Thursday 24 May, 2012

What Tour Should I Choose? For New Group Leaders

Searching for the first tour I led with EF Tours (there was no College Study Tours back then) was a bit overwhelming. There were so many tours in the catalog. Most of the tours back then were to European locations, but would I want to lead a group to the British Isles? To Spain or Portugal? To Italy or Greece? It was like being a starving man standing in front of a smorgasbord!

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Having spent a career as an Army officer, I’d lived overseas and had traveled a bit, but this was new. Not only was this a totally different kind of adventure, but I also had to decide which tour would be best suited to launch a program of educational tours at our university. Anyone thinking about leading an international educational tour runs into that same question, and as I’ve learned, the simple answer is two-fold: What tour would I enjoy taking, and what tour would my students probably most enjoy taking?

Greek Isles cruise in Mykonos, Greece

My wife and I looked through the trip catalog and were captivated by the itinerary offered in Italy and Greece with the three-day cruise extension (an itinerary that has thankfully changed little in the years since that first tour). I drooled over the thoughts of seeing the Eternal City, of visiting Florence (birthplace of the Renaissance), of wandering through ancient Pompeii and Sorrento, of exploring mysterious Delphi and Athens and finally of cruising the Greek Islands. In the end, the experiences validated our choice, and the stop in Kusadasi, Turkey to experience Ephesus was an unexpected and extraordinary highlight.

The first recommendation I’d offer any new group leader (GL) is to locate a tour itinerary that appeals to you. Would you love to take that trip? We can best persuade others if we believe that the trip will be an over-the-top experience! For my wife and me, “Italy & Greece” provided such a feeling, and I felt confident in my ability to “sell” this tour to my students.

Group photo in Athens, Greece

The second recommendation when it comes to selecting an EF College Study tour is to ask your students where they would like to travel. That first year—and every subsequent year—I found that students are eager, enthusiastic and ready to enroll in a trip to Italy and Greece. If I were to offer that trip every year, I’m certain I could fill one or two buses with little difficulty. Not only do I love those destinations, but they also evoke an extraordinarily positive feeling about history, culture, people and food. There are scores of other trip itineraries, though, and it’s great to travel to different destinations with EF. Once you have a history of trips, you can ask previous trip participants where else they would like to travel.

Sometimes, those questions to students can be frustrating. Several years ago, my wife and I enjoyed an EF Teacher Convention Tour to Scandinavia and we returned home thrilled with Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Sadly, though, whenever we’ve talked with students about Scandinavia, we get the same deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. Scandi—where—ia? Consequently, I can be overjoyed at the thought of a trip to Copenhagen or Oslo, but I must also be realistic about convincing students to join me on such a trip.

As you think about where you’d like to lead your students, discover an itinerary that gets you smiling and talking to yourself, and then ask your students if they would like to enroll in such a trip. They’re usually awfully honest about it and will help you gauge the possibility of success.