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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

BankTravel 101 — Banks groups are getting active

When Cheryl Thorne reached the 200-foot-high platform to zip line in Juneau, Alaska, she peeked at the forest below and immediately asked the operator, “If I can’t do this, will they need to bring in a helicopter to get me out?”

It had been a dream for this director of First State Bank Vista Club at the First State Bank in Mendota, Illinois, to zip line.

“I had considered it when we were in Hawaii, and this was my second trip to Alaska. I had to go for it,” she said. “On this land excursion off the cruise ship, we first rode in a high-speed boat over the Gastineau Channel and then hopped into the back of a truck, where we traveled until they dropped the tailgate. We jumped out like troopers and made our way to the platform — I was so excited.

“When we finally got there and I looked out, the fear kicked in. I knew I couldn’t do it.”

Thorne said she considers it personally important to push herself beyond her comfort zone.

“We all have a place where we are comfortable, whether it be on the couch, singing in a choir or even having a dinner party. It’s outside that area, whatever it may be, that is invigorating. I didn’t want to be one of those people that didn’t get outside of my comfort zone. I didn’t want to have regrets, especially after having the opportunity.”

In the midst of Thorne’s terror on the zip line platform, her husband volunteered to go first, a decision that left Thorne little choice but to follow. Eight zip lines later, Thorne is now an unofficial spokesperson for the high-adrenaline activity.

“I felt like I had really achieved something,” she proudly announced. “I felt like I was not as old as I thought I was. I felt awesome.”

An outspoken advocate of adventure travel, Thorne leads by example as director of an unquestionably thriving travel program — the bank is expanding to different locations, and it is overwhelmed with applications for club membership every day.

“I don’t think there is a baby boomer out there who says they can’t wait to go on a bus trip. They want to do things — they want to feel it,” she said.

Wildly Successful Wild Adventures
Thorne has 100 people signed up for an upcoming excursion on Mayflower Tours’ Pacific Coast Journey, a nine-day trip that takes travelers from Portland, Oregon, to San Francisco.

“This soft-adventure tour is so popular with bank groups,” said Sherri Guiborat, vice president of sales with Mayflower Tours. “Banks are getting full motorcoaches, with more on their waiting lists.”

The journey includes exploring via four-wheel-drive vehicles the 250-foot-high sand dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. A jet-boat excursion on the Rogue River along an old mail boat route brings travelers to the home of Redwood National Park and a lumberjack-camp-style dinner.

“When you have these physically invigorating adventures combined with gorgeous scenery and fantastic food, travel leaders obviously attract that target audience of younger clients who very possibly couldn’t arrange it all on their own,” said Guiborat. “We have one bank director who brought 48 travelers last year, and every single one of them was a new traveler in her program. This year, she has another 20-plus customers coming.

Guiborat also offers her nine-day Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Mount Rushmore excursion as the sort of quest where travelers experience not only culinary and scenic adventures, but also physical thrills.

“On a float trip on the Snake River, guests are surrounded by the vistas of the Grand Teton Mountains,” she said. “In Custer State Park, folks can’t worry about a good hair day when they are whizzing fields in an open-air jeep in search of buffalo.

“And when we are in Yellowstone National Park, we stay inside the park for two days. Individuals can wander this landmark on his or her own, or even spend a full day with a park ranger exploring the upper and lower falls.”