What started out as a dream of getting people together to travel to hear the Rev. Billy Graham at Madison Square Garden eventually blossomed into the full-time business of Bob Neff Tours. Bob Neff Sr. started his Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based company in 1972. The company focuses on faith-based tours known as Christian Fellowship Getaways. Bob Neff Tours’ mission is to honor God in its tours, to take trips to family-friendly places and to promote an enjoyable, refreshing environment for its staff and traveling friends.
In 1981, Bob Neff Jr. joined the business and today, serves as the president and general manager of the organization, all while keeping his parents’ vision intact. Bob Neff Jr. shared some insights about himself and the company.
Q. What is your favorite part of the job?
A. My favorite part of the job is helping in tour planning and then reading the evaluations when the tours return. We are always looking to improve. It is important to make the changes for the next tour soon after the tour returns while it is fresh on your mind.
Another favorite part of my job is our annual Preview event each January. We start with a reunion for our past travelers, giving them the opportunity to compare pictures and renew friendships. We bring in some entertainment and tell attendees about the tours in the upcoming year. It is always great to connect with traveling friends and help them catch the excitement for travel.
Our 2021 “Preview Season” event was unique because it was virtual. We featured several videos from our tour directors and marketing director as well as some entertainment on video that travelers would enjoy. We extended the early booking discounts to seven weeks instead of just one day.
Q. In the face of COVID-19, travel conditions have been impacted. What tourism trends are you seeing that impact the future of group travel and how you work?
A. As we are all well aware, the pandemic has hit the travel industry particularly hard. Keeping in touch with other tour operators has been encouraging. More flexible policies from vendors are also much appreciated. Reduced staff in our office as well in the offices of our vendors requires patience and diligence. Staying current on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines for COVID-19 is a challenge but essential.
People are anxious to board our coaches again, but they want to make sure it is a safe experience. They are trusting us to give them a safe experience. Our priority is our travelers’ health and safety.
We see hopeful signs that travel will come back. The vaccine may put folks more at ease with traveling again. Many clients are transferring deposits from 2020 to 2021 and even 2022 tours, indicating their optimism and eagerness to be on-the-go again.
Q. What advice do you have for fellow group travel planners?
A. Don’t be discouraged! This too shall pass. Make the hard decisions now when it comes to staffing and wait for travel to return, because it will.
Update your website. Stay in contact with your travelers via newsletters and emails from time-to-time that communicate the excitement for travel and link it to your webpage. Photo blogs are also a great way to have people go to your webpage so they can remember the fun they have on tour. Social media offers so many other ways to stay in touch with your clients.
Finally, use this time to perfect your tours so that when people are ready to travel, they will get a first-class product. It is also good to contact your group leaders with updates to keep them engaged.
Q. What travel destination or activity is on your bucket list?
A. I enjoy visiting the national parks, so I am looking forward to revisiting a few that I have been to and exploring some new ones as well. There is so much to see in America, and I never get tired of the beauty in these parks.
Bob Neff Tours