“Mystery tours are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”
That’s my take on the famous Forest Gump line which I used while presenting a seminar about tour packaging to a group at the Pennsylvania Bus Association Marketplace over 20 years ago and the phrase still holds true today.
The definition of a mystery tour is a trip that features sites that a group or a motorcoach company has never before visited on a tour so the traveler that signs up is ready for a new experience, and for some travelers not knowing where they’re headed is a tantalizing treat that adds to the adventure of travel.
For group leaders and tour operators the popularity of this type of tours is a boon but it carries a responsibility with it as well.
Being able to choose virtually any destination or activity to feature on a mystery tour allows the tour planner great leeway when planning the tour. It provides the opportunity to try something new and/or visit a place that might be a great travel destination but hard to sell. Have a site your travelers likely have never heard of? Use a mystery tour to introduce them to it and when they rave about it upon their return, you’ve got great reviews to use when you run the tour again for the group or as a regular public tour.
Plan a great mystery tour and you’ll begin to have a following with some groups and tour companies selling out their mystery tours well before their regular tour offerings.
Here are a few more tips and suggestions for planning a successful mystery tour:
- Although you have the opportunity to choose whatever sites you want to feature be sure they are quality sites that reflect the fun-loving nature of the traveler who likes mystery tours.
- Include a quirky theme or site in the tour package to give the trip a bit of flare. For example, we’ve offered a tour including lunch in an historic jail with the meal being served by wait staff dressed in stripes and a “Do the Twist Tour” with a 50s theme including a Twist dance contest plus the added twist of a backwards luncheon starting with dessert.
- Promote the tour with clues perhaps in the form of a poem.
- Upon boarding the coach the day of the tour give everyone another clue as to where you are headed and a blank slip of paper. Make the clue clever and difficult. Ask your travelers to write down their guess of the day’s destination on a piece of paper and keep it until the end of the tour. Pick a winner from any correct answers you receive and award a prize on your way home.
- During the tour, keep each activity a secret as long as you can so your travelers continue to be intrigued throughout the day. Remember, if these travelers love this mystery tour they’ll be the first to sign up for the next one you offer.
- Ask the representatives at the sites included in the tour to share as many quirky details about their site as possible.
- Stumped for a good idea for a destination? Contact a group destination travel planner who may know of sites off the beaten track that would be just right for this type of adventure.