This post is part of my Small Business Saturday business profiling series.
Outdoor Travel Adventures is a woman owned business in Point Loma, CA. I've met with Wendy Pacofsky and I have to say, the vibe this organization puts out is one I stand behind! The company aims to really provide people with life enhancing experiences, and offers packages for honeymooners, families, divers, and most importantly, adventurers! Here's a little 411 on OTA.
How does a travel agency work? A lot of people don't actually know. . .
"When a client contacts us, they may or may not know what they want. We make a point to learn about their preferences, interests, time frame, budget, etc, so that we can recommend the right experience and meet/exceed expectations in the end…every trip should be the trip of a lifetime! We can typically assist with all aspects of the booking, including flights, accommodations, and adventures. Service fees are minimal, and usually apply only to air tickets. The rest of the arrangements are often at prices that are the same or better than what you can get elsewhere or by going direct to a resort…but you have the benefit of a US-based contact who knows the destinations, can vouch for the quality of various accommodations and tour companies, can help minimize the hassles of the planning process, can take care of payments to foreign countries, and can be your advocate in the event of unexpected travel disruptions.
I know I have had horrible experiences with international travel when I didn't have good referrals. How can people watch out for shady agencies?"When seeking out a reputable agency, one can look for a Seller of Travel number (in the state of California), which indicates that the agency is following proper protocol to operate within the law. It’s also a good idea to ask for references of satisfied customers and/or check review sites."
How has OTA changed since it was started in 96?
"Technology upgrades and economic changes have affected the travel industry a great deal, and have propelled our company into a new way of doing business. Gone are the days of communicating solely by fax and phone…email, Skype, and messaging make communication easy and instantaneous…and the internet puts a treasure trove of information at our fingertips. While many traditional storefront agencies have struggled over the years, our niche business has found its place by specializing in certain destinations and types of travel that require a certain level of expertise and support to the consumer, and constantly adapting to economic trends. Our balance of an online presence with a high level of customer service bridges that gap between the online processing sites and the traditional agency."
Have you found any benefits from being a woman owned/operated business?
"One of the most rewarding benefits is having other women see us live out our dreams of worldwide adventure travel, and become motivated to do the same for themselves. Life is too short for “later” or “someday”, or to be afraid to try something new…whether it’s a new activity, a strange food, or an exotic destination. If we can inspire other women to explore the world and find their inner adventurer, that is the greatest benefit of all!"
How have you used marketing or social media to help your business grow, or have you seen any benefit to it?
"Since the early days, we have seen the value of online marketing over traditional print marketing to reach more potential customers who are actively seeking an international adventure. We’ve also jumped in on the recent rage of flash deals, and found great success with moving volumes, increasing destination awareness, and getting our company name out to millions who wouldn’t have otherwise known about us. However, the flash deals are just one component in an overall marketing campaign. The social media platforms seem to give us an opportunity to stay connected with our clients and followers who are interested in international adventure travel, but we see social media as more of a relationship building opportunity as opposed to a direct sales tool. It’s an ever-changing environment, though!"
Do you still get to go on adventures today?
"Absolutely! We try to visit our key destinations on a regular basis, especially the South Pacific and Australasia. My last adventure was to the Cook Islands…scuba diving, snorkeling, quad biking, fine dining, and an island tattoo! In order to succeed, we need to be experts, and first-hand knowledge of a destination is invaluable. All in a day’s work!"
Sounds rough. I think if I could start over I might have tried for a career in travel! Is it too late to change professions? Thanks to Wendy for shedding some light on the travel agency industry.