So, you want to venture overseas to watch a track meet on your own? Think again. For some track and field fans seeing the Olympic games or a track meet on the European pro circuit is a lifetime goal. Well, Ludus Tours offers tour packages customized for track and field fans to meet their every need.
In its 5 years of business, Ludus Tours in Austin, TX has specialized in packages to major U.S. and international track meets, such as the U.S. Olympic Trials, the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, and the Oktoberfest Tours in Munich, Germany.
Ludus Tours is the only tour operator to offer packages which include tickets and accommodations for the U.S Olympic Trials in Eugene. Last year, Ludus became the Official Tour Operator for USA Track & Field and USA Triathlon.
Co-founders, Adam and Jessica Dailey, are some of track’s own, having participated in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials as distance runners. Ludus can typically arrange meet tickets, accommodations, ground transportation and some flights, meals, and sightseeing. They even provide staff onsite in the tour city.
PreraceJitters.com had the distinct pleasure to catch up with the jet-setters from Ludus Tours, and here is what they had to say:
What is your background in track and field?
My wife and I were both All-American runners at the University of Arkansas. We met through running in high school and we were married in 1999. I was a 5 time NCAA All-American and part of 9 NCAA National Championship teams. Jessica was a 12-Time All American. We both capped off our career in 2000 with a spot at the Olympic Trials in Sacramento. Track and field was what brought us together and we are still pretty passionate about the sport.
For readers not familiar with Ludus Tours, can you please tell us about your organization and services?
We’re a smaller but personable company that offers tours and hospitality to global sporting and cultural events. Our main focus has evolved into the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. We offer packages that include everything from transfers to tickets and hotels…or just friendly advice when appropriate.
How did Ludus Tours get started?
My wife and I started Ludus in 2003 because we wanted to find a way to get back to Europe. We had lived in Barcelona from 2000-2002 and really missed that lifestyle. In Athens, it wasn’t as much a viable long-term business plan as it was a one shot deal. We wanted to create some tour packages for hard core track fans. We realized that the main competition was Track and Field News, but that their demographic were older people who don’t really care about being in a good location. So we jumped on it on booked some rooms in Central Athens with the hope that the whole experience could cover our living expenses in Athens for that year.
Or a shorter answer would be: credit cards.
What is your organization seeking to achieve by placing a team in a host city one year in advance of a major athletic event in which you are selling tour?
We try to learn the city like a local so that we have a lot of insight to show our clients during their Olympic experience. We can learn the language, know where the tourist traps are, show people how to take public transportation and basically be a better hosts for our clients.
It’s one thing to go in and visit a city a few times and then try to host a bunch of clients there. It’s what most tour companies do, and I guess that’s okay. But we found you lose one of two things: personable guides who have some insight of the city or an interesting host who actually speaks English and can relate to the client. We pride ourselves on the experience that we provide the client and we want that to be as genuine as we can. The formula isn’t that complicated, but it works for us.
Talk to us about your organization’s exclusive partnership with USA Track & Field? And how did that relationship come about?
We met with then CEO Craig Masback in a Starbucks in Paris and through it back and forth until it made sense. It took close to a year to actually get a contract signed, but it’s a logical step for us. It’s a great way that we can give back to the sport. I think both organizations are putting a lot of faith in each other. For us, we feel good about the contributions we make an Official Partner of USATF. We fill a void in terms of their needs as well. Business-wise, it gives us a good in-line to be able to offer our services to USATF members as well as agents, athletes, families, etc.
Our main focus has always been the support group. That’s the athletes’ families, coaches, agent, friends, etc. These people are going to the Games no matter what because the Olympics are a once in a lifetime opportunity. While they care about the cost, they’ll go at any price. The problem is they don’t know if they’re going until a month before the Games. But that point, it’s crazy…price gouging all the way around and pure mayhem because hotel and ticket availability changes daily like the stock market. We offer some stability for these support groups and we walk through the process; sometimes they’ve never traveled outside of the country.
What can clients expect when they book a group tour with Ludus Tours?
They can expect the experience of a lifetime. We say that and we know it sounds cheesy, but we get emails and testimonials from clients saying that we’ve changed their outlook on life and rejuvenated them. Everyone loves our energy and the fact that we exceed expectations. As a business, we strive for clients to feel like their friends are showing them around.
