Group Tour Spotlight e-Magazine
December 2009 Vol. 412
Read full article at http://www.grouptour.com/spotlight/detail.php?recid=455&issue=412
Strengthening fellowship and faith
Cindi Brodhecker of Ephrata, Pa., owner of Faith Travel Development & Consulting, helps operators and suppliers find their way in the $18 billion a year faith-based travel market. Plus, she just launched a new division called The Priscilla Woman’s Tours.
Group Tour Spotlight: Tell me about your background in tourism.
Cindi Brodhecker: I call travel my midlife crisis.
I was in accounts payable and on the accounting side in office management for different companies. I decided I wanted to do something different and contacted a friend that had a motorcoach company and started there.
Group Tour Spotlight: What did you do there?
Brodhecker: I was a group tour planner for motorcoach tours.
Group Tour Spotlight: So you know all about setting up tours.
Brodhecker: Oh, absolutely. From finding the rest stops every two hours to the meals and the accommodations and attractions. I started at the ground level. The first tour I did was the Wisconsin Dells. They started talking about Branson, and I had no idea where Branson was. I was new to the travel world but enjoyed it immensely and everything just kept growing from that point on.
I got to plan group tours on motorcoaches, I got to escort some of the tours, and from there I went into the international side of it and that’s where my passion really grew. I’ve been involved in the travel business for 18 years and always with a company that had a focus on tours for Christian groups.
Group Tour Spotlight: So when did you start your company, Faith Travel Development & Consulting?
Brodhecker: In February of 2007.
Group Tour Spotlight: What services do you provide?
Brodhecker: Faith Travel Development & Consulting was designed to assist people who had an interest in the faith-based travel market — on both sides of the fence, so to speak. Many years ago, I worked for a company and was reprimanded for being too helpful to what at that time was called the competition. And I realized that is what I really enjoy doing: to help other people realize what this is all about. So the consulting and development part of it started as a result of my networking and helping other people.
I call myself a facilitator. I can help the individual home-based travel agent understand what the faith-based market is and help them to reach out to their community and beyond to try to gather clients that would be interested in this travel market. I also can help tour operators that don’t have this type of program do the same thing — to develop it and help them market it.
I can also help the church or organization realize the value of what a travel program or a travel ministry can do for their church or organization. There are benefits on both sides, from growing the community to using travel as a means of fund-raising for projects.
On one side, I represent tour operators who are located in destinations that are important to the faith-based market. I represent a company in Turkey, a company in Greece, a company in Egypt, and through an operator here in the States I represent someone in Israel. So I do trade shows and represent their destinations and work within the U.S. market to give leads that are gathered at those trade shows to tour operators here in the States that actually can work those leads. On the Faith Travel side, I do not book groups or handle group reservations. I pass the leads on to companies that work with the people I represent. It’s unique. I don’t know of anyone else that is doing it. It saves the international operators funds because I can represent them at a show and they don’t have that travel expense. On the other side, I’m not competition to anyone in the States working with those operators because I pass the leads to them.
Group Tour Spotlight: Sounds like you’ve found a niche.
Brodhecker: It’s working.
A new venture
Group Tour Spotlight: Tell me about the new division you just launched at the World Religious Travel Association conference.
Brodhecker: The new division is called The Priscilla Woman’s Tours. It is based on the person of Priscilla from the book of Acts in the New Testament. It’s a company that will serve the ladies that want to travel — either women traveling together, women that want to travel and not be in a group of 10 percent ladies and 90 percent couples, which is the demographics of most of the tour groups. What I’m trying to create is a travel environment where women can feel comfortable traveling with other women and using the person of Priscilla as women of noble character, strong faith, and joy. The Web site is www.priscillawomantours.com.
It’s for women that may be widowed, may be single, may be divorced, may want to go somewhere with a girlfriend or a niece or a daughter, or their husband just has no interest in that destination and they just want to go and see. It’s designed for women of like faith to travel together. It’s not necessarily that all tours will be to destinations of the Bible, but it’s women who will travel together for fun, fellowship, and spiritual enrichment. There will be some times when a tour will be created — I’m using the phrase, Priscilla can invite her Aquilla, which was Priscilla’s husband in the New Testament.
Gigi Graham, the daughter of Dr. Billy Graham, will travel on some of our tours. An author, who is a 9/11 widow, will go with us. I have a performing artist who does drama and re-creates characters from the Bible or historical women in costume and will provide music.
Group Tour Spotlight: Why did you develop The Priscilla Woman’s Tours?
Brodhecker: I listened to people talk about how they like to travel. Through the years, as I have escorted many groups to many different places, sometimes the ladies will fit in very well. And sometimes I can see them pulling back a little bit. So through conversation of hearing a need and basically it was an idea that came to me one morning as I was preparing to meet a friend for breakfast. I thought, no, I’m not going to do that. But it was an idea that just would not leave me. It was something that I felt I needed to develop, and it spiraled from there.
I’ve gotten very, very positive comments from everyone.
Every tour will be built with a commission for travel people who want to sell into the tour. And we will create tours for women’s groups using the artist and contacts we have to make it very special for them.
Read the rest of the article at
Faith Travel Development & Consulting
The Priscilla Woman’s Tours
263 Ridge Ave.
Ephrata, PA 17522