—I think this goes back to communication—a and talking with your supplier partners—to get that best rate and to move a pattern that works?”
Bob Cline: “Just tell us what dates you need. If we’re coming in on a weekend, we’ll need the weekend business. Tell us. Most of my customers will move for a dollar.”
Shari Bailey: “What about you, Tim. Is that something you might be able to do?”
Tim Patrick: “It’s definitely something we have done in the past. It’s a little bit more difficult to break patterns because if there’s 30 components on the tour, now I’ve got to go back to all the remaining 29 to accommodate the 30th. So, it depends. I’m definitely open to the idea, and we have done it in the past, but it’s just it might be a little easier said than done.”
Shari Bailey: “For 2020, we know we’re just hoping we get something out of it, but moving into 2021 and even into 2022. Do you see, with what is happening now, changing travel patterns? In the future, with both of you building programs around an event or a festival or a time of year … Do you see that changing? Do you see having to move it a little bit in the future?”
Tim Patrick: “I don’t know. Bob, you do a lot of festivals and such I can’t see Rose Parade changing. Or the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. I could say the Fiesta in San Antonio, but they’ve moved from April. They’ve re-booked from April to November, so we reworked it for November. I don’t know if they would keep that. I know they’re trying to salvage that business.”
Bob Cline: “I don’t know how to call these trends. Fiesta that’s a one-time event. Kentucky and the Labor Day. That’s a one-time event so maybe let’s look at it this way.”
Shari Bailey: “Do you see your programs changing? They are so varied. You have two-and-three-day events. Do you see changing the way the way you operate? For instance, we’ve had questions about the cleanliness of buses, about temperature and temperature change, about health checks. Do you see any of that changing the way you have to operate?”
Bob Cline: “I think we’re going to see people concerned about sanitary buses … for the next two or three months, and then I think they’re going to get over it. And things will get headed back towards normal. The destinations we’re going to and the types of trips were selling—we’re always looking for new experiences. The new experience on a trip is important and that will help us sell a destination in the future. Many of our events will stay the same as they are because it’s just something that works.”
The Importance of DMOs
Tim Patrick: “I’ll tell you one thing that’s worked really well for me for 2022 is that there are still a lot of DMOs that are active out there. It’s been hard to track people down right now, because people have been furloughed and there’s different layers of staff that have been either laid off or furloughed or whatever but, for the most part, the DMOS that I have talked to—I just rely more on them now than ever because there’s a lot of smaller attractions and stuff. I just can’t get to them. There’s nobody who answers their phones, and I understand that it’s a difficult situation. If you’re a small museum and you don’t have the money to keep the doors open, you’re not going to keep the staff, so I appreciate the DMOs out there that are going the extra mile to help.”
Shari Bailey: “What can DMOS do to help bring your clients to their destinations. What would be most helpful and cuts right to that point that you were making, Tim, that sometimes you have a hard time getting in touch with people: you don’t know who’s at the hotel or who’s that who’s at a museum. I think every DMO is sitting up straighter right now with every DMO saying, ‘We know. We know. Contact us!’ How do they get that information to you? How would you like to receive it? Are you willing to do a virtual fam tour or do you just want a one-on-one conversation?”
Tim Patrick: “What’s best for me? It’s starting with an email. E-mail is really the way to get started just because I’m not sitting at my desk. I’m sitting at my dining room table. Although if you call me, my everything gets forwarded to my mobile phone. But it’s just easier, with the amount of files that I’m working on right now, and the number of different directions I’m going, it’s probably easier to start with an email, and then I can we can figure out a time to talk. Phone calling right now is, I know, what you guys want to do, but it’s just that, for me, it’s difficult to take calls unless I’ve got the time and I kind of structure my day very in order for me to get the work done that I need to get done.
“I really have to structure my day. I have specific times when I read emails. I’ve got specific times when I work on tour planning and when I listen to voicemail. I find that’s the easiest way to manage my time is with an email. Send me an email by 8 o’clock in the morning. By 10 o’clock in the morning, I may have already read my morning email, so I’m not going to look again until noon. Don’t think I’m ignoring you. It’s just that’s have a block of time when I read e-mails.
“As we’re talking about clients and where they want to go, and we think travel is going to happen, do you see a shift, or have they talked to you about a shift—that rural destinations might be more interesting to them than the large destinations. And if there’s any unease, do you think people may want to stay closer to home when they start traveling again.”
