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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Personal accounts: Born into the business

Kevin Butler

Obstacles in Paradise
Butler introduced Hawaii to 33 club members, ages 27 to 86, a few years ago. When they flew out of Dallas and landed in Honolulu, nobody — not even Butler — knew exactly how adventurous the trip would be.

“On that first night, I remember having macadamia-encrusted tilapia at a restaurant right across the street from the location where they filmed ‘Gilligan’s Island,’” he recalled. “We had all been up for nearly 24 hours, but it was a beautiful spot — what a great intro to our trip.

“And then a fellow traveler called me and asked me if I had heard about what had happened in Japan — an earthquake had occurred, and a tsunami was headed for Hawaii.”

Butler immediately talked to hotel management and was assured all were safe because their rooms were above the fourth floor. He vividly described the next few hours: “I could see from my hotel window that lines of boats had gone out to sea to protect themselves. And at three in the morning, the sirens went off.”

Ultimately, Hawaii received little or no damage.

“But it was a heart-stopper. I received phone calls from the local television station and newspaper back home, and we were on the front page with the headlines, ‘Local Bank Club Has Run-in with Tsunami After-Effects!’” Butler said with a laugh.

The tsunami threat was just the beginning of the memorable events that Butler and his Eagle Travel Club were about to experience. Shortly after boarding their ship for the cruise segment of their Hawaiian excursion, they learned that the vessel was infected with the rhinovirus, and dreams of gourmet food and 24-hour service turned into cellophane-wrapped sandwiches and constant hand sanitizing.

Butler had arranged for a private dinner one evening on the ship. During that meal, one of his travelers began choking and had to be given the Heimlich maneuver. On a land excursion, another club member lost all of their personal identification in the ocean. Getting that traveler on a flight home took a lot of extra time and special handling at the airport.

Finally, on that flight home, Butler came out of the restroom to find one of his travelers lying on the floor of the airplane. All ended well when it was discovered that she had simply had an intense reaction to the Dramamine she had taken before takeoff.

“Incredibly, everyone remembers having a great time,” Butler said. “Our 27-year-old traveler said, ‘I’m ready to go on another trip — this was great.’”

From Mr. Banker to Mr. Entertainment

Butler has happily traveled alone to experience wine country in California and even all-inclusive Caribbean resorts.

“I love it. You meet people from all over, people you may not have met if you were with someone,” he said. “But those experiences have also showcased the advantages of traveling with a group — you are immediately surrounded by friends who truly become family by the end of a trip. And for me, I not only love travel, but I am passionate about helping others.”

So how did this guy with a business education end up winning dance contests and entertaining with a microphone in hand in his position as a group travel leader?

“My nephew asked me when he was a kid why I became a banker,” Butler said. “Well, it just sort of happened. But everyone needs a financial institution that they can trust, one that truly cares about them. I know I’m biased, but we are a bank that cares, and my contribution is that I can help provide that. On top of that, we offer this great travel club.

“Personally, I lost my mother when she was 55 years old. It breaks my heart to think she never got to see places like Hawaii. Consequently, I tell anyone at any age, if you can afford to go without breaking the bank — go.”