Iowa tourism is a growing business. According to 2016 research released by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, state tourism revenues exceeded $8 billion, with communities and businesses across the state trying to carve out a piece of the pie for themselves. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is ready to help. Tourism specialist Diane Van Wyngarden serves all 99 Iowa counties.
“My niche is working with small businesses,” she said. “I work very closely with businesses wanting to capture more of the tourism market. My clients include Agritourism businesses, restaurants, lodging, and community attractions.
Van Wyngarden says her tourism focus with businesses located in rural Iowa is group travel, because that program benefits Iowa businesses in two distinct ways.
“First, group travel training provides equal opportunity for Iowa businesses located in rural Iowa, Van Wyngarden said. “Groups will travel to anywhere in Iowa if the business successfully generates a strong tourism magnetism.” Van Wyngarden said her research has identified the key components a business must have to become an effective group travel magnet, and she is eager to help Iowa businesses better position themselves in the tourism economy. “I help businesses create a stronger customer pull to motorcoach operators and members of clubs, churches, and organizations who enjoy traveling as a group.”
“Secondly, I come to your business or attraction and provide onsite group travel consultation. This customized onsite group travel consultation is not available in Iowa from any other source.” Van Wyngarden said she frequently works with businesses who are not normally included on tours or trails but want to initiate or expand their business plan to include group travel services. “It provides another product for business profitability,” she said.
Van Wyngarden has provided group travel consultation and recommendations to 311 businesses across Iowa, and is available for consultation with additional businesses or organizations interested in initiating, improving or expanding services for group travelers.
“I provide a tool kit of practical techniques for group travel success,” said Van Wyngarden. “I enjoy working with both communities and individual businesses, and I love watching them succeed.” Van Wyngarden has many success stories, and shares examples of her work in both rural and urban Iowa settings.
Cinnamon Ridge Farms
John Maxwell farms near Donahue, IA and is Vice Chair of the Scott County Extension Council. Van Wyngarden first met with Maxwell on his farm in 2008, when he expressed interest in opening his farm for group visitors and utilizing group travel as another sector of farm profitability. “We discussed group logistics, accessibility, farm-to-table menus and price points,” recalls Van Wyngarden. The Maxwells now host over 6,000 visitors per year on their family farm. “John and Joan Maxwell have a targeted tourism focus of educating groups about Iowa agriculture, and they do that exceptionally well, said Van Wyngarden.
Van Wyngarden’s consultations have made an impact for communities across Iowa. “Our businesses love to work with Diane,” said Julie Kronlage, Vice President of Sales for Dubuque Area Convention and Visitor Bureau. “Diane shares new ideas and practical solutions. She teaches group travel best practices to our businesses, helping them become more efficient and more profitable. Diane has also brought 34 Road Scholar motorcoach groups to Dubuque within the past ten years, generating over $800,000 into our Dubuque economy.”
Maiden Voyage Tours
Robert Vavra and Van Wyngarden have been working together for several years in providing unique educational experiences in the backwaters of the Mississippi, and Vavra shares these experiences with the public in Marquette, IA. Van Wyngarden credits Vavra’s success to his attention to the “Key Ingredients of Group Travel”, which she teaches during her business consultations, combined with Vavra’s wit and personal story. “Robert’s backwater experiences provide the authenticity which travelers seek,” she said.
Information about Van Wyngarden’s group travel trainings and the business application form are available at www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/tourism-workshops-and-business-trainings. The group travel consultation fee is $50 for a two-hour consultation with Van Wyngarden at any Iowa location. For more information, contact Van Wyngarden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experience Iowa’s Best Travel Yourself!
Van Wyngarden also leads group travel programs. Enroll in ISU Extension’s Road Scholar travel program for a fun learning adventure on the Mississippi River. For more information about this all-inclusive program, see
www.IowaRoadScholar.com for “The Best of the Upper Mississippi River”.