Bob Cline: “I think they’re going to stay closer to home, and I think it shows just how silly the American consumer is. With this virus around, America has more of it than anybody else, and we don’t want to go anyplace else because it’s not as safe as it is here at home. How does that work?
Tim Patrick: “With the talk of Georgia saying that they’re going to open their state and get back to normal and so forth. As stuff starts to happen like that, I don’t know how this is all going to unfold. Is it going to be once they’re here … but if we’re on a bus, what happens if we have to go through a state that’s not open to get to a state that is open. This is the type of thing that I start thinking about when I start thinking about how we’re going to get through this—you know, how are we going to shift this New England program in the fall when I’ve got to go through three states that aren’t open?”
Shari: “I knew things were going to open and we were going to try to get back to normal, and in pieces, but I didn’t even think about that, Tim. If anyone listening to the call has ideas I’m sure that as a group we would all love to think through that one together so please put it in the Q and A or give us a call.”
Tim Patrick: “A question I have for some of the DMOs is: How are you guys doing with these areas that have really kind of been hit hard? Are you guys formulating a game plan to get through, like, New York City. It has been really tough, and you see it a lot in the in the in the news. How are you, how are they, going to bounce back? When did they turn the switch on? What do they do to promote? How are we going to, are we going to do that? How are we going to get past that, because people are still going to want to go to New York City. I’m just using New York as an example. I’m not picking on them. There have been other cities and other areas.”
A Bus Half Full?
Shari Bailey: “I think everyone’s thinking the same thing: How do we get our arms around that and, at the same time, and promote a safe message out to everyone, so it’s not just the cleanliness of the buses or social distances. Those are some of the questions we’re seeing here today. Bob, you mentioned that you know if you have a bus that’s half full, if you have 15 or 20 people, is that also take into effect that you might have to social distance on a bus, but you’re still having to use a 50-person motorcoach and you’ve got to pay for that … and I think everyone’s trying to wrap their head around, if it is cleanliness, if it helps, is that social distancing, and how did they help you through that. And if it’s a rural destination or big destination? So, what do you think Bob?”
Bob Cline: “I heard an airline executive quoted as saying that they’re practicing social distancing because they’re not filling the center seat, but the truth of the matter is that they can’t sell the center seats. So, it’s easy enough to do social distancing. But on a bus, on a plane, the air circulates and you’re in a confined area, and social distancing just isn’t possible when you’re with a group. We’re going to have to build up our immunities, cure the disease, get inoculations or something in order to avoid this fear. I don’t what the answer is, but people want to travel in groups. They want to go to theaters and shows. You can’t just sell every other seat.”
Smaller Groups on Buses
Shari Bailey: “Do you think there will be a realignment in group size. Clearly, we are all thinking that maybe we will have to do things a little bit differently. Right now, there’ll be a realignment in group size just because we’re trying to get the people to travel, but what about in 2021 or 2122?”
Tim Patrick: “I think that’s a very valid direction that we could go, and if there’s any motor coach operators out there … you see, the challenge with that is that it costs just as much money for a motorcoach company to put a 52-passenger coach on the road as it does to put a 40 passenger coach on the road. Maybe it’s a little bit less gas but it’s still the same amount of overhead for the cost of the vehicle, the maintenance, the driver, licenses and fees and everything else. So now I’m taking the cost of 50 seats and prorating it over the cost of 30 seats and it just raises the price. That’s a challenge. Smaller buses would be great, but is that really going to decrease the overhead? It’s not like you save a hundred thousand dollars by taking 20 seats out of a bus. However, that is a valid thing. I mean, I can see smaller group sizes for sure.”
Bob Cline: “But if somebody can sell 50 seats on a bus, they’re going to take the money right there.”
Shari Bailey: “There are questions being raised and conversations taking place in municipalities and cities about certifying hotels or certifying attractions and restaurants for meeting health and safety standards. Do you foresee that becoming a normal part of your SOP—your standard operating procedure. I think everyone’s reaching at straws right now in order to figure out what’s going to provide that safety, that end-client a feeling of safety and security. Do you think that’ll move the needle?”
Bob Cline: “We already have health inspections in every town. They shut down restaurants that are unsanitary. We’ve got the best standards for restaurants and hotels in the world … and the most diseases.”
