Some people in this business you know by name alone. Others by LinkedIn profile, or by email exchanges. The characters? You know them from trade shows. Amidst the sea of suits, some people stand out. Clarissa Erickson is one of those. Enjoy this edition of Take 5, as Clarissa takes you on her journey from behind the bar to behind the microphone.
Why after all these years did you decide to get into the receptive business?
I started my career in hotel sales and management and then was with the La Crosse Area CVB as Director of Motor Coach Sales. At the CVB I was allowed to do some step-on guide work, I began to experience the itineraries that I planned. I truly enjoyed spending time with the groups, making them laugh and watching them have fun. Four years ago I took on the meetings and convention markets which gave me less time with my groups. Life is too short, and I decided it was time that I immerse myself into something that I love.
For someone coming to Southwestern Wisconsin for the first time, what amazes them about the destination?
My guests always comment on the natural beauty of the area and the pride that our residents take in the upkeep of their homes, streets, and roadways. I always hear, “it’s so clean!” They also enjoy our restaurants, hospitality, and unique attractions. Many of my guests have never seen the Mississippi River and the astounding views they encounter from the overlook on Granddad’s Bluff, Buena Vista Park, and the Great River Road.
You’ve got some great itineraries on your website. What’s the secret to creating a great itinerary in your mind?
I start by coming up with a theme and then fill in the blanks with the best of what the area has to offer. The scenery is an excellent backdrop and adds even more to the overall impression and gives me the inspiration for even more creativity. My itineraries are only suggestions; I can always craft an itinerary to meet the needs of the tour planner and their group. I love it when a tour planner has a theme in mind and I get to make it a reality. Southwest Wisconsin and the Great River Road has so many experiences to offer, it makes it easy to create a great itinerary!
What’s your best advice for newcomers in the industry?
The packaged travel industry is all about relationships. Tour companies entrust you with their customers to deliver a great experience. My very first clients in my new endeavor are companies that I have worked with over the years through the CVB. They have faith in my knowledge and experience and they can depend on me to make their customers happy. It’s very important that you pay attention to all of the details and deliver on your promises. Confirm and re-confirm with your vendors and above all, deliver fun!
Your best trade show story is?
For many years, I attended the Jack Rabbit show in Sioux Falls. There were always plenty of Wisconsin booths. Lauren Haacke was the MC and he always had a clothes rack full of colorful, loud, and sparkly jackets to wear, I am quite confident that he borrowed them from Conway Twitty! Anyway, he would keep changing his jacket during the course of the show. The fun-loving Wisconsin aisle would place bets on what jacket he would be wearing next and had some good laughs over our game. My fellow cheese-heads and I always had a great time at that show with Lauren and other shenanigans that made us giggle. This is one of the experiences that made this industry so easy to love!