Modus operandi: Expect the Unexpected
Master’s Touch Christian Charter Service & Tours
By David Hubbard
Drawing on his education in counseling and pastoral ministry, Warren Micale served his faith as a pastor for 18 years in Phoenix, AZ, and drove buses for other companies on a part time basis. He came to realize the motorcoach business was for him.
Nearly 13 years ago, he and his wife relocated to the community of Prescott Valley 90 miles north of Phoenix where they founded their company, Master’s Touch Christian Charter Service & Tours.
“The name is completely attributed to God,” says Micale. “It respects his creation of the many beautiful places we take our passengers.”
The company took delivery of its first Van Hool in October 2000 and set out on the maiden voyage in November.
The Micales began by providing charter service to their many church-related connections. However, at the insistence of more than a few satisfied customers, they decided to start marketing some of their own tours.
Today, two full-time sales representatives keep the fleet on the road year-round throughout the continental United States and Canada.
The Master’s Touch fleet includes three T940 Van Hools, which carry 57 passengers with one wheelchair equipped, and one customized for 45-passengers. The fleet also includes a Temsa T35 36-passenger coach and two Mercedes Benz Sprinter buses. Some coaches have seats removed to allow for more passenger leg space and greater comfort for tour passengers. Micale’s plan is to remove more seats in the Temsa T35 and install a rear galley to serves drinks and snacks.
The company offers extended coach tour and cruise combinations. One such 18-day excursion entails a coach tour to Seattle, WA, where the customers board the ship for a cruise through the Alaska inside passage before returning to Arizona on a completely different coach tour itinerary. Another tour travels to California where customers board a cruise to Hawaii and tour four islands, where the company rents vans for its own shore excursions.
Flexible customized itineraries
Several factors set Master’s Touch Tours apart and grab the attention of its clientele. One is a penchant for customized scheduling, which typically includes plenty of surprises. Another is its practice of employing tour hostesses for every trip to answer questions and assist with needs of the passengers. Master’s Touch employs man and wife teams to serve as the onboard team of driver and hostess.
“We research, arrange and conduct our tours as if each of us were traveling on our own,” says Micale. “We want our passengers to feel like they are traveling with family.”
He says his staff seeks out destinations and attractions that are off the beaten path and not part of the normal tour itineraries.
“We try to maintain a balance between the preferred sites and surprises of our own,” Micale says. “On every tour we do something that is not on the publicized schedule. We never know entirely what is going to happen, nor do we necessarily want to know. Surprises make our tours special.”
Last year on a tour to Branson, the driver sidetracked to give passengers a look at Tiger Sanctuary. In Utah, they took in Goosenecks State Park where buses do not typically visit.
“We’ve visited ice cream factories, car factories and jelly bean factories,” says Micale. “We even made an impromptu visit to the Kona Coffee Plantation and the Macadamia nut farms in Hawaii. We have no issue checking out something we haven’t seen before. In fact, our regular customers have come to expect these types of surprises.”
He says other operators have also told him this is no way to run a tour company.
“But it certainly works for us,” says Micale. “We’ve been surprising our customers for over 12 years.”
In addition to its natural involvement with the Christian community, Master’s Touch markets to the public and typically attracts senior travelers. Micale says one regular customer just completed her 72nd excursion with Master’s Touch. Another couple has participated in nearly every one of the company’s thirteen cruise tours.
From its rather remote base in Prescott Valley, AZ, the company enjoys an extensive reach, building tours for churches and other organizations in California, Ohio, Florida and New York.
“We operate at a level of integrity we believe our faith brings us to,” says Micale. “In addition, we think our pricing is such that our groups are content and appreciate the extra services we provide. Our goal is to offer the finest of service at the fairest of price.”
The method of operation has proven so successful that many times each year these groups contract with Master’s Touch to deadhead coaches to meet the group at a specific destination such as Glacier National Park or the Canadian Rockies.
In an average year, Master’s Touch will conduct 75 coach tours it has researched and customize travel for one to 21 days, as well as another 25 trips other tour operators have contracted.
With the annual slate customized every year, it is rare that any trip to a repeat destination is like the last. However, the company does run scheduled and more predictable trips to professional sports and cultural events in the Phoenix area, and contracts with a number of schools to transport sports teams. BR