As a twenty-year veteran in the group travel industry, Cindy Brown with Boston Duck Tours has seen a lot. However, her experience cultivating relationships with her clients and competitors has positioned her as a leader in the group travel industry.
From the creation of the Boston Attractions Group to creating lifelong friends with her clients, we can learn a great deal from her experiences. She certainly faces the same challenges many of us do, from balancing being a wife, mom, and business leader, as well as her passion, leadership, and dedication. Each role has positioned her and her company for success. Learn a bit more about what has worked for her, her company, and the industry.
Boston as a destination is a leader in the area of partnering. What is the purpose and goal of the Boston Attractions Group?
We noticed that many of our partners/competitors were all at the same group leader shows, trade shows, and conferences, and thought it would be great to pool resources, (time, money, etc.) and approach our sales/marketing efforts as a team. We created Boston Attractions Group (BAG) about five years ago, and it's grown stronger every year.
What are a few suggestions you’d give to a destination to create a program like the Boston Attractions Group?
I'd suggest getting all your partners...and yes, competitors, together to discuss your goals and resources. It's important that you all agree what markets to focus on, and how best to spend your money. Some of our attractions in BAG do not go after the student market, so our focus there is not as strong as other markets. We will not always agree on every decision, but that's when majority rules.
What advice would you give to other destinations about creating a group like Boston Attractions Group?
Choose your partners wisely. We had a requirement that a certain percentage of business had to come from groups and unfortunately that disqualified many great attractions. But, we decided early on that our focus was to increase group business, not retail, so it made those decisions easier. Also be sure to include competitors because you are all better off working together than working apart.
Boston Duck Tours is a staple attraction in your area, but maintaining relationships with your operators is critical. What do you do to cultivate and maintain those strong relationships?
After being in the industry for almost twenty years, I'm happy to say that many of my clients have also become good friends outside of the work arena. I make a point of keeping in touch beyond the annual appointment at conventions, and learning about them, their families, and hobbies. Facebook has been a savior to me, and it allows me to keep abreast of news in their personal and professional lives all from the comfort of my computer.
Your sales team works directly with the operator to book the business, but my guess is they are not the front line team interacting with the visitors. What type of training do you provide to your team regarding groups if any?
We impress upon our staff how important the group business is to Boston Duck Tours, and without it, our spring and fall business would surely be much lower. Each year, we try to improve our operations, and how we welcome groups to our departure locations. This is when it's helpful to work with tour operators who know our business and how to schedule a tour properly.
As a seasoned group travel professional, what obstacles do you face related to group sales, and how do you overcome them?
My biggest obstacle is staying involved in the group tour industries. Before becoming a Mom, I served on many boards and leadership teams. This volunteer experience helped me grow personally, and professionally, and of course benefited my business tremendously. I still enjoy going to shows for business appointments, and to network, but I miss the in depth work with our associations. I hope to jump back into the pool once the little one is a bit bigger.
"Being a twenty-five year veteran of the Massachusetts tourism industry, I appreciate the opportunity to stand beside Cindy Brown and other tourism partners to promote our awesome state. Cindy’s enthusiasm and dedication, not only to her Boston Duck Tour clients and guests ... but to the numerous tourism relationships she has worked diligently to build over the past twenty years, is both inspiring and motivating. Our Massachusetts tourism 'family' works closely together to ensure a memorable experience to all who visit our remarkable region ... and with Cindy Brown, as one of our esteemed hospitality leaders at the helm, it’s a win-win for everyone. (Not to mention she loves the Red Sox as much as I do!!!)" - Ann Stacey
"I have known and worked with Cindy Brown for a number of years. Her intelligence, dedication, and passion for the industry is boundless. Cindy understands that by partners and competitors working together to secure a slice of the pie, rather than the whole pie. Everyone gets to eat a lot MORE pie in the long run." - Alan R. Small, Midtown Hotel
"Cindy Brown is a true pro in the hospitality industry. You would do well to listen to her advice. The Boston Attractions Group is a great example of collaborative thinking on her part." - John Stachnik, Mayflower Tours