SALEM, Ohio — The emergence from COVID-19 has provided new opportunities for the Group Travel Family of Brands, an organization serving 25,000 volunteer planners of leisure travel for church, ethnic and social groups across the country.
“People traveling with an affinity group or friends and family usually look to one person as the travel leader: That is our member,” said Charlie Presley, founder of Group Travel Family of Brands.
The organization offers training, networking and destination knowledge through a series of in-person conferences and monthly publications, and continued those services throughout the COVID crisis.
“Our numbers dropped to 25% of pre-COVID, but we did not back down,” Presley said.
That persistence paid off with a return to full force in 2022 and a projected growth of 7-10% in 2023. While travel is an in-person experience and Presley believes in the value of travel conferences, he has also invested in an online vehicle to deliver destination information to the organization’s members.
“Travel planners need new ideas to keep their trips fresh and interesting,” said Presley.
That thought led to the development of Groups on Demand, a 24/7 portal where planners of group travel can view interviews with destinations that welcome travel groups. The site helps groups discover new destinations they may not be aware of, like North Platte, Nebraska; Mason City, Iowa; or Henderson, Nevada.
The Group Travel Family feels that by encouraging people to travel with friends as a group, they are creating a better lifestyle for the millions of travelers on group tours.
“If it were not for our members who volunteer to plan trips, thousands of people would be inactive and isolated,” Presley said. “That makes a difference in life.”
The Group Travel Family practices what it preaches when it comes to offering opportunity in life skills growth and building its staff with a new generation of leaders. Two of its most recent hires are Cassandra Blankenship and Ben Everly, both of whom are new to the travel industry and bring a fresh perspective. Presley said having Blankenship in sales and Everly in operations provides a level of excitement and innovation to the organization. “It’s healthy to listen to new input from outside the box,” he added.