My introduction to the packaged group travel industry began more than 30 years ago at an ad agency in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My media buyer and I began a conversation about the greatest generation and the soon to follow Baby Boomer travel trends.

Myrtle Beach 35 years ago was nothing more than an overnight with one theater and some great outlet shopping. We decided to take a chance and with the CVB’s support did a co-op in Bus Tours magazine.

A year later, I left the agency and started my own agency. The first week, a good friend and receptive operator called and asked if I’d work with their group hosting the Pennsylvania Bus Association board in Myrtle Beach. The PBA conference was a success. The group approached me to help organize a way to stay in touch with the industry. After a few weeks of restless sleep, it came to me. A magazine was the way to go.

Everyone interested in group travel could buy an ad size that displayed their commitment to the group travel segment. It worked and in a presentation to the group, there was enough advertising to publish the first Myrtle Beach Area Shorelines, a 16-page glossy tabloid. It might have been the world’s most vertical publication, but it worked.

Relationships are the backbone of group travel

The magazine grew and shortly after, we introduced The Virginia Explore and the following year added North Carolina to our original start-up and together became The Carolina Explorer. We were well on our way with Tennessee Trails, until 9/11 shut that one down. Over 17 years, we had a great run with our publications and eventually had an offer to sell. We did. Well after the sale, Premier Travel Media called and said they needed someone who spoke southern to write a few stories.

I knew it was more than my accent when business cards arrived and much to my surprise, Associate Publisher was listed under my name. During the past 13 years, the company has grown considerably as we continue to provide our clients with creative, proven ways to get their message to our readers. I’m extremly proud that during the pandemic we did not miss a print publication edition, including our custom publishing pieces.

It truly has been an awesome journey. From day one, I have thoroughly enjoyed the tour and travel industry. There are so many people in this industry that I owe a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks to the advertisers who supported us in the early days and the operators that taught me so much about the industry. The writers and designers I’ve worked with over the years should take a bow. Long ago, they sold me on that glossy tabloid and it was critical to our success.

As much as things have changed in my 30-plus years, relationships are still the backbone of group travel. What’s on my mind today is having to say goodbye to it all. I’ve begun my retirement as you read this. Hope to see you on the golf course soon and don’t be surprised if I show up in your town on a tour.

Download the current issue of Leisure Group Travel today and get even more travel ideas by Subscribing for FREE

By Dave Bodle