Why Northville travel agent vowed secrecy to fashion icon

Why Northville travel agent vowed secrecy to fashion icon

- in Travel

Carol Cain, Free Press Business Columnist
Published 6:00 a.m. ET June 3, 2018 | Updated 8:25 a.m. ET June 3, 2018


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When Anna Wintour, the iconic Vogue magazine editor, wanted to surprise celebrities at the recent Metropolitan Museum of Arts Gala, she turned to a Northville travel agency with connections to the Vatican.

John Hale, president of Corporate Travel Services and father of five, isn’t exactly into pop culture or fashion. His focus is of a higher calling as he helps people, organizations and sometimes choirs — including the Sistine Chapel Choir — arrange destination trips, tours and excursions.

Hale, who is Catholic, and his wife, Kristan Hale, are both patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, Michigan Chapter, and on the board of the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Wintour has been the force behind Met Gala — which is sort of like the Oscars for those in the fashion world — since 1995. It is an annual fundraiser oozing in couture fashion and surprise performances.


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perform at the Detroit Opera House on July 11.

Hale and his staff were sworn to secrecy about the choir’s appearance at the Met Gala. And it did not disappoint, as Madonna, George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez and other A-list celebs, were there.

So, too, Hale and his wife.

Hale’s company, Corporate Travel Service, is more than 50 years old and has six divisions. Hale’s father-in-law, Joe DiFranco, started the firm. Hale and his brother-in-law David DiFranco have owned it the past 10 years.

Hale is a lawyer who once worked as a clerk for Dorothy Comstock Riley, then at Bodman and Ford.

His got into the tour business by chance. He’s an alum of the University of Detroit Law School and was asked to organize a tour for the school to London for alums.

“It was a great tour and slowly I became more interested in organizing travel experiences,” he said.

His father-in-law saw his passion and business opportunities and invited him into the business to start a new performance travel division. They have organized pilgrimages and religious tours to the Holy Land, Rome and the Vatican.

“We work for parishes, dioceses, archdioceses, radio stations and publications throughout the U.S.,” he said. “We have been hired by the Vatican Museums Patrons to organize their major donor events and pilgrimages. We organize the pilgrimages for the Papal Swiss Guards to the Holy Land four or five times a year.”

They have also produced festival music events at venues including Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles and Carnegie Hall.

Hale organized a tour for the Archdiocese of Detroit Choir under the direction of Joe Balistreri to sing for a papal liturgy two years ago at St. Peter’s Bascilica.

Balistreri was also chosen to serve as national artistic coordinator for the Sistine Chapel Choir tour this summer, which is a big honor.

Seeing Madonna, Amal Clooney and many other celebs at the May 8 Gala was a lot of fun. Admittedly, though, it wasn’t quite in the same league as meeting His Holiness.

“We organized a group of 2,000 children from over 30 choirs, including St. Francis Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, to sing for a papal liturgy in Rome in 2016. The pope came to one of the auditions and I had the chance to meet and speak with the Holy Father.”

The travel business has been strong which is good news for Hale. And it is changing as people look for different experiences.

“Whether it be through faith, music or educational travel, we have developed relationships that benefit our groups traveling to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Hale said. “The travel business today is really all about delivering life changing, life enhancing experiences that people can’t get on their own.”

Contact Carol Cain: 313-222-6732 or clcain@cbs.com. She is senior producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs at 11:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. See MEDC’s Jeff Mason, Carolyn Cassin, Charlie Beckham and L. Brooks Patterson on this Sunday’s show.

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