How Suppliers Can Help with Marketing
Shari Bailey: Let’s switch to let’s switch to marketing … and doing some partnering together. We know we have 2020 programs that we want to run. We know you’re contracting for 2021 and 2022. How can how can your attractions, your hotels that you work with your destination? How can we work with you to get that message up? And is it that social message that you talked about that can hit and move forward? What is that joint marketing assistance that we can work on to make sure your programs run this year?”
Bob Cline: “Probably the best example of assistance I can give you is Virginia Beach. We’ve been doing an event there for seven or eight years. They will have 20 or 30 volunteers to come out and walk people off the bus into venues and help seat them. They’ll provide some co-op funding throughout the year. They’ll carry our event in their portfolio when you go to marketplace appointments. Working with someone who’s trying to sell you is to your benefit and nobody does it better than my buddy Jim (Jim Coggins, tourism sales manager at the Virginia Beach CVB) and Virginia Beach.”
Shari Bailey: “Grant money’s not out of the question. Everyone is reviewing their budgets right now. Everyone is looking at it, and how they can help both large and small destinations, so we want to keep that in mind not everybody has the money that that others do but certainly want to help.
“Switching to the cruise sector for a minute—both of you work a lot with the cruise market. Have you seen any changes, with everything we’ve seen about cruises right now, have you seen any changes in forward bookings when it comes to some of your cruise movements?”
Tim Patrick: “We do still have some … our Caribbean and Alaska summer programs are gone, but we do have a Caribbean program in the fall, and we have some Caribbean activity in the in the winter of 2021 Those bookings? People are still on them; they’re still intending to go. They’re on Carnival.”
Bob Cline: “We (U.S. Tours) still have a fair amount of business on the American Queen and on the Empress—on the American Rivers. I think that is going to be a strong seller for us next year, as people try and stay domestic—sensing that being on the Mississippi River or the Missouri River is a little safer than being on the Nile.”
Shari Bailey: “Got it—more of the river cruises instead of ocean liners. I read a really interesting article indicating that cruise forward bookings in 2021 were actually positive … not huge increases, but they did have an increase in bookings for 2021. I just wanted to see if you, as tour operators, were seeing the same thing in your booking.”
Bob Cline: “We have some, but I’ve not measured if we have some group business doing the international cruises, the Caribbean, in 2021.”
Shari Bailey: “Earlier, we talked about how everyone wants to know how they can help you, how they can help you in the fall, and how they can help you next year. What are some of the best things that they can do? We talked about coop marketing and helping sell your programs. But what are other things that that they might be able to do to assist you?”
Bob Cline: “I think those of you that are posting anything political or negative on social oughta quit it. Put up a music video on your destination—a historical video. Be optimistic. Show the good side of travel and forget about saying how bad the country is, how bad your candidate is.”
It’s all about the Pricing
Tim Patrick: “On a personal level I agree 100 percent with that. I it’s just so depressing to read such negativity. On a on a business level you … I imagine some of you are like me at home. You’re working away, and you stop and take a break and scratch the cat, or go get a cup of water, or whatever. If you’re working on itineraries, send them to me. I welcome them—any new ideas, anything that I can work on.
“The big thing is the pricing. If I’m going into a new area with the new itinerary, and I may not have any concept at all of what the pricing is going to be, and I may not be able to get to those secondary suppliers that you’ve included in order to determine some sort of pricing … if you can even throw a ballpark prices on there, I’m not going to hold your feet to the fire two years from now and say ‘You told me it was gonna be 10 bucks and now 11, I’m not going to do that. Just throw numbers out there; it’s a great way to help me keep the ball rolling and, you know, it’ll entice me to get some groups into your area and you will have a new runaway smash tour.”
Shari Bailey: “Before we continue, Vicki Osman (senior director, meetings, events technology & education at the American Bus Association) from ABA has posted that they are gathering information on openings and closings, and they’re posting it to their Tourism Strong page for operators, as well as other suppliers, to access. So, as you gather that information on DMOs, hotels, attractions, transportation companies, send it along to Vicki at [email protected].“
About Incentives and Enticements
Shari Bailey: “When we talk about incentives or enticements, we focus a lot on the hotel and free rooms and comp policies. I think the comp policy also applies to attractions, but what are value adds from attractions that have worked from you before? The same type of comp policy but meal vouchers? Or special VIP events? Or tours?”
