Music Travel Consultants Hits High Note With School Tours

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Sometimes finding success means thinking small. This theory has been key for Music Travel Consultants, based in Indianapolis. The firm has carved out a unique niche for themselves within the state. "There are student travel planners out there, but Music Travel Consultants is the only firm devoted to music groups in Indiana and one of a handful in the Midwest," Gregory Moore, the firm's senior account officer and vice president, said.

The operator's clients are music groups from the schools and communities of Indiana. Its packages range from Bowl games to European tours for music groups. Slowly expanding, Music Travel is trying to make sure it covers the Indiana market as much as possible before expanding too far, Moore said. Along with Indiana clients, the company also has clients in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Iowa and for now, Moore said, that's plenty. "We would like to expand, but we would like to do it at a pace that we are comfortable with. We won't turn business away but we are not running out to conquer new states," Moore said.

The firm, which does an annual $2 million to $3 million in business, was opened in 1987 by John Sturm. Sturm left the music tours division of the Great American Band Co., part of World Tours owned by Ross & Babcock Travel of Indianapolis, to start Music Travel, Moore said.

As a smaller firm, Music Travel can build its market with a hands-on and personal approach. Although it publishes some local advertising and makes cold calls, the operator does not offer a standard brochure, preferring to create custom itineraries for each group. "Everything is customized to the individual group, and the trip is planned around them and their needs," Moore said. It's this sort of attention that brings the firm 40 to 50 groups a year, ranging from small school bands using motorcoaches to high-end music groups, with 150 to 300 members traveling with bigger budgets. Attracting groups and creating good trips have been the cornerstone for the business, Moore said. "Referrals and repeat business is a great percentage of our business. Our biggest way to sell a group is to do one trip right, and they become repeat business."

Using their own experiences as musicians and musical educators, the firm's officers plan for their clients with the unique requirements of a music group on tour. "They have some needs that go beyond what tours might need," Moore said, "There are a lot of details that have to be watched." The operator makes arrangements for instrument storage, chaperones, practice space, parking following a performance and refreshments, especially if the clients are marching in a parade. Travel directors personally escort each group and handle on-site logistics, including check-ins, meal arrangements and general questions.

In addition to going on the road with groups, Music Travel's staff concentrates on building relationships with potential clients and vendors. The firm is an industry member of the Indiana Music Education Association, a member of the National Tour Association and the exclusive charter member representing Indiana with SYTA, the Student Youth Travel Association of North America. Also, Music Travel teamed with large vendors to secure lower prices and increase options for their customers. They are preferred partners with Planet Hollywood at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., where they send 15 to 20 groups yearly. They also offer discount package rates at the Hard Rock Cafe and Rain Forest Cafe. "We don't have to be a $40 or $50 million company to have close relationships with firms like that," Moore said.

One of the major relationships for Music Travel is with Walt Disney World, where the firm sends nearly one-third of its clients. "Our biggest destination is probably Walt Disney World," Moore said. The operator is the only travel company in Indiana appointed to the Walt Disney World Student Travel Planners Advisory Council. These memberships, Moore said, are like stamps of approval from the industry as well as a source of potential clients.

For more information, contact Music Travel Consultants at (317) 637-0837; fax (317) 637-0821, or send e-mail to [email protected]

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