By Phil Sheldon – Thanksgiving 2014
As Americans approach our most important secular holiday of the year, Thanksgiving, I would like to give my thanks for the blessings of the past year.
I would like to thank everyone who has entrusted us with their travel plans in 2014. This includes participants on over 40 group tours to all seven continents. We have also served numerous individuals who asked us to make the arrangements for cruises, personal tours, flights, and for each detail of an unforgettable family travel experience.
I am grateful for our vast network of hard-working colleagues in over 100 countries around the world, who we rely on to provide the highest quality of service to our travelers. They are on the ground in their home country and are attuned to what happens each day … and we know them – a perfect partnership!
Every group tour that we operate has a professional tour director whose primary role is to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible – or to safely and efficiently adjust the plans when necessary. HE Travel has a team of over a dozen experienced tour directors around the world, and each uses his or her unique expertise to handle the logistics of our tours and to enhance the experience for our travelers. Several of our tour directors also use their creativity and personal interests to help us create new tours.
Closer to home, I am blessed to be surrounded by an amazing team in our Headquarters office here in Florida.
Scott is our Client Services Manager. His email is the first greeting that travelers receive after reserving a tour, and he then follows up with our travelers until the tour departs. He also works with our tour directors to prepare them to lead each tour. Scott brings a sense of hospitality to his position honed during the 15 years that he and his partner Kelly ran one of Key West’s finest guesthouses. In their fabulous role as the Bitch Sisters, Scott and Kelly have also raised a great deal of money for AIDSHelp, our local HIV services organization.
Greg is our in-house travel agent – and so much more! He uses his creativity and long experience in the travel industry to find just the right flights, cruises and tours for our independent travelers, and he also reserves hotel, restaurant, transportation and other reservations for several of our tours. Well respected in our industry, Greg has recently been asked to assist in fine-tuning an important global software package.
Zach is our Marketing Director, Tour Director, Manager of Fun … and many other hats, and well-known to those of you who have traveled with him, or read his quirky blog posts and newsletter articles. This week I am grateful to have Zach back in the office to help us plan for 2015 and 2016, and I am also looking forward to reading his upcoming blog about his recent high-adrenaline adventure in South Africa (rappelling, sharks, bungee jumping, safari, and rafting!). We are also very proud that the NTA (National Tour Association) has elected Zach to serve on its Board of Directors.
Sara is our team member responsible for the lush layout and smooth operation of our new website. After each tour, she gathers the information that will help us make our tours even stronger, and she also manages our reservations with many of our tour partners. Sara has hosted our women’s Grand Canyon rafting trips the past three years, represented HE Travel at the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association convention in Madrid, and is now using her on-the-road experiences to help us prepare several new tours.
Biagio is our European Specialist. A native of Italy, he now lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Dan DiStasio, who was our Marketing Manager until he became a Keiser University professor. With over 15 years’ experience leading and designing tours throughout Europe, Biagio brings intimate knowledge of just the right hotels, restaurants and guides that let us create a unique and rewarding experience for the travelers on our cultural tours throughout Europe.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude for my family and close friends who believed in my vision of what a successful tour company would look like when I started on this journey in 2001, and who have continued their enthusiastic support of our efforts since.
Phil Sheldon, President, HE Travel