What are some unique services that Ludus Tours offers?
We offer a lot of customization and we also pride ourselves on not saying the word ‘no’ to clients. We work on some large corporate accounts, but I guess our specialty is dealing with the individual traveler.
We are very up front with clients with what we offer and what type of organization we are. If they’re seeking a full service tour where they’ll have hand-holding get to do a bunch of sightseeing from a tour bus, we’re not the right fit. If they want to get a unique experience and see some of the coolest things a city has to offer, they’re going to have a great time.
Our focus for events like the Olympics revolve around the hard-to-get tangibles, mostly tickets and hotels for the Games. But we love doing bigger corporate hospitality projects as well. We always say that if people want to see the sights, they should go with someone else. If they want to experience, touch and feel the sights, we’re the right company to help them have a great trip.
We offer everything you need during your trip, from some fun excursions to airport transfers to tickets.
How fun are the tours you present?
Fun. Look at our portfolio of events…you’ll see
of the Bulls. I would contend no other Olympic event company is in Munich drinking beer this September a few weeks after the dust settles in Beijing.
What advice would you give to travelers heading to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games?
Don’t go it on your own. Some countries are easy to maneuver on your own. China is not one of them. You can book a hotel room online through some websites, but that room might not be there when you show up. The Chinese are shrewd businesspeople and even though you have a confirmation, they’ll sell it to the next guy who offers $5 more. They just don’t care. We have found the challenges of this event to be significant in that respect. But it’s all a learning curve, and the consumer has the benefit of learning from our mistakes. That being said, we offer weekly packages starting at $1895 per person. You’re not going to find anything like that anywhere else with everything we offer. Get things done early like visas, as they are constantly changing the rules an requirements. But for the most part, we offer a service to clients that we’re going to host them and put everything in front of them to have a good time. Whether they do or not is ultimately up to them!
What are your top three international locations in which you have watched an athletic event? And what about those experiences make the event special?
Athens was a great experience because it was our first event and I was running at the Trials four years earlier so I knew most of the runners. And by the point track and field was on, we already knew that our business venture had passed the break-even point so we were really glad to be enjoying ourselves at the Olympic Games! The Winter Olympics were a lot of fun for us because it was our biggest event to date. We hosted almost 2,000 clients in Torino, Italy, and Jessica and I lived in Italy for 14 months. We spoke Italian, had a lot of sentiment towards the city and really got into the event. Plus, it was our first Winter Games experience. And World Cup in Germany would be a highlight of my life. For the Olympics, you’re getting a lot of rich Americans (a great overexaggeration, but still an accurate demographic). At the World Cup, you’re getting people from Asia, Latin America, Africa, etc. that don’t even go to the Game. They come out of the woodworks just to celebrate and be a part of the fun. It’s one big traveling party. There is a game on at all times and the entire country is into it. I definitely found myself going through World Cup withdrawal after that event. In the evenings after, it was like “well, what we are going to do since there’s no football game on.” Before, our entire social life and work schedule revolved around these matches.
What is the price range of the annual group tours that Ludus Tours organizes?
Our price points start at $1895 and they go as high as $7950 (per person). You have to keep in mind that these are premium packages during the most sought after time. And the way we price our packages is we look at the competition and we go lower than them. It’s important for us to the lowest priced tour company out there.
What can you share with track fans about the experience of attending a European and/or international professional track meet?
It’s a great experience. Europeans know track and field (and cycling) like we know baseball or football. Even non-fans know who someone like Bernard Lagat or even Stefano Baldini is. It’s much more important to them. But in my opinion, track is on its way back in the USA. They’re putting together some great domestic meets nowadays.
Where do you see Ludus Tours in five years?
Good question. We would like to be involved in more events. This year is our first domestic event in Eugene (the 2008 Olympic Trials). It’s going to be a low-key event for us, but we would like to start focusing more on stuff that’s in the USA. I have lived outside of the country since 2003, but now we’re in Vancouver so we’re slowly making my way back to the States. In 5 years, we’d like to have more of a foothold in the world of track and field. I feel hospitality-wise it should be marketed like other big sports (football, baseball, etc.). We’ll continue to do as much as we can to contribute to the sport. I would like us to be to go-to company when it comes to traveling and track.
By Jay Hicks.