Change is coming at us from every direction, and group travel is no exception. Instead of reacting to travel and marketing trends, let’s grab the wheel to steer the future of group travel in the Heartland region.

We’re proud of what we have #onlyintheheartland, so let’s be a leader in transforming group travel from every angle. Our work with more than 150 tour operators around the country and more than 600 businesses and communities seeking to attract the group traveler has allowed us to explore connections and begin to identify best practices. This studio workshop seeks to build upon this work.

We believe the answers are to be found together, open conversations between tour operators and the businesses and communities they book. So please join us for a revolutionary day of information and innovation.

This fall, we’ll be hosting the workshops at the following locations:

Exhibitor Cost: $50
Tour Operator Cost: $50


What you’ll learn & do:

  • Understand behavioral (not generational!) trends impacting group travel

  • Identify stages of the buying cycle, and what’s needed at each stage to move the customer to your front door

  • Identify group travel personas and what they’re seeking

  • Create marketing plans and customer experience ideas for group travel personas based on the buying cycle

  • Understand what closes the deal when selling your experiences to group tour professionals, as well as what could prevent your group traveler from booking with your tour business again

  • Encourage new group travel experiences and partnerships, positioning America’s Heartland as an irrefutable leader in this market

  • Develop criteria for creating and marketing epic group experiences 

 

Who should attend:

  • Museums

  • Attractions

  • Breweries, distilleries, wineries

  • DMOs

  • Lodging

  • Dining

  • Tour operators

  • Basically anyone else who wants to boost group travel!

What the day will look like:

9:30 AM: Registration & Chitchatting


10:00 AM: Travel Trends - What’s Down the Road (or Already a Roadblock)?

We’ll explore key drivers of change in the travel industry and how these directly impact group travel. Results from recent Heartland Travel Showcase tour operator surveys will be shared, exploring insights into best practices. What do operators need to book business? What can make or break the group customer experience? 

 
11:00 AM: Travel Buying Cycle – Mapping the Customer Experience

There’s a method to how people travel. We’ll take a look at the stages of booking a trip, including what customer expect at each stage and how to nudge them in your direction through marketing and the customer experience.

 
11:30 AM: Traveler Personas - Getting to Know Who’s Along for the Ride

If behavior (not generations!) drive opportunities in the travel market, then what are these behaviors and can we make sense of them? We’ll explore common travel personas in the group travel market. These personas will feel like old friends as we get to know their habits, hobbies and hankerings for experiences.

 
Noon: Lunch

12:45 PM: Putting it All Together

Working as teams, you’ll deep-dive into how to market and design group experiences that attract and exceed expectations. We’ll harness everything we’ve learned as teams design plans for each stage of the travel buying cycle based on group traveler personas. Let your creativity explode, as there may be art supplies involved!

 
1:15 PM: Show and Tell

Each team will share what they created, so get ready to take lots of notes as you learn from your peers and share what your team envisioned. Throughout this activity, we’ll be documenting common themes and best practices. 

 
2:00 PM: Characteristics of Epic Group Travel Marketing & Experiences

If we were to identify best practices of group travel in the Heartland, what would that look like? We’re about to find out! We’ll take all we’ve learned and heard and begin to create criteria for marketing and designing group travel experiences. As we continue hosting Studio HTS session around the Midwest, we’ll build upon this list, sharing what we’ve learned as we go. Be a part of history and help revolutionize group travel #onlyintheheartland. 

Questions? Please contact Janet Johnson at jjohnson@ohiotravel.org.


HOW WE LEARNED OUR STUFF

We have been building relationships with those in the group travel industry for more than 35 years. Many conversations have taken place since we launched, and we believe that what we do after those conversations matters the most. We work with more than 150 tour operators and more than 600 businesses and communities, most in the Heartland region.

We’re not claiming we have all the answers. What we do know is that if we continue to work together, change can and will arise. During StudioHTS we’ll share insights gained through tour operator surveys, explore travel research around the country, and build upon the energizing conversation we had during the education session at this year’s Heartland Travel Showcase with more than 150 tour industry professionals. Talking about trends is great, but coupling our conversations with action will truly revolutionize the travel industry.

 
Melinda Huntley.jpg
 

The StudioHTS schedule will be facilitated by Melinda Huntley, Executive Director of the Ohio Travel Association and 30-year travel industry veteran. Her work with attractions, DMOs, and academia has given her a varied but focused perspectives, contributing to a fresh take on many facets of the travel industry. Melinda has experience helping communities identify and develop tourism markets and group experiences, and she is passionate about the Heartland.