Branson: Putting it Together

Branson, especially for the many agents who have not been there, can be a challenging sell. With so many theaters and other attractions in the destination, putting together a customized package for a client or group would take many calls.

Fortunately, a thriving receptive industry has grown up in the town, complete with an association that maintains strict standards for member. According to Buddy Diebold, president of Branson Area Receptive Association (BARA), membership has been growing steadily to include about 30 receptive operators and more than 100 associate members--including theaters, attractions, restaurants and hotels.

To qualify active members must:

  • Either have been in business for a year or have two years experience with another receptive company.
  • Supply references from another receptive operator and five suppliers.
  • Be approved by three quarters of the current active members.
  • "We are kind of the Better Business Bureau of receptives; we police ourselves," said Diebold, president of Branson Music Tours.

    Member operators work with travel agents and negotiate commissions or net rates on a case-by-case basis, said Diebold. Active members can do everything from arranging motorcoach transportation to scheduling clients' meals (for which a reserved time and reserved seating are usually required).

    Past-president and current member Jane Eblen, who owns and manages Branson Country Tours, said agents can obtain timed itineraries for clients, laying out an agenda for each day.

    "An experienced receptive operator knows the old roads and the new roads, knows how long it's going to take to get someplace," Eblen said. "And if there's an emergency we can cope. Not long ago, an entertainer got sick and we had a large group booked into his theater. We got refunds and got tickets to another show for that same night. We were able to do that because of our network of contacts," she said.

    Agents can contact BARA at (800) 339-2216, fax (417) 339-2272.

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