Desiree Overhage, an HIM alumna and co-founder of Inner Circle Travel, a luxury travel agency, offers advice on managing a travel business during a pandemic and discusses the future of travel.
What influenced you to study Hotel Management and why did you choose to study at Hotel Institute Montreux?
Growing up bicultural to a German father and Indonesian mother, I have had a great passion for travel from a young age. I dreamed of pursuing a career that would allow me to work internationally, doing what I love most: traveling and creating long-lasting experiences not only for others but also for myself. Besides the beautiful location of HIM right by Lake Geneva and its excellent reputation, the BBA program stood out, as it provides a foundation of business management with a focus on hotel, restaurant, and resort management.
I felt confident that with this degree, I would have endless career paths and opportunities to choose from within and beyond the hotel industry.
What skills do you think can be gained from studying a Hospitality degree
Some of the most important skills I gained during my time at HIM were leadership, communication, and customer service skills. HIM prepared me to become a real business professional, and the multicultural environment allowed me to work and learn with students from different countries and backgrounds.
What are your daily tasks at a typical day at work in your position?
Every day can be quite different because we have clients located all over the world in different time zones. I start my day by understanding my priorities for the day, depending on any urgent requests and emergencies that could have come up overnight.
I then continue to stay up to date with the latest travel news and changes within the industry. Especially during these times, as each country’s travel restrictions change frequently, clients rely on us to provide them with correct information and assist them with their travel decisions.
Throughout my day, I usually have conference calls with my business partner, clients, and our luxury travel partners as we work together on requests.
What do you enjoy most about your current position?
I love a lot of things about my current position, but if I had to summarize them then I would say that firstly, it is inspiring others to travel. We assist our clients with their travel plans and therefore are part of the excitement that comes with taking a trip. Secondly, by being a business owner, I can see the direct impact I have on our company. Finally, I am able to scout new destinations and products and gain first-hand experience.
What would you say are the biggest challenges of running your own company?
As a company owner, I wear many different hats, and not all of them may be my strength. My advice is to outsource some of those functions if it is financially feasible. For example, we hired an accountant to ensure all our finances and taxes are tracked and taken care of, so that my business partner and I can focus on maintaining and growing our client relationships and sales. Also, having a business partner with different strengths is excellent, as we both focus on what we do best. We come up with different ideas, and we are our trusted sounding board with the same dedication, commitment, and goal in mind, which is to provide unparalleled service to our clients and to make our company a success.
What is your advice to those who are interested in setting up their own company?
“If you have a passion for something and understand the “why” behind your idea, pursue your dream.”
Starting your own company does not happen overnight and requires patience, endurance, hard work, and financial stability in the beginning. From the moment that I started to think about creating my luxury travel agency until it became a reality, it took more than a year. During this year, I put all my efforts, work, and ideas into the business, and I collaborated with like-minded individuals within the industry. All these efforts helped me to set up a great foundation and an extensive network of support and trusted professionals. It is rewarding to see it all coming together.
What do you hope to achieve in your career next?
I hope that I can make an impact and promote travel in a meaningful and sustainable way rather than just selling travel en masse. Our clients are highly affluent and educated, and together we can leave a significant impact on the communities we encounter during our travels. We want to ensure we work with suppliers that look at the human side of sustainability to support communities both socially and economically. Now more than ever, we have a great responsibility in the way we sell travel, and we need to be conscious about the footprints we leave behind.
We are our client's true advocates and look out for their best interests.
How is your work affected by the current situation and do you have any advice for how to manage a business during a pandemic?
Our business is profoundly affected by the pandemic, and activity has slowed down tremendously. However, during these times, we had the opportunity to show the value of working with a travel advisor and bonded even more with our existing clients as we helped them navigate through changes, cancellations, refunds, and emergencies. We are our client's true advocates and look out for their best interests.
“I feel confident that the role of a travel advisor will become increasingly important post-pandemic, as travel will be radically and almost unrecognizably different. We can handle any emergencies that may arise when clients are traveling, and as the world reopens, well-connected advisors like us can save the do it yourself person, not only money but time.”
We must remind people about our value the next time they are thinking of booking an extended trip themselves online.
Inner Circle Travel is a full-service luxury travel agency, tailored to individuals who enjoy the luxury of time and service. Our idea is simple as the goal is to provide exceptional personal service at an unsurpassed level and create bespoke experiences around the world.
The Inner Circle Membership, our signature offering, ensures that you receive unparalleled access to the very best of everything that travel has to offer. Alternatively, individual requests can be obtained by the A la Carte services & Bespoke Trip.
We put you firmly at the center. Together with our extensive network of contacts, we proactively anticipate your needs, sourcing the most popular events and bespoke journeys. We open doors to unique and unforgettable experiences.
Discover more here.
Desiree Overhage graduated from Hotel Institute Montreux in 2012 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Hospitality Management. She is now co-founder of Inner Circle Travel, a luxury travel agency based in San Francisco, USA.