Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snowstorm--nor pandemic--shall stop a determined business from carrying on, and that's exactly what escorted group travel operator Nagel Tours has done, to the tune of 45 years in business this year. The milestone isn't lost on company owner Pat Nagel, who with son Hayden and daughter Haven, still runs the operation from a space on Kingsway Avenue in Edmonton--one that started modestly in 1977 when Pat and husband Bob (who passed away in 2021) pioneered group coach tours in the region after seeing the success of that type of travel in Europe.
"Bob and I learned many lessons in the early years, when coach transportation was regulated," remembered Pat. "But we've always been happy to be a small, Alberta-based company--growing by offering good value, quality experiences in Canada and the U.S., and with fun, caring and experienced tour directors, and creative planners and industry partners."
Nagel Tours is no stranger to challenging times--the '80s recession, 9/11, SARS and now COVID-19--but the company keeps on keeping on. It's something Hayden Nagel (reservations and transportation manager) credits to skilled and devoted long-time staffers, and to the attention to service and safety.
"Our custom coaches have all the conveniences (WiFi, leather seating) but even more, the experienced drivers and detailed cleaning and safety protocols (fogging, steady fresh air circulation) provides peace of mind," said Hayden. "For now, masks are still required for coach travel in Alberta (U.S. requirements are in flux), and while some are ready to let that precaution go, others are comforted we're following all requirements to keep our travellers safe."
Spruce Grove's Louise Fairfield is a frequent Nagel Tours traveller, who says though she was hesitant to take that first solo trip after her husband passed away a few years ago, it was Bob Nagel who gently reassured her all would be well--that she'd make friends and see some of the country too. At age 69, the active senior has now surpassed 25 tours with the company, and is booked on a handful more for 2022.
"Everyone is so friendly. Even though I'm a solo traveller, I get on the coach and there's always somebody I know, saying 'Hi, Louise," said Fairfield, who has enjoyed multiple Christmas trips to Victoria and the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, plus several of Nagel's one and two-day getaways. Her favourites are the tour's farewell suppers and fun on the bus. "I feel safe and relaxed and like I'm a somebody. I'll keep going until I can't anymore."
Prior to the pandemic, Nagel Tours had 10 to 15 coaches operating throughout North America and abroad. The company is coming back cautiously with a reduced schedule for 2022, which still includes escapes to Arizona, California and Texas, and jaunts into B.C. Canada's east coast remains a sought-after tour, says Pat, as is the trek to see Alaska's midnight sun. During the pandemic, Nagel Tours pivoted by creating short 'Close to Home' destinations which are proving popular too.
"After the pandemic, there's more interest in the one-to-three-day tours," added Pat, who emphasizes that coach tours aren't about long days of driving. "We take a break for coffee or a meal every two to three hours: there's games and entertainment on the coach too--people think it'll be a long ride, but it's far from that."
Mostly appealing to semi-retired and retired travellers, Pat says tours have often been a place to celebrate anniversaries and birthdays--even family reunions. "There are six birthdays on our next tour heading to California--it's a full coach," she said. "I like to say the journey is not only about the destination; time spent on the road provides an opportunity to share experiences with new friends and form happy memories."
Indeed, as all trip details--transportation, lodging, baggage handling and sightseeing excursions--are part of the package price, travellers can just relax and enjoy. For more information visit www.nageltours.com or call 1-800-562-9999.