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Taking the Job Seriously as Director of Fun, with Richard Arnold

Episode 113:

Richard Arnold is the Director of Fun at Atlantic Travel and Tours. He is a graduate of Acadia University and has been with Atlantic since 1987.  He is also a member of the board of Travel Alliance Partners, where he serves as treasurer.

After working as an employee for many years, Richard took the plunge and purchased Atlantic Travel and Tours. He is a busy man- but he’ll be the first to tell you his first love is hosting the trips and being a tour director. Though his title is now Director of Fun, he still gets out in the field and leads trips from time to time. He says, “I want to be judged on the job, not on the fact that I am president of the company. At the end of the day, if I’m not doing my job, I need to hear it like any other tour manager.”

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Richard Arnold about his longtime experience in running tours in an around Nova Scotia and outbound tourism to the far reaches of the world. How has group travel changed? How can you stay competitive? How can you continue to make a profit and make promises like a guaranteed departure trip? We discuss answers to these questions and many more.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to balance the people side of the business with the numbers side
  • How to make a guaranteed departure policy work, even with a low headcount
  • Partnering with “competitors” to run a larger, more profitable tour
  • The difference between what is most memorable and what makes people open their wallets in the first place
  • How to build greater tourism awareness in your destination community

Evolution of Group Touring

In the early 2000s, many thought the era of group touring was over. People want to follow their own path, conventional wisdom said. Richard thought something else was happening and developed what he calls “the illusion of choice.”

Part of this is about giving people a sense of having freedom of choice. When you offer options, Richard has found that most people default to joining the larger group anyhow. But you’ve empowered them with a choice, which is what travel consumers want these days.

Paying Attention to the “Wow”

Richard has uncovered a gem of wisdom in his 33 years in the industry- often the thing that caused a touring client to open their wallets in the first place is different from what they find most memorable about a tour. Be sure to pay attention to those “wow” factors that may not be the reason people initially book a trip, but what they get out of it in the end.

What “wows” one person might not “wow” another. The greater the customization you can offer (even in group tour offerings), the bigger the “wow”. Richard shows us how you can find ways to make any size tour for any length of time work, through strategic partnerships or just creative thinking and attention to your bottom line.

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