Leisure Group Travel publisher Jeff Gayduk reflects on how new opportunities being offered by travel destinations mirror new experiences in his own life.

Jeff Gayduk

Jeff Gayduk

Twenty-six years ago I had a toothache. Complaining to a fellow worker, she heaped praise on her local dentist and practically threw his number to me. Suffering from years of neglect, I got to be quite close to this fellow for a period of time and have been a regular patient since. I’ve grown to admire Dr. S, not just for his dental skills, but for his love of travel. On annual check-ups we’d swap travel stories, and I’m continually astonished by his ability to recall even the slightest details of a vacation and deliver the story to me like he’s telling it the first time – even though he’s probably on the 100th rendition. Little does he know that he WAS social media way before Zuckerberg.

A few weeks ago, just before going on stage for a presentation to a room of tourism delegates in Branson, Missouri, I chipped a filling. I knew immediately this wasn’t good, but managed to get through the presentation without sounding like Sylvester the Cat. On the way to the airport I called Dr. S and told him of my plight, and he agreed to see me upon my return.

As we both prepped for the appointment, Dr. S sprang the news that after 50 years in dentistry he was hanging up his toothbrush. Equally parts sad that I have to open my mouth to a foreign pick, and excited for him about this new phase in his life, I learned that Dr. S and Mrs. S were moving to Texas to be closer to their two sons, and, of course, travel. New experiences for Dr. S, new visitors for Texas.

This past week I traveled to Minneapolis for probably the 25th time in my professional career. Unlike previous trips, I dedicated my time to discovering fresh new travel products, thanks to the CVB’s 19 new Signature Experiences. These new group products provide a deeper dive on existing tourist attractions, while creating new experiences with non-traditional players, thanks to the innovative mind of Joe Veneto. Joe possesses the innate ability to turn vanilla travel experiences into Ben & Jerry’s, and the work he’s done with destinations like Columbus, Philadelphia and Virginia Beach fits precisely into what today’s consumers are seeking in a vacation experience. For Minneapolis, new experiences create new opportunities for growth.

While at this event I received a text message and photo from my wife. It was the back of a small boy as he rode his bike down the street, backpack firmly attached. While modest at first glance, it represents a milestone in our lives. My oldest son Liam, 9 years old now, has been asking if he could ride his bike to school without mom or dad in tow. The oldest bird leaving the nest – even if it’s for a 10-minute ride on his two-wheeler, is a major stepping stone in a boy’s, and parent’s, life. Understanding the symbolism of this event, I couldn’t help but shed a tear as I glanced at the photo – first, in recognition of the event itself – the kid couldn’t be more excited, and second, that I wasn’t there to experience it. New experience for Liam, missed experience for dad.

Leisure Group Travel’s 7th annual Itinerary Planning Guide includes nearly 40 new experiences for your travel group – I hope you enjoy, while also taking time to seek out new experiences in your life.

By Jeff Gayduk, Publisher, Leisure Group Travel