Janesville72°

Coaches motoring to Walworth County

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Kayla Bunge
June 25, 2009
— Tammy Dunn wants to make Walworth County a hot spot for group tours.

"We have many hidden gems here, and our area is viewed as an undiscovered treasure by tour group leaders, who are looking for something a little different to offer tourists," she said.


Dunn is group services manager for the Walworth County Visitors Bureau.


Besides the resorts, restaurants and shops, Dunn said, the county offers dozens of unique attractions suitable for large groups such as boat tours on the Lake Geneva Cruise Line, shows at the Young Auditorium in Whitewater and rides on the East Troy Electric Railroad.


"People are looking for one-of-a-kind experiences," Dunn said, "which is why it's so important that we offer group services."


The visitors bureau, which is funded by the county, had stopped offering services for motor coach tours. But after realizing early this year the revenue potential of tour groups at a time when competition for tourist is fierce, officials decided to create the group services manager position, she said.


According to a recent survey by the American Bus Association, a motor coach full of visitors who take a day trip can bring in as much as $4,500, and a coach full of visitors who stay two nights can bring as much as $16,000.


That's big money, Dunn said, and the visitors bureau is working hard to attract tour groups.


Appearances at Group Leaders of America trade shows has helped generate interest among tour leaders, she said. The trade shows offer the visitors bureau an opportunity to market the county as a destination for tour groups, she said.


"We're like the new kid on the block," Dunn said. "Since we really haven't had a presence at these shows in the past, they're very interested in what we have to offer."


Dunn attended three trade shows in April and developed 13 proposals for group tours in the area. Eight already have booked their trips, including a group from Missouri that will set out on a five-day, four-night "mystery tour" of the county.


Dunn is scheduled to attend three more trade shows in August.


But it's expensive to attend such trade shows, and the visitors bureau is working with local chambers of commerce and businesses to help fund its appearances.


Participation at a recent tour of the state geared toward group tour leaders also has netted interest, Dunn said.


During a bus trip this week, Circle Wisconsin, a group that promotes the motor coach travel industry in the state, showed 22 group leaders what Wisconsin has to offer. Dunn coordinated the trip to Walworth County, which included stops at the Dancing Horses Theater in Delavan, the Lake Geneva Cruise Line and Millie's Restaurants and Shopping Village in Delavan and an overnight stay at The Abbey Resort in Fontana.


Dunn said she's heard back from at least 10 group leaders, who said they are interested in bringing groups to Walworth County based on their experiences this week.


That's the impression the visitors bureau hopes to leave with all tour groups, she said.


"They can go anywhere and have a wonderful experience," Dunn said. "There are lots of gems throughout the United States, but the most important thing is when they choose to come here, we make it an experience they'll remember."



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