Q: Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A: Great Escapes Travel is a full service travel agency located in Lake Mary, Florida. Founded in 2004 by owners William and Peggy Applebee, along with former employee and now partner Phyllis Dale. The company is a member of the distinguished Virtuoso organization, whose 350 member agencies offer custom and specialty travel services through an international network with offices in almost every country in the world. From its single location in Lake Mary, Florida, Great Escapes Travel serves customers throughout the United States and Canada.
Q: Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
A: William Applebee attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. After graduation worked briefly for his parents in a family run business and then opened Bon Voyage international Travel in Winter Park, Florida in 1972 with his wife, Peggy. Peggy Applebee attended Hartford Airline Schools in Hartford, Connecticut, then worked several years for United Airlines in New York City before the opening of Bon Voyage International Travel. Phyllis Dale was an entertainer who sang and played piano on the Delta Queen Steamboat company boats on the Mississippi River for many years prior to joining the Applebees in 1996.
Q: What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A: The opening of travel agencies was a marriage of the entrepreneurial spirit and the involvement in the travel industry at an early age for the Applebees, who were married in 1972 and opened their first agency in the same year. Phyllis Dale’s love of the rivers prompted her to join the travel agency and take groups all over the world, fulfilling a lifelong urge to travel beyond the United States.
Q: What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A: Have enough capital to sustain the beginning years, be in love with what you do and be prepared to work long hours to be successful.
Q: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: Genuine love for your customers, willingness to take educated risks and the ability to hire employees that will follow your spirit and enthusiasm for success.
Q: How many hours do you work a day on average?
A: Between 50-60 hours per week, higher in peak periods.
Q: To what do you most attribute your success?
A: Honest and friendly customer service and the ability to hire correctly.
Q: How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A: Marketing for travel agencies has drastically changed over the past 10-15 years. While being accepted into Virtuoso has always been the cornerstone of our success, today requires a great website and extensive web marketing and management.
Q: Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A: Great Escapes Travel is a privately held company so all investment capital comes from owner/partners. A bank line of credit sustains the agency in off-peak times and when additional capital is required in addition to owner funded resources.
Q: What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A: A fundamental requirement for long-term success is a business plan that covers at least 2-3 years of future direction and expansion. Also key is having a succession plan to replace key employees who are either lost to other industries or retire from the travel industry.
Q: Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A: Being as owners are in the 65-75 year old age group, steering the business into 2020 and beyond will require the integration of senior employees into an ownership position gradually over time until such time as current owners retire.
Q: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A: One of our preferred vendors, Tauck Tours, founded over 75 years ago and is still family owned and operated as one of the most successful luxury tour
Let Great Escapes Travel help you plan your next vacation. Visit their website www.centralfloridatravelexperts.com for more information.