Remember that feeling in high school when you solved a tough equation? How about middle school algebra when you were trying to solve for Y? Yep, that’s what it feels like to have planned, executed and personally enjoyed a Starr Birthday Bash! And here’s the Y… OK, The WHY – Because we love our Starr Tour Guests!
So let’s start at the beginning. What does it take to find a destination for a Starr Birthday Bash?
Here’s what we look for – The “X” if you will:
A different destination than somewhere where we already offer a lot of trips to
Somewhere with a hotel that can handle 3-5 busloads of tour guests
Somewhere with a restaurant or banquet room that can hold approximately 200 guests
Then we add the “Y” or, the WHY:
Why would people want to go here?
What does this tour offer that would excite them into booking this trip?
What can we include that would make this trip different that other trips that they have taken?
Put those things together and what does it equal? A great Starr trip!
X+Y = Great Starr Trip!
I was lucky enough to join our 4 Tour Directors and Drivers and 175 Starr tour guests in Myrtle Beach this past October. We had an excellent trip and here’s why:
We picked a destination that offered beautiful weather (we ordered it!).
We picked a hotel where every room had an ocean view and a balcony! The staff was so excited to host our Starr customers and showed us warm southern hospitality!
We had a great Birthday Dinner at the Giant Crab where the buffet had 171 items-I counted! We ate birthday cake and gave away lots of prizes to over 30 lucky winners!
We saw 4 fabulous shows! Each one was entertaining and dazzled us beyond expectation!
Everyone went home with smiles on their faces and wonderful travel memories!
We’ll see 5 shows on this trip plus see the Gateway Arch and tour the Anheuser Busch Brewery! Join us! I promise you will be glad you did. We have over 30 people on board already and we’d love to have YOU!
Now it’s time to plan for 2020? Got any ideas for the “X” in the equation?
Our 70th Birthday Bash was such a success (4 sold out buses!) that I had to figure out what to do for next year. I wanted to think of a destination we hadn’t toured in a while that people would get excited about traveling to. I looked back in the archives and discovered that we hadn’t visited Myrtle Beach in a few years. Since I knew two people in the office who LOVED vacationing in Myrtle Beach (Tour Director, Karen Coate, and Charter Representative, Jeanette Gilmore), I decided to dig in to this vacation destination. Having never been to Myrtle Beach myself, I knew I had a lot to learn.
First, I logged onto Tripadvisor, a resource I frequently use to assist in tour planning. I look for the most popular things to do in the area and then I read the reviews. In this case I needed to look at Myrtle Beach as well as North Myrtle Beach. North Myrtle was created in 1968 from four existing municipalities north of Myrtle Beach, and serves as one of the primary tourist towns along the Grand Strand. I put myself in my tour guest’s “seat” and imagine if they would like to do the things that are top attractions in the area. After I make a list of these attractions, I move on to hotels.
Since Starr attends the American Bus Association convention each January, we meet with Destination Marketing Organizations, hoteliers, attractions, and restaurant contacts. We save all of our information for times like these where we need info to build a bus tour. Now I go through and mine this information for hotels that fit the needs of our tour guests. In Myrtle Beach there are so many beachfront properties that we have lots to choose from BUT we have to be careful to choose a property that is group friendly, clean, and updated.
Next, it’s time to select a date for our trip. This year we traveled to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in September so I know I want to travel to Myrtle Beach in the fall. The hotels can’t even open up to groups in the summer as they are too busy. September can still be hot so I opt for October. This is when I can use the newest buses in our inventory since we are not as busy with other tours.
With 4 buses and the possibility for more, I have to find a hotel large enough to host us in Myrtle Beach and I also need to find properties en route to/from Myrtle Beach since we can’t travel there in 1 day. This is a large undertaking. Once I find the hotels, I need to make sure they all have availability to host us and that they will be able to handle the large number of guests. It’s important to me that our guests don’t feel like a “herd of cattle” so I will most likely split the en route properties up and have no more than 2 buses in each property.
Since shows are so popular in Myrtle Beach, I pick my top 4-6 favorites and review their schedules and prices. Then I start to piece together the schedule. This is not an easy task and is very much like a puzzle.
One of the resources I have been talking with is Sandy Haines at Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sandy suggested I do a “site inspection” of the area. A good idea – I always like to check out an area before we do a new tour there. Even though the summer is my busiest time of year in the office (as we prepare for busy fall outbound and build tours for the following year), I carve a 3-day trip into my calendar. A tourism friend offers to host me at her home which is a great way for me to get the local flavor of the area and learn some background info that I may not have learned! I rented a car and set up my appointments to meet with tourism partners, tour hotels, and sample the shows. My three days were jam packed with appointments, meetings, tours, food, and fabulous performances! I asked a lot of questions, and took lots of notes to help me remember all that I saw. Southern Hospitality was certainly displayed during my whirlwind trip to Myrtle Beach! Below are some pictures of my many stops. You can see how busy I was!
As I boarded my plane home, ideas raced around in my head so once I was seated (in a middle seat, of course!), I opened my computer and put together the final itinerary. Now it’s time to make the reservations, sign the contracts, and start promoting this wonderful trip. I am so excited to go back and bring 200 (or more!) of my closest friends! I hope you can join me!
Last week, we celebrated Starr’s 70th Birthday with 4 bus loads of passengers from all over the tri-state area. This fabulous 6 day vacation to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee was filled with great shows, unique attractions, lots of food and many fond memories.
Here are my Top 10 Reasons why I loved Starr’s 70th Birthday Bash:
10. I got to meet 200 Starr bus tour travelers-some new and some seasoned Starr travelers. I learned what they loved about Starr and what we can improve on. I heard about so many experiences and wonderful memories. Our travelers were so incredibly thankful and kind and my heart was full hearing so many stories.
9. I got to see 4 wonderful Starr Drivers and Tour Directors in action and I learned why they are so beloved by Starr travelers.
4. I ate and ate and ate! OK, it was mostly chicken but who doesn’t like fried chicken – and calories eaten on “vacation” don’t count!
3. We asked our travel partners across the USA to donate items that we could raffle off as part of our birthday celebration. We collected over 25 terrific giveaways including a fit-bit and a beautiful hand-made bowl from Corning Museum of Glass. These gifts, along with Starr gift cards that we supplemented, made this a fun event with lots of happy winners!
2. I learned best practices as we prepare for our 71st Birthday Bash in Myrtle Beach next October.
And my #1 reason…
I was able to experience this with my parents, the co-owners of Starr and the people behind the scenes who have kept this company going strong for the last 45 years!