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• Editorial Background and Company History - 9/1/2013

Student Group Travel Takes Education Outside the Classroom.

Cultural Heritage Alliance Celebrates 45 Years in Educational Travel

For Philadelphia high school foreign language teacher Augustine Falcione, teaching in the classroom environment could only go so far. To really learn and understand a language, and to embrace the culture behind it, he felt students needed to escape the four walls and visit a country first-hand.

So in 1969, Falcione and his wife, Domenica, another foreign language teacher, arranged a trip for some 80 students from their school to Italy, under the banner of the “Italian Latin Studies Cultural Heritage Alliance.” Falcione arranged the whole tour himself – and it was a successful and meaningful journey for the students, far better than a tour Falcione had participated in earlier in his teaching career.

Encouraged by the experience, and the positive response, the Falciones began organizing tours to other foreign countries, and established their student tour company, renamed the Cultural Heritage Alliance. They believed that if they used highly qualified guides, multi-lingual tour directors and other credentialed professionals, they could offer rich, well-rounded tours superior to any that were available at the time. And they knew by doing so, they could bring fun and enthusiasm back to learning.

Today, not only is CHA the oldest American-owned educational tour company, it is also one of the largest, most successful and most highly respected companies of its kind. It currently offers 120 comprehensive itineraries covering destinations throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia and the South Pacific. Among the most popular destinations are Spain, France and Italy as well as European tours which combine three or more countries.

“Students can only gain so much in the classroom, whether it’s language, cultural or political study,” says Domenica Falcione, president of CHA Educational Tours. “They must travel to a land to fully understand it, and to gain knowledge, they need more than just a sightseeing itinerary. That’s where we at CHA can help teachers plan a journey that is more meaningful to their students.” 

From its humble beginnings in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s to its heyday in the 1980’s and 1990’s, educational travel remains popular as an increasing number of schools embrace the value of education outside the classroom. Educational tours serve as a “living classroom” and are particularly useful for foreign language, history and literature students who want to broaden their knowledge beyond textbooks. As a result, educational tour operators are as concerned with expanding knowledge and enhancing understanding as they are with recreation and sightseeing.

CHA works with a variety of junior and senior high schools, as well as colleges and universities, in the United States and Canada. Each academic year, it conducts tours for more than 2,500 school districts, involving thousands of teachers and students. It works hard to keep its tours affordable too, and offers Early Bird and Fall Saver options, as well as an exciting lineup of Value Tours.

CHA’s goal now is the same as it was 45 years ago: to continually improve tour services for student travelers on every level, providing the richest sightseeing, the most professional tour directors available, and three and four-star hotel accommodations with private bath facilities in each room—services unheard of in the educational travel field until CHA made them standard features.

CHA has earned its strong reputation in other ways as well, from its fiscal responsibility to its client service to its emphasis on technology.  For example, all payments made for student group tours are deposited in a special escrow fund for the sole purpose of covering tour-related expenses such as air fare, hotels and tour guides and admissions. And CHA travelers are protected by the best liability insurance available in the industry, up to $10 million of coverage. 

The presence of offices abroad means travelers can find local assistance for any problems that might arise during the trip, rather than having to contact a distant representative in the United States and deal with time differences. CHA maintains offices in London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City. World headquarters are in history-rich Philadelphia, a short walk from Independence Hall.

With regard to technology, CHA employs an extensive computer network that lets each overseas office link directly to the company’s database in real time. CHA also uses Sabre, the travel industry’s premier airline reservations system, and its own website (www.cha-tours.com) gives CHA’s clients quicker access to tours and prices, online enrollment and payment services, and access to balances, flights, hotels, and more.

Also significant is CHA’s generous program for rewarding the contribution of group leaders. Extensive travel benefits recognize the value of dedicated teachers, and provide added incentive to choose a CHA tour.

“The teachers we work with are highly motivated to organize tours with CHA,” says Falcione. “The learning experience their students gain by moving outside the classroom, by seeing, tasting and interacting with a culture, is invaluable. It makes their job that much easier.”

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