A Short History of Georgian Probus Travel Group 

The idea for establishing the GPTG began in August 2016 with a meeting of the Probus Gateway travel group, which met regularly to present and share travel stories amongst its members. Two ladies, Jeanne Bickle and Jan Christie gave a talk on an idea they had to form a large Probus Travel group which would be able to obtain lower priced travel because of its size and provide the opportunity for Probus members from different local clubs to travel together for added camaraderie of fellow travelers. Carl Wintermeyer was invited to attend this meeting by Ian McRuer and then was asked to join in the exploration phases of starting up this group. 

In November 2016, Jan Christie asked Carl Wintermeyer to chair a startup meeting of the group and Carl was assisted by Ian McRuer. The initial focus group consisted of representatives of 13 local Probus clubs. We quickly found out that Jan and Jeanne where not well enough to be of assistance in a startup so we formed a 3 member interim steering committee Consisting of Carl , Ian and Gloria Thompson to establish the focus and structure of the group. 

The focus:  

The structure of the committee required us to have several representatives from separate Probus clubs who met on a regular basis during the year to establish the rules of the endeavor and the slate of travel offerings. Cleila Clark from Sunbirds Probus Wasaga Beach volunteered to be the first Chairperson and the rest of us became the committee. We needed an interface to each of the Probus clubs so we began recruiting point people from each club to promote our offerings at their club. This marketing endeavor proved to be very difficult to do because each of the clubs operate in different ways and have different means of promoting initiatives and different levels of interest. There are presently 16 Probus Clubs in the Georgian Probus region and not all of them where equally enthusiastic about promoting or contributing to the marketing effort. 

We did a survey of all the clubs in 2017 to find out where we should concentrate our travel destination efforts. The input of this survey as you might imagine was varied, but there was a clear direction of interest in River cruises and Europe in general. We then decided that we would try several travel agencies over a period of time to see which gave us the best service. We offered 2 river cruises on the Rhine and Danube between Amsterdam and Budapest in 2018 as our first offering and where successful in running one of them. We soon discovered that lower pricing at different times of year isn’t always an incentive to travel. The difference in weather between September and October can be dramatic. 

We then proceeded to put together a Sailing Bike cruise in Croatia in 2018. The prices were coming in high so we spent an inordinate amount of time bargaining for a lower price. Then, when we had a price close to reasonable, the time was getting short to book and the tour company asked for a $20,000 deposit to hold the entire boat for us (30 persons). No one was willing to put up the money and we couldn’t guarantee 30 people so the deal fell through. The lesson learned from this was start negotiations early and book into a boat not book the entire boat. 

We offered an Ireland excursion at a very reasonable price and this filled up and ran successfully in 2018. 

In 2019 we were offering a complete tour of Scotland in May but we couldn’t get the numbers in time to book the trip so it was postponed to the next year in May 2020! Just in Time for Covid! 

We also offered a tour of PEI and the Magdalenes by Bus from Collingwood in 2020, but we couldn’t get the numbers in time to hold the reservation, so it was cancelled. 

An example of ideas from the membership was, one of the committee members is planning a trip to Iceland which is focused on Wellness. It includes yoga at a hot springs, geothermal baths, hiking and meditation, and glacier walks. We will see how that goes after a survey gives us direction. 

Another trip being offered for 2020 was The Oberammergau Innsbruck Rhine cruise which focused on the passion play in Oberammergau which happens every ten years. The next play is 2030. 

Covid arrived in 2020 and all group travel was cancelled. We closed down until September 2022 and we are now in the process of testing the waters for group travel again with a trip to Scotland in May 2023. 

So as you can see we have had a bumpy ride in the process of launching this initiative. It’s not easy to please around 2000 people in 17 clubs in the Georgian Probus Travel Group. We have learned quite a few lessons along the way, and as we determine what the majority want in travel excursions, we will also have to find better ways of marketing the offerings that we have. If anyone has a favorite trip to offer, they are encouraged to attend any of our committee meetings to talk about the trip, let the Chairperson know and we will arrange for you to attend. 

Carl Wintermeyer
Chair GPTG