Dan Conaway is CEO and Co-founder of Elegant Adventures, an upscale tour operator specializing in custom travel to Central America and the Caribbean. His travel and tourism career has spanned four decades and has included marketing and consulting services for foreign tourist boards and high-quality hotels and resorts worldwide, as well as operating a chain of retail travel agencies.
This experience, combined with his passion for exploring the reefs, jungles and diverse cultures of this fascinating region was the foundation for establishing Elegant Adventures. Dan is committed to educating and sharing his extensive knowledge and expertise with retail travel professionals nationwide and to delivering superior personal service to their clients.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi Dan. How’s your day going?
Dan Conaway (DC): Just great! I am happy to be with you today.
TRO: With about 40 years in the travel industry, you must have seen it change dramatically. What do you think is the key to evolving with a changing industry?
DC: For us, it has depended upon maintaining a superior level of product and destination knowledge, fostering close relationships with our suppliers and travel advisor clientele, and to delivering a high level of personal service that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
TRO: Exploration seems like the perfect way to know the ins-and-outs of a destination, as well as having fun along the way. Have you always had the need to explore?
DC: Yes! My desire for adventure began in my youth when I was a dive master leading groups in search of new and exciting experiences. That thirst has never been quenched! It is still a driving force behind our business today.
TRO: You were setting up getaways and adventures in Central America before it became one of the hottest destinations in travel. One of the ways the area has changed is more luxury and all-inclusive resorts. How else has it changed?
DC: One of the benefits of such growth has been the development of vital infrastructure such as roads, communications, power and water, along with health and education. Even as the number of hotels and tourism related businesses has rocketed, it has been very gratifying to see how the innovation of strong, sustainable practices has helped boost to the local economies of communities throughout the region and made a big difference in people’s lives and livelihoods.
TRO: What are the primary considerations you pass onto the companies and tourist boards that you consult with?
DC: Although we no longer offer consulting services, our focus has always been on education. It begins with comprehensive training for the hospitality industry providers in each country, and extends to the ever expanding network of travel advisors nationwide. The more a travel advisor knows about a product and destination, the more comfortable they are in selling it to their clients. When a client knows what to expect they are rarely disappointed, especially when those who deliver the hospitality services are well trained also. It’s the circle of life in the travel/hospitality industry!
TRO: Offering clients the best service possible often boils down to a few critical skills such as truly listening to their wants and needs. What else do you find helpful when setting up the perfect getaway for a client?
DC: The basics of time, means, and expectations never change. But now, more than ever, we must be sensitive to personal requirements such as diet, mobility issues, activity levels and, of course, discretion and privacy.
TRO: Where do you go when you want to kick back and relax?
DC: Any place “off the beaten track” that offers the serenity of nature combined with comfortable accommodations and the genuine hospitality of friendly, welcoming people. Fine bourbon and good cigars are a must too!
TRO: Elegant Adventures offers experiences in Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama. What are the more popular destinations among those?
DC: Belize and Costa Rica are clearly the hot spots; however, the entire region is growing in popularity.
TRO: Do you have any announcements or news coming up that you’d like to share with our readers?
DC: We are excited to welcome the Mandarin Oriental Canouan in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to our portfolio. Look for more carefully selected “secret gems” in the future!
TRO: Dan, thank you for joining us today.
DC: Con mucho Gusto!