Mayflower Tours

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Mayflower Tours is one of those small, family-owned companies that many try to emulate but seldom succeed. With offices in Downers Grove, IL, a small town about 20 miles west of Chicago, Mayflower reaches out to the rest of the world through consummate tours to beckoning places like South and Central America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Israel, Canada and Mexico.

According to John Stachnik, co-owner of the company with his wife Mary, Mayflower’s success is not complicated: “The secret [to succeed] is to pick a great business partner,” he says. “In 1979, after ending a business relationship with the wrong partner, I started Mayflower Tours with my wife who built a phenomenal sales department and established the culture for the company.”

Stachnik is very respected in the travel industry and his involvement in the business is far-reaching. He served as president of the National Tour Association (NTA), a trade organization comprised of thousands of tourism professionals involved in the growth and development of the package travel industry, while committed to providing business opportunities and networking for its members.

In addition, Stachnik was chairman of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), the largest organization of its kind in the country, which—according to the latest data—serves the needs of more than 11 million passengers annually and accounts for a yearly sales volume in excess of $9 billion. He will begin a second term as USTOA chairman in December.

Despite his long absences tending to NTA and USTOA matters, Mayflower is one of the most respected tour companies in the country. Stachnik credits his wife for this accomplishment. “During all my time away from Mayflower, Mary ran the company (along with our family) and she made us who we are today,” he says matter-of-factly.

Presently, Mayflower is achieving much success in its domestic tours that, according to Stachnik, center around two themes: mountain destinations coupled with special features such as rail excursions.

“For example,” he explains, “our Trains Across Colorado program features travel throughout the American Rockies combined with trips on four of the most historic rail lines in the country. This program is especially popular with men, but many couples also take this trip.”

On the international scene, Mayflower offers two appealing and very popular packages—the Best of Paris and the Christmas Markets of Europe. Stachnik says that “remarkable prices always do well—and these programs offer both.”

The Parisian excursion is an 8-day experience that allows travelers the opportunity to experience the unique aura of the fabled city while being escorted by knowledgeable guides through its most important landmarks. This tour also visits the Loire Valley’s Chateau Country and offers a night cruise down the Seine to see the “La Ville-Lumiere” (as Parisians call their city) from a glass-domed river barge.

At the very reasonable cost of $1,048 pp dbl, not including airfare, the tour is based in the elegant Mercure Montmartre Hotel, a Paris landmark within walking distance of the basilica at Sacre Coeur.

The Christmas Markets tour is a 9-day exploration of the festive season that highlights the traditional European Christmas markets and gives a rare glimpse of the holidays as celebrated in places like Innsbruck, Munich and Kempten, which is the site of the largest Christmas market in Germany, the Christkindlmarkt, a Bavarian spectacle dating back centuries.

The tour also visits Christmas markets in the French villages of Alsace and Freiburg in Germany, two of the most enthralling towns of the region.

The two Christmas tours depart on Nov. 29 and Dec. 3 and cost $1,179 pp, not including airfare.

Mayflower has a solid reputation for organizing tours to a very eclectic mixture of places where travelers can explore such out-of-the-way destinations as Mackinac Island in Michigan. For 2010, for instance, the company is promoting Oberammergau, Germany, a town in the Bavarian Alps known for the exquisite woodcarvings produced in Old World workshops and also the site of a celebrated and famous Passion Play held only once in a decade.

Its already colorful menu is also complemented by Mediterranean cruises, springtime travel through the canals of Holland, historic tours to Poland and Prague, crossing the Alps by rail and cruising the Greek Islands.

The price for the packages traditionally falls in the mid-range category and this, in turn, is mirrored by its success.