Battlefield Travel: Circling the globe for 30 years

By Posted on Oct 23 2014 | By

High expectations need to be held in check when starting a small business. Only 44 percent survive after four years and the average life span is eight and a half years.

Yet this year, Battlefield Travel of Culpeper is celebrating 30 years of success and still going strong. The E. Davis St. firm’s secret? Consistently planning and providing successful travel experiences.

Cheryl Clear

Cheryl Clear

“If we weren’t good at what we did, we wouldn’t be around for 30 years,” said owner Cheryl Clear. And there are no plans to close shop. “Battlefield will be around for considerably more years.”

That’s not hubris talking. Clear has a staff of four that have an accumulated six decades of experience in making vacation dreams come true. The key to the successful business is agents who are widely traveled.

“Our certified travel consultants have over 60 years combined experience,” said Clear. Traveling the world provides her clients vacation getaways to places the consultants often have firsthand knowledge of.

Experience combined with educational training further assures successful adventures. Clear is an Elite Cruise Counselor, Certified Travel Agent and holds certifications in various fields of travel. Her sheepskins are brought to bear with each client encounter.

While enjoying multiple decades of achievement, it doesn’t mean there haven’t been bumps in the road; sometimes big ones. “I purchased the agency in January 2001. Then 9/11 happened. It hit us really hard. I had to downsize,” said Clear.

The business had to relocate to smaller quarters and the only staff she retained was her receptionist. But perseverance prevailed and today her staff is back to the same size as when she assumed ownership.

Interestingly, and fortuitously, when the recession hit business actually increased. While the cruise segment of travel declined, Clear realized working professionals were more insulated from the impact of the recession and continued to travel worldwide. She focused on selling excursions to this market segment.

“Because we had been around so many years people knew who we were. We have a good reputation so we made more money than before the recession,” said Clear.

Reputation is golden. As a result, the business has ceased most forms of advertising. “Most of our marketing today is word of mouth. I found advertising did not make that much difference. Past performance is our best marketing tool,” said Clear.

The industry
There are two key benefits in employing a travel agency. First, except for airline ticketing fees, there typically are no extra charges levied by the agency above lodging and airfare costs. There is an hourly charge if a specific itinerary is requested.

Agents are usually compensated by the companies they use to book lodging. “It’s not going to save anybody to not go through a travel agent. Lodging and air fare will be the same,” said Clear.

Secondly, often an agent’s personal experience will be employed to plan a vacation. Imagine a relative going to Ireland and later sharing every step of the trip. It’s same with an agent. No muss. No fuss. Board the plane and fly off to happy times.

“One of my agents spent two weeks in Italy. There is not a whole lot about Italy that she can’t tell you,” said Clear.

She emphasizes her first question posed to a client is “What is your budget?” The answer will determine how the trip is assembled.

Clear also recognizes in the digital age vacations can be planned on a keyboard in the comfort of one’s home. But often it takes hours of research and the luck of the draw that a traveler has chosen well.

Conversely, an experienced agent frequently brings “boots on the ground” to the planning process. “We are not just selling trips. We are sharing our experiences. You can’t get that on the internet,” emphasizes Clear.

Today, one small trend Clear has observed is that Americans are turning more to domestic vacations. “I’ve noticed we are selling more Alaska and Hawaii trips and less of Europe,” said Clear.

Sounds like a good time to enjoy London, Paris or Dublin since there might be fewer tourists to compete with, eh?

Battlefield Travel is located at 163 E. Davis Street. Visit them in person or at battlefieldtravel@comcast.net. (540) 825.1393.


Published in the October 16, 2014 edition of the Culpeper Times.

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