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Faith Profile: Mike Schields

Courtesy Mike Schields/Globus

It’s as if Mike Schields was destined to work in travel.

Today, Schields is one of the most influential team members at Globus, where he serves as managing director of groups and emerging markets. But his love of the tourism industry stretches back to his childhood.

“My father was an airline executive for TWA for 35 years,” he said. “When I was young, I remember always reading his Travel Weekly and airline magazines. I always knew that I loved travel and tourism.”

That early inspiration has propelled Schields through a career that has taken him to various sectors of the travel industry and to some of the most fascinating places on earth. Now, he brings those experiences to work in helping to create new ideas in faith-based tourism and other initiatives for Globus.

An Exciting Career

Following his childhood dreams, Schields went to work in the travel industry immediately after finishing college in California. He began with a travel agency and then moved to a sales position for a cruise line that eventually became Celebrity Cruises.

“I parlayed that into a 12-year career,” he said. “I had a blast, and the industry was on a real growth curve. I had a lot of fun and was primarily in sales and sales management.”

The time at Celebrity was also a fruitful period for Schields: In addition to honing his sales skills and exploring the world, he met the woman who would later become his wife while representing the cruise line at a trade show.

From there, Schields spent some time working for an online travel company and then switched to the land side of the business to work for tour operator Far and Wide.

“Unfortunately, they were ultimately doomed to fail,” he said. “But I learned a lot about groups, group travel and group marketing there.”

A Decade at Globus
The combination of a cruise background and tour operator experience made Schields the ideal candidate for a job at Globus, where he started in 2003 as director of group sales. The company also tapped him to manage the fledgling Avalon Waterways, a river cruise operation it was launching in Europe.

“I was the managing director of Avalon Waterways in its infancy,” he said. “We only had one ship, and we code-shared with another ship; so I say we really had a ship and a half. I was involved in the start-up phase of that, and now we have 15 ships. Once the brand started to take hold, we hired our existing cruise director.”

During that same time, Schields began to notice the work of Kevin Wright, then a product manager at Globus. Wright had written books about religious travel and was passionately promoting the cause of faith-based tourism. Schields saw it as a natural fit for the company.

“We had been doing this kind of travel for 50 years but never formalized it,” he said. “We quickly got approval to create the religious division, and the rest is history.”

The religious travel division has grown, both in scope and in volume. The company now operates faith-based tours throughout Europe and the lands of the Bible, and has added its value brand, Cosmos, to the portfolio of religious travel options. Schields said that today, faith-based travel represents about 5 percent of the company’s overall business.

Schields also helped pioneer a give-back program in the religious division through which churches can raise up to $1,000 from tours in addition to regular commissions.

“I’d like to see that idea catch on more,” he said. “An extra $1,000 can be great for a church. You’d have to sell a lot of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to make that happen.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.