Owners Glen and Cindy Hollis of Bloomfield welcomed another new passenger aboard and the big bus was back on the road.
Since beginning operation July 17, the tour company has hosted more and more Southeast Missouri residents on board for a chance to see the sights without worrying about the details or the driving.
"Of course you save on gas. You can sit back and enjoy scenery since there is no driving and we've taken care of the food and lodging, so you can just go and enjoy," said Mrs. Hollis about their tours.
Starting Emerald Tours provided the couple with the opportunity of creating a business they could enjoy together, Mrs. Hollis said. She laughed, describing it as the ideal business for a woman. "I get to tell my husband where to go, when to leave and how to get there - every wife's dream - what more could a wife ask for?"
Mrs. Hollis continued it really is a dream job - one that gives them the opportunity to travel and meet people as well as work together.
An October weekend was spent in Branson with 37 passengers on their bus. They have gone to Tunica and twice weekly travel to Metropolis to Harrah's Casino for the day.
The Hollises have shopping trips planned for the Midriver Mall in St. Louis and next year will incorporate their bus travels with a Mississippi River Cruise. Mrs. Hollis is planning a "mystery tour" which will be a trip to a dinner theater and the opportunity to solve a mystery. Also on tap is a fall foliage tour to Pennsylvania Dutch country next year, where she is lining up the opportunity to attend an Amish wedding feast along with a stop in Gettysburg.
"I'm having a ball finding places to go," she said. Once she has the destination, she explained she works backward, finding attractions that people might like to visit, then arranges the meals and nightly lodging.
The trips, Mrs. Hollis said, are the easy part of the business. What was hard was mastering all the red tape to obtain their license as a motor carrier.
The deluxe motor coach, purchased in May and driven by Hollis, features reclining seats, footrests and a restroom. There are DVD players and monitors.
The Hollises built their own "bus barn" at their home to provide place for the bus and as an office for their business.
"It's been a huge investment - and kind of scary but it is actually working well," she said.
As the Hollises get to know their customers, many of whom she described as active senior citizens, on the Emerald Tours, they encourage the passengers to get to know each other as well. Typically, she said, people get on the bus and may be complete strangers but by the time the trips are over they all have become friends.
"This is a lot of work but I love the people," she said, about the new venture. "We have made so many new friends."
And they are repeat customers as well as friends. Mrs. Hollis said many others already have enjoyed more than one excursion and one person has accompanied them on every trip they have made.
She encourages customers to let her know about destinations and ideas about things to do on trips, too.
Also the Emerald Tours bus is available for charter by individuals or companies. The cost of the charter depends on the destination, Mrs. Hollis said.
Also she pointed out with their trips, several pick-up points are arranged for customers' convenience. For example, for the Harrah's trips, the trip will begin with passengers boarding at their Bloomfield location then the bus makes stops in Dexter, Sikeston and Charleston.
Whether chartering the bus or simply taking a preplanned trip, Mrs. Hollis emphasized she and her husband work hard to make the time enjoyable on Emerald Tours. "It is a safe way to travel, a fun way travel," she added. "We try to make people as comfortable and happy as possible."
For more information about Emerald Tours, contact Emerald Tours at 573
-568-2381 or toll free at 877-568-2381.