Tourism bus draws a crowd

n May 1, $40 million Carlson Wagonlit Travel Village Traveler of Youngstown, Ohio, hosted a marketing event at its Poland, Ohio, office that was so big it got the attention of Gov. Bob Taft, who honored the agency for hosting the first event of its kind in the state.

In addition, Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey, Poland Mayor Ruth Wilkes and the Mahoning County Commissioners proclaimed May 1 "Travel & Tourism Day."

Here's how the idea came about, according to Julie Costas, the agency's marketing director. "While visiting Westlake Village, Calif., over Christmas, I met with Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays. I happened to see a picture of a huge bus and asked about it. The Hogan Family Foundation, which owns Pleasant, operates a bus [that promotes travel and tourism]. I asked to schedule a visit to our office May 1 to coincide with our Pleasant Hawaiian open house."

The agency sent out 1,000 direct-mail pieces to past customers telling them about the event, which was being co-sponsored by local television station WKBN-TV and Y-103 radio.

About 350 third, fourth and fifth graders visited the Hogan Family Foundation's travel and tourism bus parked outside Carlson Wagonlit Travel Village Traveler's agency in Poland, Ohio, May 1. Costas was interviewed on both stations prior to the event, and several stories ran in the local newspaper.

The agency set up the event not only as a way to sell Hawaii, but also as a vehicle to provide an educational opportunity to the community.

Costas contacted all local schools, and on the day of the event, 350 third, fourth and fifth graders visited the bus.

"The children and teachers were delighted with the travel-promoting bus that teaches about the travel industry and geography," she said. Plus a few hundred people, 70 of whom were past clients, attended the Pleasant Hawaii open house from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"Some of the people at our open house had seen or heard our broadcasts, were potential customers or wanted to get into the travel industry," said Costas. The Carlson Wagonlit Travel direct-mail piece, created in conjunction with its promotion with Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays. "This is a great vehicle for agencies to use to tell people about the employment opportunities our industry offers." According to Costas, the folks who run the bus were even able to dispel the idea that the Internet is putting agents out of business.

The agency has been advertising specials to Hawaii for Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays in conjunction with Carlson's two-month-long promotion for the supplier. "We have gotten a lot of awareness because we were on the radio, television and in newspapers a long time prior to the event," said Costas.

Agency president Dino Theofilos added, "We made 20 bookings that day with potential for a lot more because we're offering clients an extra $100 off if they book a trip to Hawaii before the end of May." He said the agency has seen a big increase in calls since May 1.

He added, "As a result of the open house, agents are more focused on selling Hawaii and the community now sees it as an affordable destination."

-- Michelle SanFilippo

Alert and involved

arlson Wagonlit Travel Village Traveler in Youngstown, Ohio, which has leisure offices in Poland, Ohio, and Greenville and Hermitage, Pa., and a second corporate location in Akron, Ohio, is known for getting involved in unusual marketing ventures and community service.

Agency marketing director Julie Costas also does public relations for the Angels of the Easter Seals, which has helped the Youngstown chapter of Easter Seals raise $1.5 million.

Julie Costas, Dino Theofilos and Poland, Ohio, office manager Pennie Hailey. Some of the charities the agency has helped include the Make a Wish Foundation, the Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and Tod Children's Hospital.

The agency even has brought in celebrity dogs Lassie and Beethoven from Universal Studios to local hospitals, the local mall and Barnes & Noble.

In June, the agency is doing a fashion show with agents at Stein Mart, an upscale brand-name department store. The event will be held at the store on a Saturday, and attendees will receive coupons for discounts on travel at the agency.

The agency once brought in Alaskan folk singers for a Holland America promotion in 1999. "Plus, once a month from September through May for the last four years, we have gotten each of our preferred suppliers to get involved and talk about a different featured destination," she said. The first year the event took place at Barnes & Noble, but was then moved to the local Simon Mall.

"My philosophy is that if there is a promotion going on between Carlson and a supplier, I immediately contact that supplier to put our own little spin or incentive on the offer. We also get local partners involved and do lots of co-marketing," she added. "If there's an event in the area, we find out about it and try to take part in it."

Industry oddities

y inventory of travel oddities and mysteries continues to grow. So here we go again. See if any of these items has crossed your mind:

  • Is the "close door" button in hotel elevators there just to humor us?
  • Do the whistles on the wands used by airport security personnel really mean anything?
  • Am I just confused, or are inclusives starting to become "all-inclusive, except for this, and that and that?"
  • How can hotels with small, stuffy exercise rooms with one Lifecycle and one Universal machine call their facilities health clubs?
  • Marc Mancini.

  • Why aren't seat belts required on transfer vans, considering these vehicles often go full speed on regular roads? Are car renters and hotel guests expected to defy gravity in an accident? (While sitting sideways, no less.)
  • Are hotel pillows getting thinner, or what?
  • How many times have you seen tour takers save their seats when exiting temporarily from a motorcoach by building "virtual selves" out of their coats, sweaters, purses and gift bags?
  • Why is it that films projected onto screens in aircraft cabins are often so out of focus that they look like bad 3-D movies?
  • Why do super-budget hotels put plastic-wrap covers on glasses and "sanitized for your protection" paper strips on toilets, but more expensive hotels don't?
  • Why have folded, pointed ends on the end of toilet paper become the mark of a good hotel? Why don't we do the same at our house?
  • Ask your clients who fly first class if the "priority tags" put on their luggage means anything at all.
  • Why is the distance between gates inversely proportional to the connecting time?
  • Why are seatbelts in taxis buried in the space between the backseat cushions, in some sticky place where your hand should never go?
  • Finally and frustratingly, why does the carousel luggage conveyor belt always move in the opposite direction to the one you expected?
  • Marc Mancini is a professor of travel at West Los Angeles College.

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