DEERWOOD - Beyond a place to relax or get away, group tourists are looking for an experience.
They are looking for shorter trips and are planning with less lead time than their predecessors. Beyond soft activities of pontoon boat rides, they are looking for educational and cultural activities.
Mary Steen, EMT Group Tour representative, and Jane Riley-Koll, director of the Twin Cities Tourism Attractions Association, both spoke about trends in group tours.
Mystery tours, where the event is a surprise for the guests, and girlfriend get-a-ways are big draws now, Steen and Riley-Koll said.
And the imagination appears to be the limit. There are culinary tours, wine-tasting tours and garden tours. The combination provides a way for area businesses to combine what the area has to offer. The women suggested options may include behind the scenes tours from theaters to chef's kitchens to bait shops and area speedways, which might include time with a driver or time in a race car.
And that model can be used for nearly any type of educational activity. Educational tours may include a look at how something is made. The ladies included an example of a tour that looked at how mattresses were manufactured. Another spent time with a dermatologist for a topic on skin rejuvenation.
Another tour type that is appealing to people mixes time away with benefiting others or the environment in what is termed voluntourism, like donating time to pick up trash at a Yellowstone National Park during a trip there.
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