FTA 2017 Routes of Faith I | Page 4


No substitute for experience in travel planning
Since 1974 , Ed-Ventures has operated tours for groups of all ages . The Rochester , Minnesota-based company specializes in customized faithbased tours that are fully escorted and highly inclusive . Routes of Faith visited with Paul Larsen , Ed-Ventures ’ president , to learn more about its offerings , and why faith and group leaders should entrust travel planning to a professional tour operator .
Paul Larsen , Ed-Ventures
Tell us about Ed-Ventrues and your areas of expertise . Larsen : Our tag line at Ed- Ventures is “ Life-changing Travel Experiences !” Our emphasis is on quality customization of every tour we operate to meet our traveler ’ s needs . Our staff speaks several languages , which include Mandarin , Czech , Slovak , German , Spanish , French and English , and have spent time on every continent except Antarctica . We specialize in customized tours and are recognized as experts in both the faith-based and student markets . We specialize in European , Middle Eastern and Central American destinations . However , we are expanding our reach in North America and China .
What is a service or level of support you offer groups they couldn ’ t get on their own ? Larsen : When it comes to faith-based travel , we customize to the needs of the traveler — not just the logistical needs but the spiritual needs and desires as well . We understand the language , the theology , and most importantly the heart of the traveler . From a practical standpoint , we listen to the group leader and often start with a “ blank sheet of paper ” to design their tour . We have sample tours and scheduled departures . We offer marketing support and recruiting tools . We help the group leader prepare for the tour and provide tour diaries and other support materials to be used during the tour .
Share an experience you created that shows what a professional tour operator can do ? Larsen : That is a tough question to answer with a few words or just one experience . Having a rabbi and a priest travel together is a unique experience . Breaking bread with a Christian family in Bethlehem , sharing a Seder meal with a Jewish family in Jerusalem , visiting with an Imam in Cairo or building a home in Honduras are exceptional experiences . Perhaps the best way I can answer that question and reveal the power of travel with you is to share this quote from a young lady that had traveled with her Catholic high school to Vienna , Austria . They had just finished singing the full Requiem in St . Stephen ’ s
Cathedral and received a standing ovation from a large audience . “ After almost 18 years of music studies , it was at that moment as the crowd stood in St . Stephen ’ s Cathedral that I finally understood the power of music .” All of the above are customized experiences Ed- Ventures created that highlight the significance found in travel .
Why does it just make sense to use a professional tour operator such as Ed-Ventures ? Larsen : A professional tour operator already has the expertise , which provides valuable insights and saves time in researching the tour destination . They also have buying power and can normally provide you the best value for your dollar . Tour operators can provide incentives for group leaders such as a free or reduced cost trip and / or recruiting bonuses , promotional support and materials , tour documents , and familiarization tour opportunities . And they offer 24 / 7 support in the event of air interruption , missed connections or other unforeseen circumstances that may occur occasionally in travel .
How does faith enter the family travel equation ? Larsen : Faith-based travel can be a family enjoying quality time and experiencing their faith on a tour to the Vatican , for example , or to Sight & Sound Theatres , an FTA member , to enjoy a show . It can be families taking a mission trip , or perhaps it ’ s traveling to where a relative was baptized and learning about his or her faith .
Is there a trend you ’ re noticing in faith-based travel ? Larsen : There ’ s is a trend toward experiences and events of significance such as the Luther 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation ; the Passion Play in Oberammergau , Germany ; the World Meeting of Families in Dublin and similar events . People of all ages are seeking meaning in their travel , which can be found in a variety of ways . They are seeking Life-changing Travel Experiences !
FTA-member Paul Larsen is president of Rochester , Minnesota-based Ed-Ventures . He can be reached at + 1.507.289.3332 and pcl @ ed-ventures . com . Learn more at ed-ventures . com .

A professional tour operator already has the expertise , which provides valuable insights and saves time in researching the tour destination .
— Paul Larsen
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