Play Ball! Travel Agents Pitch Spring Training Trips
by Richard D’Ambrosio
Play Ball! Travel Agents Pitch Spring Training Trips

The new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, spring home to the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.


Pitchers and catchers report soon to Florida and Arizona, and smart travel agents are booking vacations and extended weekends for their clients who love spring training baseball.
 
“The Cincinnati baseball market is one of the smaller ones in the majors, and Cincinnati fans are very loyal. If you grow up in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, and even parts of West Virginia, you become a Reds fan,” said Jim Mogan, senior group coordinator at Provident Travel in Cincinnati. The Reds play in Goodyear, AZ, just west of Phoenix.
 
Provident offers two group trips, the eight-night “Grand Slam” and the five-night “Short Stop.” Mogan said the trips are most popular with seniors and baby boomers, because they have the time and money.
 
Pam MacDonald, owner of PMM Vacations, in Maryland Heights, MO, was actively posting on Facebook over the December holidays and was approached a week or so later at her local Chamber of Commerce meeting. “Someone came up to me to tell me she loved my posts and wanted more information about spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals,” MacDonald said. “I sent her an email last night and she emailed back asking for a quote with kids. It’s cold this time of the year and I thought it was a great idea to start thinking of going to a place that’s warm.”
 
MacDonald got the idea when two years ago she visited the Sand Piper Club Med in Jupiter, FL, about a 45-minute drive from the Cardinals’ spring training facility. “When I realized how close it was, I put it on my 2016 marketing schedule. But then I got busy and missed my chance to market it. So this year I planned everything out.”
 
Marriott Hotels & Resorts is doing extensive marketing this year around its three West Palm Beach hotels, which are close to the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, spring home to the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. Opening day at the park is scheduled for February 28, as the Nationals and Astros are set to play and break in their new Spring Training home.
 
Shelly Pappas, general manager of the West Palm Beach Marriott, said spring-training vacation travel starts at the end of February and runs through the end of March, when all the teams not based in Florida head north.
 
“The spring training travel market has always been robust, even during the down economy,” Pappas said. “It never really wavered. People are baseball fans, and they will spend the money and follow their teams.” The mix of travelers runs the gamut, Pappas said, from “families to Millennials to baby boomers. Sometimes it’s the father and the son who attend. But all the generations love the game of baseball.”
 
Pappas, a Detroit Tigers fan, said the typical length of stay is 2-3 nights, a long weekend, though avid followers may come down for 7-10 days.
 
MacDonald has also quoted pricing for spring training trips to Port St. Lucie, FL, for some New York Mets fans.
 
Provident includes other activities in its Cincinnati Reds packages, including boat rides, museum visits and dinner each evening.  “We attend a game every day, either at the Reds ballpark in Goodyear or other stadiums where the Reds are playing,” Mogan said.
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