Tabitha and Travis Wells are banking that the nationwide Segway craze will take off in Citrus County.
They are so confident, they bought out the two-year-old Crystal River Segway Tours so they could take it to the next level, attract more tourists and boost the local economy.
Right now, the focus is on Crystal River, Tabitha Wells said. But the couple has plans to expand into Inverness someday.
“We don’t want to limit it,” said Wells, owner/founder of Wells Business Solutions. “We’d love to see where it goes.”
First question: What is a Segway?
The technical definition: a self-balancing, two-wheeled, electric stand-up transporter.
Tabitha Wells' definition: lots of fun for folks seeking eco-friendly tours that are “easy on the joints.”
And that’s what this business venture is all about, she said. They arrange tours where tourists and locals get on one of the company’s Segways to experience the nature-based appeal of the Crystal River area: everything from viewing manatees (without going into the water) and learning the history of the region.
“This is such a dynamic opportunity for people to see manatees on this tour,” Wells said. “We’re currently building relationships with the city, with parks and recreation, with the tourism department and the chamber of commerce — all of those people we feel would be great partners and we feel we could help them too.”
They've already partnered with Plantation on Crystal River and Hunter Springs Kayaks to get the word out.
The couple took over Crystal River Segway Tours on Oct. 4 and became the owners of eight Segways. Tabitha Wells said she wasn’t sure at first, but after talking with others, she and her husband were convinced this fits into the tourism dynamic of the area.
“We thought this could be so good,” she said.
This is a mobile operation which makes it more convenient for the community, said Wells: “We come to them.”
The tours are open to ages 10 and older. They begin and end in the Plantation lobby at 9301 W. Fort Island Trail in Crystal River. Demonstrations and practice safety rides are done before the guided tour begins, so all riders are comfortable.
Participants will be able to see such sights as Hunter Springs Park, Three Sisters Springs, the parks and the historic downtown district. Of course, there may be occasional stops to see the wildlife or other sights, such as the old water tower.
The former owner operated the business in the parking lot behind the old Sonic restaurant from January 2017 to October 2019.
Tabitha and Travis plan to take this business to the next level and are already lining up advertisers and building partnerships. They launched a new website last week to take advantage of social media. Folks can book a tour online. The couple can also take their Segways to the folks wherever they are — perhaps for birthday parties or retreats.
And it doesn’t hurt that Travis Wells is the fourth generation of the family to live in Crystal River and knows the ins and outs of the waterways and the history of the region. His grandpa, Johnny Wells, was a fishing guide.
Today’s tourists are looking for new ways to experience nature and history and this is ideal for those folks, she said.
“This tour is as much about fun as it is nature and history so there is something for everyone,” she said.
Michael Mancke, general manager at the Plantation on Crystal River, said he has high hopes for the business.
Mancke said he used to work for a Segway tour group in Marco Island, and it was popular.
“(Segways are) an acquired taste for some people,” Mancke said. “Some people are a little scared of it at first.”
The tricky part, he said, is using your feet to move the transporter.
“It’s kind of awkward at first but it’s really cool,” he said. “It’s better than riding a bike. You don’t have to work as hard.”
Mancke said this business venture gives tourists one more option when they visit Citrus County. If they come here and spend just one more night in local lodgings, that’s 30% more business growth in the local economy, he said.
TDC member Gene McGee and his wife Jennifer took a Segway tour last week and had a great time.
“We had a ball,” said McGee, who has experience riding these transporters. For Jennifer, though, it was the first time.
“She almost had complete command within five minutes,” he said. “It’s easier than walking, less strenuous than a bike and you can cover more territory.”
McGee believes this business will take off.
“You may come here for the manatee, but this is something people will want to stay on for in the county,” he said.
For pricing and other information, visit www.crystalriversegwaytours.com.