Destinations across the world take pride in being named a Top 10 Destination for student groups. But what does that really mean and how does a destination earn the distinction? What common elements do these top places share? How hard is it for a locality to get on the travel itinerary for student groups? Much like your mom’s favorite lemon cake recipe, it takes the right mix of ingredients to produce the perfect cake.
The old cliche—location, location, location—is part of the mix. Add to the mixing bowl cups of safety, affordability, educational or performance opportunities and the “secret” ingredient of parent acceptance, and you’ve got the complete recipe for a Top 10 Destination.
When group leaders are choosing a destination, safety always plays into the decision. It’s a hard sell to school boards and parents if the destination is perceived as risky. The best way to assure parents that safety is top of mind is for a destination to promote their track record of safety. That doesn’t mean focusing on crime statistics. Drawing attention to the number of tourists per year, the overall community feel and any designations the destination has won is image-boosting.
Mixing Affordability with Educational Opportunities
A Top 10 Destination has a good balance of flavor between affordable attractions and educational or performance opportunities. Quality experiences must be available in a price range the traveling community can afford. Some destinations, such as Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois, offer a myriad of admission-free sites with loads of educational opportunities. However, free sites are not the only factor. Hotels, transportation costs, dining options for groups and ease of traveling within the destination all play in the decision-making process.
An active DMO helps as well. DMOs exist for the purpose of educating travelers about their area. From my perspective, there is a direct correlation in the success rate of becoming a Top 10 Destination when the DMO is actively promoting the destination. A great example is Nashville, Tennessee. Their efforts at attracting student groups, especially performance groups, has grown that market considerably. Group leaders who may not have considered Nashville in the past now clamor for the chance to bring their students to this gem rich in music history.
By and large, parents want their children to experience life outside of the hometown. Most parents go to great lengths when dipping into the family budget to pay for a trip. Further, parents influence one another and are quick to research a destination or question the educational value. A Top 10 Destination understands parental concerns and answers questions about safety and viability through website content and well managed social media.
The Perfect Recipe for a Top 10 Destination
Mix together safety, educational viability, affordability, ease of travel and an active DMO, and you’ve got a recipe in the making for a Top 10 Destination.
About the contributing author:
Lisa S. Curtin shares her thoughts following 20+ years of tour expertise, both as a group leader and vice president of operations for a major student travel company. Lisa now consults to the tour industry with organizations including the Student Youth Travel Association and serves as a contributing author to this publication. Currently, Lisa is the chief operations officer for Caldwell & Companies, a Certified Public Accounting firm in the Washington, D.C. area.