By Mary Lu Laffey
Destinations, tour operators, and motorcoach companies are eyeing a new demographic to increase the number of visitors to their tried-and-true tour stops. Enter the burgeoning student tour market.
Student tourism in the U.S. represents 30.1 percent of motorcoach tourism and produces an economic output of $31.3 billion—plus jobs and wages—in excess of $11 billion. These figures, from the ABA Foundation Report The Impact of Student Tourism in 2012, were not lost on Destination Cleveland and its group tour services team.
To entice student groups, Destination Cleveland listened to students’ needs and picked up on the vernacular—that is, by providing opportunities to engage in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) experiences and speaking their language.
“Whether they are rocking their way through music history, digitally interacting with works of art, or using augmented reality to explore a rocket engine, students can embrace unique learning opportunities in Cleveland,” said Jane Tougouma, group tour sales manager at ABA member Destination Cleveland.
“They [students] can even take center stage with more than 40 performance opportunities around town, including at the world’s only Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where inductees belt out tunes from time to time,” Tougouma said.
Promoting STEAM experiences is key to gaining share in this market. Another way to gain market share is by taking a different look at a traditional tour stop. Cleveland’s historic Lake View Cemetery did just that.
Lake View Cemetery is the resting place for native sons and esteemed Americans John D. Rockefeller, Elliot Ness, Carl B. Stokes, President James A. Garfield, and more.
On a traditional itinerary for adults, this stop is clearly a win-win. Visiting the graves of famous citizens is more than homage; it is an important exercise in good citizenship and honoring history. And the cemetery’s Wade Memorial Chapel features one of the few interiors left in the world that was designed by Louis Tiffany. Yet, for students, a cemetery could be perceived as a stop to get through on the way to something more exciting.
Destination Cleveland tapped into pop culture to side-step that attitude. In its Learn, Have Fun Student Tours Guide, Destination Cleveland promotes the cemetery as one to “Bring history back to life, without the zombies.” Just three little words that are sure to entice a student’s curiosity.
Mary Lu Laffey is a freelancer travel journalist who specializes in group and tour travel.