By Brian Jewell
The founders of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) pioneered a new concept in the tourism industry back in 2001 when they formed their partnership. Now, TAP is blazing new trails again with its innovative series of tour events.
Known as SpecTAPular, the products combine tours to popular destinations with special entertainment events created exclusively for TAP customers. TAP partner tour operators have arranged to bring groups from around the country to a destination during its low season for tours during the day and high-profile evening entertainment.
“This is an exclusive TAP program that can only be purchased by a TAP partner,” said TAP executive director Stefanie Gorder. “It’s bigger than a tour. When you take a TAP tour, it’s a fantastic memory. When you go to a SpecTAPular tour event, it’s a lifetime change.”
A Bash at the Beach
The first SpecTAPular took place October 15-18 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Bob Cline of TAP partner U.S. Tours spearheaded the project along with Jim Coggin, tourism sales manager at the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“This idea began when Jim Coggin came to visit me on a sales mission,” Cline said. “We went to dinner, and he asked how I could deliver more tours to Virginia Beach and influence the TAP partners to do the same. We began brainstorming and hit upon the idea of putting together evening entertainment.”
Although their original discussions began with the idea of having musical entertainment from a guitar duet or a brass band, Cline and Coggin quickly saw the potential to build something much bigger. Their project soon turned into SpecTAPular, a three-day event featuring a solid lineup of patriotic entertainment.
The strength of the TAP partnership and distribution network helped grow SpecTAPular into a major event.
“Our original goal was to get 500 to 600 people,” Cline said. “We ended up with over 1,200 people attending. We had to create an encore package because we couldn’t accommodate everyone in the first package. Everyone who was at the show bought their ticket through a TAP partner.”
Virginia Beach has a strong military and patriotic heritage, and TAP planners decided to emphasize that culture when planning their event. The first SpecTAPular combined three days of touring with three nights of high-profile patriotic entertainment.
The first evening event took place at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, where guests enjoyed a “Virginia is for Lovers” dinner, accompanied by live piano music. After dinner, singers and musicians took the stage to perform “New Jersey Nights,” a show featuring the music of the famous Four Seasons.
The second night brought a swanky dinner in the Oceanfront Ballroom at Virginia Beach’s Cavalier Hotel. A small jazz combo entertained guests during the meal, followed by a big-band jazz show called “The Frank Sinatra Legacy.”
“Coincidentally, the Cavalier Hotel hosted many tea dances back in the 1940s and ’50s,” Cline said. “Frank Sinatra used to play there.”
The third night of the event was perhaps the most anticipated. Taking place at the Virginia Beach Military Aviation Museum, the event began with a swing band performance on the tarmac, followed by an opportunity for guests to see some of the 65 historic warplanes in the museum’s collection. The museum then put on a private air show with five historic biplanes and warplanes.
The beginning of the air show coincided with the arrival of a double-decker bus bringing the Glen Miller Army Air Force Band and 15 men in uniform, along with actors impersonating Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters.
“When the air show was over, we went downtown, where we had our own version of a USO show,” Cline said. “The orchestra performed Glen Miller tributes, and Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters did tribute performances as well.”
As part of its patriotic objective, this inaugural SpecTAPular event included a benefit for the actual USO, raising more than $20,000.