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Checking in with Cindy Cullins Brown

Fast Facts About Cindy Cullins Brown

Cindy Cullins Brown is the Destination Club Director for Relyance Bank in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Relyance Bank’s Destination Club accounts are interest-bearing checking accounts available to customers over the age of 50. Destination Club account holders can participate in the bank’s affinity travel group, which takes numerous domestic and international trips each year. Friends and family of account holders can also travel with the group, leading to a wide age range among the travelers.

Birthplace: Houston, Texas

Education: Southeast Arkansas College

Employment History: Brown served at the Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce as comptroller, HR and office manager, and has been at Relyance Bank as the Destination Club director for almost 20 years.

Family: Brown graduated in the same class as her husband. They reconnected at a class reunion 40 years later and married a year after that. Between them, they have three grown children, four grandchildren and one adopted dog.  

Hobbies: Brown enjoys gardening, cooking, painting and reading. Last year, she and her husband bought a 121-year-old farmhouse that they’re restoring, which has taken the majority of her free time.

Unlocking a Passion for Travel

Cindy Cullins Brown didn’t have the opportunity to travel much in her early life. It was only when she took a job leading Relyance Bank’s affinity travel club that she began taking trips regularly, unlocking a passion she didn’t know she had.

“The more you travel, the more you have an interest in seeing how other people live in the world,” said Brown. “Even though you find differences in people, travel has shown me we have more in common than is different — we all face the same challenges in life.”

Brown studied accounting in college and worked at the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas doing bookkeeping and office management before becoming the organization’s comptroller. While there, she had a hand in planning all types of events hosted by the chamber. When she saw the position to lead Relyance Bank’s affinity travel group, Destination Club, she almost didn’t apply because she wasn’t sure her skill set would transfer to that role. As it turned out, having an outgoing personality and the ability to plan events and work within a set budget were all skills the role required — and Brown possessed those skills. She got the job and is now on the cusp of her 20th anniversary heading up the Destination Club, organizing group travel for members across the state of Arkansas.

Destination Anywhere

The Destination Club is for people who have one of Relyance Bank’s interest-bearing checking accounts and are over 50 years of age. In the past 20 years, the Destination Club has more than tripled in size, from 800 to 2,500 participants. Unlike other member-driven travel clubs, the Destination Club allows friends and family to travel with the account holder.

“Our travel group is more interested in international travel that allows them to be more adventurous, and we do a combination of hitting the highlights and giving people free time to explore,” said Brown. “We do have an economy motorcoach tour that gives travelers who can’t fly or don’t want to travel internationally an option. Everyone who is interested in taking a trip with us is able to do so, whether they want to go to South Carolina or South Africa.”

Friends For Life

Equally important to the destination the group is visiting is the group itself, said Brown. 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to travel, but it’s so much more than that,” she said. “You’re taking care of people, and they become almost like family. I didn’t count on that kind of experience with this role. It has not only made an impact on my life but on their lives, too.” 

Brown typically chooses a couple of destinations each year based on suggestions from her traveler members. Occasionally, she finds an airfare or hotel deal and builds around that, working with a group travel planner who has expertise in the destination. This manner of planning allows members to lock in an affordable group price. 

Another detail Brown feels makes the trip that much more special is traveler gifts, such as baskets that include snacks, water and small knickknacks that relate to the destination. It’s part of Brown’s hospitality — a way to welcome her travelers and make them feel cared for. 

The Latest News

Brown sends Destination Club members a quarterly newsletter detailing upcoming trips, their highlights and how to sign up. Spaces are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Each newsletter outlines specifics about the domestic and international travel options. For example, the most recent newsletter described an upcoming trip to Boston. It started with the cost and accommodations but went on to describe the agenda in “The Cradle of the Revolution,” where the group will participate in a city tour highlighting famous historic sites before having the afternoon to choose between visiting a museum and Fenway Park after lunch at Faneuil Hall. 

Brown also arranges special experiences that not only make for memorable trips but also create connections between travelers and the people who live in the destination. She has taken groups to a private cooking class in Italy and to a Quechua village in Peru, where travelers learned traditional dances and were invited to a home-cooked meal.

Since so many friendships are formed during trips, Brown also organizes monthly lunches and other events, regardless of whether the members are still actively traveling with the group or not, simply to keep those relationships going.

“The impact travel has on people’s lives is just incredible,” said Brown. “It isn’t about the destination — it’s more [about the impact], and that has endeared me to the job. The personal connection is everything.”

Destination Faves

1. Under the Tuscan Sun: “My most loved place in the world is Italy. What’s not to love? I love the history, the people, the food and wine. I’ve never been disappointed by any of the cities or little villages in Italy, and Tuscany is my absolute favorite.”
2. Out of Africa: “South Africa was one of the most diversified destinations I’ve ever visited. We got lucky and actually saw a den of lions tear into an impala right in front of our eyes. The penguins on the beach were fun to watch. There were so many animals everywhere, not just on the safari. The vineyards and the beaches are great there, and the food and wine are excellent.”

3. The Land of Fire and Ice: “Iceland was another very different destination, and I can’t wait to go back. The Northern Lights were awesome — that has to be on most people’s bucket list. It was a beautiful tour.”