In an interview with CIO Look, Dan Austin, the CEO and Founder of Austin Adventures, emphasizes the beyond-exceptional experience the company provides for its customers. Being one of the top adventure travel companies in the U.S. (and recognized globally with trips on every continent) the unique hallmark of being completely family-owned continues to drive the ethos of Austin Adventures. Staff, guides, and guests thrive in a culture that values empathy, attention to detail, expedient and thoughtful customer service, and an all-around sense of western hospitality and friendliness.
The publication admires Austin Adventures’ work and takes prides in featuring such an out-of-the-box business in its special edition, “The 10 Most Enriching Travel Experience Solution Providers of 2020.”
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Give a brief detail on the company’s inception and journey it has experienced.
The company was founded in the mid 1980’s in the backcountry of Montana and was actually much more hard-core activity-wise than it is today. I had a young family in the early days and our adventures “softened” over the years to adjust to what families (including mine) were looking for in a vacation. Our product today is a reflection of what guests themselves have asked for over the decades. Over the last 35 years our adventures have expanded to all seven continents, and yet we have never forgotten our roots. We offer more than 100 unique programs around the world today, but of course our tried-and-true favorite destination will always be in our backyard where it all started – Montana.
Describe your approach on attracting your target audiences for their better experience.
Guest testimonials and referrals are our #1 source of new business. Our guests are great at communicating what makes us special: putting the customer and their needs first, being transparent, putting the family name on all aspects of the brand, building trust at every turn, and being 110% committed to being responsive 24/7 to all queries (every single guest gets my personal cell phone number and is encouraged to call anytime). When a traveler books with Austin Adventures, they become an extension of the Austin family and we go out of our way to treat our guests as one of our own.
Could you throw some light on your mission and vision statement?
The mission of Austin Adventures is to:
- Design and operate incredibly fun, deeply memorable outdoor adventure vacations around the world for adventurous, caring and curious individuals, families and groups led by the company’s extraordinary guides;
- Exceed guest expectations via highly personalized ‘above and beyond’ service, smaller group sizes, great food, best-in-class accommodations and signature ‘wow moments’;
- Allow its guests to experience destinations, wildlife, and communities in a deeper and richer manner than they would on their own; and
- Inspire guests to become friends for life.
The Vision Statement of Austin Adventures is to:
- Be the most respected, trusted and best-loved tour operator by our guests, employees, partners, and the communities we serve. To be recognized and respected for our collection of pre-set itineraries and custom trip planning services, and the extraordinary ‘above and beyond’ personalized service we provide to all our guests. To deepen and expand our passionate and active commitment to philanthropic initiatives that enhance our guests’ experiences, improve the lives of people in the places we visit and propagate the importance of traveling with an open heart and small footprint.
Being a leading travel experience solution provider, what contribution have you made in assisting your clients?
Bringing back old-school customer service, high-quality personal attention, uncompromised attention to detail, and remembering the guest is always #1. Again, our guests are an extension of the Austin family and we want to provide a memorable experience from the initial booking to the final goodbyes on the trip. Every customer should feel that personal connection that we all crave in today’s busy world.
What is the necessity of happy experience of clients? And, how could it be beneficial to the businesses?
Austin Adventures’ motto is “The Toughest Part is Going Home”. We are of the belief that if a guest doesn’t feel this way at trip’s end, then we haven’t met the high expectations of our clientele. Repeat business and referral business is 75% of our annual volume. It is mission-critical to ensure every guest feels special, like family. Happy guests translate to repeat customers and referrals of friends and family, which is extremely beneficial to the way we run our business.
What are your views on implementing and leveraging green technology for businesses?
We have worked tirelessly to go green for years, recently going 95% paperless and constantly working on how to steer our systems daily. It’s challenging to do so while maintaining our personal touches and avoiding getting lost in emails, but it’s possible. Some unique efforts will always be a part of our best practices, like the hand-written note cards we send to each guest who books with us.
Is your company bringing about a bigger change in various sectors? If yes, then how?
We’re a boutique family-owned and operated travel company that is big enough to have influence yet small enough to listen and care personally about the details. In the midst of this ongoing pandemic we find ourselves in, we’ve found that finely-tuned adjustments and flexibility in our booking practices and how we operate trips is what has separated us from the pack. We listen to what our guests want…and then we go to work figuring out how to deliver. For example, in the last six months, we’ve upped our offerings to include private homestays, RV tours, and day trips to cater to those guests looking for an exclusive experience that might feel safer to them in the era of COVID-19.
How do you sustain business in the current unpredictable markets and hectic competition?
By sticking to what we know and do, by remaining consistent in our service and product offerings, by building loyalty with both travelers and travel professionals, and by treating each guest as if they are the most important guest on the planet (and they are). We realize that things are indeed changing and volatile, and the only policy is no policy – we work through challenges with each individual guest’s best interest in mind. The big guys in tourism out there can’t claim the same.
How does Austin Adventure upgrade itself with the volatile technological changes in order to boost the company’s growth?
Balance! We balance utilizing the latest technology with sticking to some old-fashioned communication via phone that is appreciated by our guests. The customer journey – from… first contact to travel and goodbyes – are all… tracked and positioned with the customer’s needs in mind. We utilize technology for the tedious forms like guest information and liability releases, and weave it together with personal contact and personal attention by our excellent team. We focus on building relationships first and foremost while simultaneously working to stay on top of the latest technological trends behind the scenes.
What endeavors is your company planning to undertake in the upcoming future?
Austin Adventures is committed, if not determined, to emerge from the current international pandemic stronger and even more committed to our ethos. We are looking at this unprecedented time as an opportunity to continue owning up to define our brand, not damaging it. We foresee Americans sticking closer to home over the next few years as they start to feel more comfortable traveling again by first exploring their own backyard. We’ve always specialized in domestic travel in and around the national parks. A main focus for us is going to be doubling down on our US product so we can cater to those travelers wanting to take “baby steps” back into the world of travel during and/or post-pandemic. We’re here for you when you’re ready!
About Dan Austin
A 35-year veteran of Adventure Travel, Dan Austin is widely accepted and respected across the industry as a pioneer and icon. An educator by nature and a team player by desire, Austin has worked hard to elevate the adventure travel niche at all turns. Mentoring the next generation of adventure travel leaders (including his daughter Kasey, Austin Adventures President) is a passion and a commitment appreciated by many.