Tim Patrick: “We’ve got attractions that like to comp the coach for us to just try it. So if we’re in the area and we’ve got an afternoon—I’m not saying they have to comp every coach in the series, but at least throwing it out at us—we bring a group there and we can register the feedback and, maybe, the following year we include that attraction because we’ve got more feedback than just me coming in and visiting. We’re a very numbers-driven company, so we look at every component, we turn it into a number, and that’s how we evaluate what we’re going to keep and what we’re you going substitute. Something like that works, and has worked in the past.”
Bob Cline: “Added benefits help. It gets their attention. Or a meet and greet–something different and unusual. At Pigeon Forge, we did some things this past year with several of the suppliers. It was a service they gave us that our competitors couldn’t get. The tour would pull over at a picnic table and bring out a guitar player. Most of the other people went down this really steep mountain road. It was kind of scary. Our customers, in their 60s and 70s, don’t really like being scared in their 60s and 70s, so we ended up selling ‘Chicken and Pickin,’ and it was better. So, look at our customers, look at your product and what can you give us that might be special? Mayflower can say, ‘Hey we’re the only people in the country doing this with that theater,’ and that gets our attention. We like to be able to say that.”
Shari Bailey: “Do you see any of your itinerary shifting to more outdoors? We’ve talked about theatres, we talked about some of the attractions that are outdoors. Do you see a shift in that?”
Tim Patrick: “I think so.”
Bob Cline: “Yeah. Customers are younger and more active generally.”
Shari Bailey: So, you see that the age of your client is changing. You’re seeing them a little younger?
Bob Cline: “I’m not so sure they’re younger, but a different generation. They’re in their 60s and 70s, but they’re boomers instead of seniors and that’s a different mindset yeah.”
Tim Patrick: “I agree. That whole soft adventure road is something that we do try to incorporate in our program–anything that’s intermodal. If we can get them out of that bus and get them into something else that gets them using a conveyance as a mode of transportation, not necessarily just for sightseeing but to actually get them from point A to point B is, I think, it’s a great added bonus.”
In Person vs. Virtual
Shari Bailey: “We’ve talked about shows. We’ve talked about all of the events that we generally go to you to have these conversations and, looking ahead to tradeshow season, there are conversations about changing things to virtual—using a virtual appointment system. Would you find that useful? Would you attend something like that?”
Bob Cline: “How do I sell a tour by doing it virtually—from a computer?”
Tim Patrick: “It would be a real struggle. I really enjoy the interaction, being able to see everybody in one spot and being able to spend time with people and meeting new attractions, meeting new people. I just enjoy that atmosphere. I think it would be a very difficult change.”
Bob Cline: “I don’t think with a virtual marketplace you can keep my attention for more than thirty minutes.”
Shari Bailey: “I understand what you’re talking about. This is a very personal industry, which is why I found the question so absolutely interesting—to see if that’s something that we might be moving into and how we felt about it.”
Tim Patrick: “I’m gonna throw this out there. In my own personal opinion, I would rather go to a show for week. Spend a week out of the office and get everything done—rather than go to two different events, one being four one being five, or something like that. There I said it. No matter however those guys work it out work … but you know just go do one show, get it all done and meet everybody.”
Shari Bailey: “So, what keeps you guys up at night right now?”
Bob Cline: “The nightmare during the day. (Laughter) It just bounces back.”
Tim Patrick: “For me, it’s the division of the ideologies and politics in this country. That’s what really … you would think stuff like this would bring us together but, man … it’s just disappointing.”
Shari Bailey: “I think everyone here would agree with that, and I would I would counter that with the optimistic view–that it has brought our industry together. And the more than 300-plus people on this call want to know how they can help.”
Tim Patrick: “Our industry is going to get through this we will bounce back. It’s just a matter of how we’re going to get there. Right? I pray every night that the people that are making the decisions make the right decisions agree. So, stay positive. Well get through this. We’ve been through adversities before. There are going to be some casualties. There’s no way around that. But I look forward to getting back out to a how, or doing a research trip, and getting back out there.”
Bob Cline: “It’s coming back. Business is coming back. It always does. I did a speech the other day … four score and seven viruses ago—and it’s been just about that with me. I’ve seen several viruses, and although I wasn’t here for the recession, we seem to overcome all of these things. We can overcame 9/11. People are gonna be afraid for a little bit, then they’ll come back. In the meantime, be cheerful. Cheerful people travel a lot easier than people who are ticked off.”
For the complete recording of the webinar, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7G0eAFijOw&feature=youtu.be