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NOV-DEC 2016

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Page 8 of 79 9 N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 6 at how she travels more now than she did as a travel agent. "We had no idea our international trips were going to be so popu- lar," said Hardwick. "We have repeat travelers. We have some that have been on all of our trips. ey have told their friends, so we get more that way." After the fruitful China trip, Hardwick next tried Cuba. e cham- ber took 90 people to Cuba the fi rst time, but the overfl owing de- mand made it necessary to add another date just to accommodate everyone. is proved to Hardwick that China wasn't just a fl uke. Instead, they were building something that could have an impact on the chamber long term. Since then, the chamber members have also visited Vietnam, Cambodia, Croatia and Dubai, as well as gone on smaller trips that study cities across the United States. U N U S U A L I S U S U A L After China, Hardwick started surveying the chamber members to see where they would most like to go. She weighs several factors when determining the next international trip, including member preferences and the destination's exotic factor. "We try to choose places that are off the beaten path," said Hard- wick. "We want places that you wouldn't try to go on your own for the fi rst time. Dubai was one of the most memorable of those." Since Lexington has strong ties to the horse industry, Hardwick asked the chamber's travel company to give their Dubai itinerary a more equestrian theme. Chamber members got a tour of the Meydan Racecourse along with the highlights of Dubai. Hardwick doesn't consider just the location. She also considers the length of the international tours, since shorter trips mean more businesspeople can attend. Hardwick uses all of these factors to of- fer one big international trip a year, since she be- lieves that any more would result in smaller pas- senger turnouts. However, the chamber doesn't focus solely on international travel. Hardwick also helps plan leadership visits, during which chamber members study the business practices from other cities. "A lot of chambers do these types of trips as well," said Hardwick. "We just got back from Charleston [South Carolina]. ey are always two nights and three days." T I C K E T T O S U C C E S S Since starting the travel program as a side mon- eymaking project, the chamber has seen other un- expected benefi ts, such as gaining new members, some of whom joined mainly so they can travel with the discounted chamber rate. To continue this momentum, Hardwick adver- tises the tours to members and in local newspa- pers. She uses tour companies' travel documents to create packaged booklets of information to build anticipation and educate travelers about the upcoming trip. During the trip, the chamber doesn't leave all the work up to the tour operators. "One thing we might do diff erently than oth- er companies off ering travel is that we typically have one person from Commerce Lexington on each bus," said Hardwick. "Every year something will happen that is out of your control. For example, in Dubai some- one's fl ight was canceled. We like to have someone on each bus to be a liaison when that happens." is practice helps keep Commerce Lexington at the focus of these culturally signifi cant destinations so the trips don't become just an- other tour. "It's not all business," said Hardwick. "It's making aff ordable travel to valuable places available to our members. We feel like we're not only selling our tours but ourselves as well. It's amazing the relation- ships and camaraderie that develops on these trips." • Be fl exible. Anything can happen. • Maintain a high level of customer service. • Choose unique destinations. That will keep your travelers coming back. T R A V E L tips We're not just any small town. We're the most beautiful small town in America, according to Rand McNally and USA Today. Imagine wrapping up all the splendor and enchantment of Bedford Falls, Whoville, and 34th Street into one big package. That's what you'll experience during Christmas 'Round Bardstown. For a schedule of events, go to 800.638.4877

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