Biz Buzz Monday: Dubuque travel company shifts to local focus amid pandemic

Aaron Rainey, owner of Midwest Bus Tours, plans to include Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque as one of the local highlights on the 2021 calendar. PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from the tri-states. In addition to this update, we will highlight more developments from Dubuque and Asbury, Iowa, in Tuesday’s edition.

After more than a decade of growth, the COVID-19 pandemic nearly dealt a knockout blow to a local business that revolves around events and tourism.

Dubuque resident Aaron Rainey launched Midwest Bus Trips in 2009, and the company has spent the past 12 years transporting groups to and from large gatherings, ranging from concerts to sporting events.

The business had more than 120 trips planned for 2020, but the pandemic knocked out all but three of them, Rainey said.

“It was catastrophic,” he admitted. “I’m not sure how we made it through the year.”

As a new year begins, Rainey is hoping for better results and launching a new service to appeal to a different demographic.

Midwest Bus Trips will introduce a trio of tours in Dubuque County beginning in May. They will give local residents and tourists alike a chance to see some of the area’s most historic, popular and naturally beautiful landmarks.

One tour will take customers to Eagle Point Park and Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, giving them a glimpse of two of the region’s most popular and picturesque outdoor attractions.

Another will visit the iconic Field of Dreams site in Dyersville, Iowa. And a third option will give customers a two-hour guided history tour of Dubuque, taking them to sites such as Julien Dubuque’s gravesite and the Fenelon Place Elevator.

Rainey said he worked with local hotels to determine what tourists would like to see when visiting the area. He acknowledged that the local focus is a far cry from what Midwest Bus Trips used to do, which focused largely on transporting customers to and from nearby metro areas such as Madison, Wis., or Chicago.

Three months before launching the new offerings, though, he is confident that they will prove successful.

“(Dubuque) is a great city with a great history, and I think people will enjoy the chance to take a look at that,” he said.

Midwest Bus Trips eventually will resume trips to events and venues outside of the tri-states, although Rainey acknowledged it could still be a while before concerts resume and sporting events welcome back fans. In the meantime, he believes the new, locally focused tours will provide a shot in the arm for his business.

And while the pandemic is not yet in the rearview mirror, Rainey thinks demand for some fun and recreation could be poised for a big-time bounce back.

Customers can learn more by calling 563-513-7314 or visiting MidwestBusTrips.com.