By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
The Hays Area Chamber of Commerce is venturing into the travel world with a jaunt through Tuscany, Italy, to serve as a fundraiser for the organization.
The chamber is offering a European getaway from Nov. 14 to 22 for $2,799 through the Central Holidays travel agency. The nine-day, seven-night excursion leaves Kansas City and travels to Florence, Rome and Pistoia.
Hotel accommodations with double occupancy, a bus and 13 meals are provided. A professional tour guide will assist during the entire trip. Each day's schedule is detailed in the itinerary.
For each reservation, the chamber receives $200, said Tammy Wellbrock, chamber executive director. The program is a fundraising endeavor because the organization receives no assistance from Hays or Ellis County.
"We at the chamber are completely dependent upon our chamber membership dues and any fundraising activities we complete," Wellbrock said. "We have to be open to other funding mechanisms."
Chamber staff ensured the offering did not conflict with any business within their ranks.
"It's not in direct competition with any of our chamber members' offerings, which is a very important thing," she said. "We do not want to directly compete."
The trip engages people in the community and reflects the chamber's commitment to its members.
"We also feel it's an advantage to our chamber members because we're finding creative, unique funding options that will help us in delivering our overall mission to them," she said.
Italy was chosen because it is well-regarded as a tourist destination.
Sarah Cearley, chamber member and owner of Bella Luna Boutique and Simply Charmed, said she probably will not go to Italy because she has a 6-month-old child. However, the idea is "outside the box" and promotes the chamber, she said.
"If I'm feeling a little adventurous, and I don't want to do the hassle of planning it by myself, I think it would definitely be a great opportunity to travel to a different country and just kind of broaden my horizons," she said.
Nate Meder, chamber member and owner of Redeem Designs, said the price of the trip is compelling. Future trips, international or domestic, could be successful if the cost continues to be affordable.
"It's not necessarily where they go, it's keeping it as budget-friendly as possible for where you go," Meder said.
A 5:30 p.m. March 5 information session about the trip will be at Hays Welcome Center, 2700 Vine.