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Travel business combines storm relief with upcoming trip

HINCKLEY — When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in late October, Carol Buczek wasn’t sure what that would mean for her business, Tours By Design, Inc., and an upcoming bus trip to Atlantic City.

But after hearing that places on the itinerary would be open and also from travelers who said they still wanted to take the trip, Buczek decided to do more than keep the trip on the schedule.

“We’re bringing a bus down,” she says. “Why go half empty? We’ve got all that room in the luggage bay.”


So, rather than travel down on Nov. 13 with a bus full of travelers, Buczek will also bring canned goods and baby items to help those affected by Sandy. In the days after the storm, Buczek worked to find drop-off locations in the area and find out what type of items storm victims needed most. 

“We want to bring what they need,” she says.

While most of her trips don’t involve ferrying supplies to storm victims, they are about delivering what customers need and want when it comes to travel, Buczek says.

She formed her business in 2002 after working for six years for High Adventure Tours in Clinton, which eventually changed its name to Coach USA. When Coach decided to relocate its office to Syracuse, Buczek decided she didn’t want to make the move and founded Tours By Design in October 2002. She recently celebrated her 10th anniversary with an open house.

Buczek customizes bus tours for groups such as church groups, schools, businesses, and seniors to a variety of destinations from wineries to shopping destinations and sporting events. That work comprises about 95 percent of her total business. Buczek declined to release revenue figures.

For the balance of her business, Buczek organizes about a dozen trips a year on her own, which she then sells to the general public. Those trips go to similar destinations as those she organizes for groups.

”I try to offer what other bus companies are not doing,” Buczek says. 

Currently, Buczek averages just over 100 tours a year between her group work and her own tours. Business started off slow this year, she says, which isn’t uncommon in an election year.

However, Buczek has been able to offset that slowdown by targeting new markets including more businesses and younger groups. She has also boosted her business by offering more inexpensive trips that are shorter in duration and stay closer to home.

“I’m offering more one- and two- and three-day trips,” she says. Those shorter trips have proven popular. “The day trips I offered this year, they almost all went full.”

Currently, Buczek operates the business on her own, with occasional part-time help, from a home office and isn’t sure she wants to outgrow that setup. However, she says, there is certainly room for her to grow through additional clients and tour offerings from her current location. 

Through her membership in the Travel Alliance Partnership, Buczek says she may add some international trip destinations. She hopes to offer a trip to Ireland in the near future and wants to add Norwegian Cruise Line to her offerings. The key, she says, is to pace her new additions to keep growth manageable.

“I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew,” she says. Being able to maintain a high level of customer service is important, she adds.

Upcoming trips from Tours By Design include trips to see the Syracuse basketball team and World Cup luge events in Lake Placid.       


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