Motor Coach Industries (MCI) notes that over the past 25 years, Leisure Time Charters & Tours’ all-female family team has built the Emerson, Ga.-based business from a single pre-owned coach to a fleet of 20 coaches serving schools, universities, athletic programs, and a host of other educational and group tour clients.
Leisure Time’s latest purchase — three new 2018 MCI J4500 coaches featuring all-new interiors with best-in-class, 56-seat legroom — represents the company’s first new coach order from MCI. The coaches also feature optional Amaya seats, a hostess microphone, power outlets at each passenger seat, and Detroit Diesel engines.
“We wanted Detroit motors,” said Brenda D. Tidwell, family member and tour planner, who with her mother Joye Darwin and sister Patricia Burton have built the company into a family powerhouse since 1992. While Leisure Time’s technicians maintain its fleet, the Detroit dealer is close by. “We have a very good relationship with the dealer and that helps us get the most out of our fleet. We are also impressed with the expertise and experience of our MCI representative Sean Kelchen that adds to the confidence we have in our new equipment.” On average, Leisure Time keeps their hard-working and well-maintained coaches on the road for an average 15 years, reupholstering seats and adding touch-ups to keep their oldest coaches looking brand new.
Leisure Time’s first new coach MCI order is a point of pride, according to Patricia Ziska, MCI VP, new coach sales. “Leisure Time is not only a family- and women-owned, they work very hard to make our industry better and bolster the image of motor coach travel with a good looking fleet.”
A founding member of the Georgia Motorcoach Operators Assoc. (GMOA) in 2001, Leisure Time has worked to grow statewide membership to nearly 35 companies today. They are also members of the the ABA (American Bus Association) and UMA (United Motorcoach Association). Such membership has led to success. “Industry membership has helped us grow and learn. We attend many of their annual meetings and enjoy the support and services they offer their membership,” said Tidwell.
Patricia Burton joined her sister and their mother as a partner in the business and office manager 22 years ago. Brenda’s daughter, Elizabethe Tidwell, Director of Educational Tours, and Brenda’s daughter, now rounds out the complete staff of 30.
“From 9 to 5, it’s all business between us,” says Tidwell. “You’d never guess we are family members because we speak and treat one another as co-workers with jobs to accomplish. But after work is through and especially during the holidays, family matters. The work is rewarding not only for the service we provide to the community. “As single parents, we’ve been able to afford to educate our children and grandchildren,” she adds.
Leisure Time is an innovator in tour development — one of its most popular packages is its “Circle of Georgia” tour, developed at the request of a public school for its students. It remains a popular tour for statewide students and tourists alike. The company’s red-and-white coaches can been seen across the U.S. and Canada and especially in Washington, D.C.
“My mother and I — and also my stepfather who has now passed — picked a name that stands for fun, and my sister picked a red and white graphic theme to stand out,” said Tidwell. “That was important to my mom and sister when we started ordering new coaches and they were right.”