After spending a three month sabbatical in Europe from her job as a journalist for Reader’s Digest, Catherine “Cappy” Devlin returned to New York a changed woman. She knew exactly what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Cappy Devlin wanted to start an international travel business to bring people together to share the world. Even though she’d never been inside a travel agency, her entrepreneurial instincts took over and she confidently launched Cappy Devlin International, Inc.
This November, Cappy Devlin celebrates 35 successful years in the business. In those 35 years, the travel industry has changed significantly. For Devlin, travel does have ups and downs. (I’d say it has been more like a hurricane leaving in its wake many shuttered travel agencies.)
I remember the days when going through a travel agent to book all your travel was standard operating procedure. You trusted your agent to make all your arrangements and hand you everything you needed for a successful trip. Those were the good old days.
Then airlines started cutting the commissions they paid to agents. Devlin used to book a lot of corporate first class tickets for $5,000 and with a 10 percent commission that added up to a lot of money (and it was simple to do). Then, agents like Devlin had to suddenly tell customers they had to pay a fee for booking tickets – something that had been no cost to them before.
Travel agency fees coupled with online travel booking options nearly made the agency business obsolete. It didn’t make sense to pay an agent to book a ticket when you could do it easily on line yourself.
In 1998, Cappy Devlin founded Travel-by-Net which incorporated Internet-based applications to offer travelers advanced cost-containment technology and extraordinary personal service including tools and tips for world-travel.
Not one to maintain the status quo, Devlin has identified a new niche for her travel business.
She is a pioneer in creating family incentive programs for corporate clients allowing business travelers to bring their families along as a reward for the entire family.
Cappy Devlin strongly believes the pendulum in the industry is swinging back to more personalized agency service. Think about it. Have you been stranded in an airport because of a cancelled flight, missed connections or other travel woes and tried to find a helpful airline agent to get you to your destination? Good luck. But one phone call to your travel agent and you have someone with your best interest in mind to help you find options. With services like Devlin’s clients can click, call or visit in person anytime.
Devlin tells me her advice for any business to succeed is to always look for the possibilities, be passionate and be willing to be perseverant.
Happy 35th Anniversary Cappy. To hear more about this small business success story, check out the video on SBTV.com.
*Susan Wilson Solovic is CEO of media company, SBTV.com, THE online destination for small business owners. She is an award-winning small business journalist, author and expert, who knows what she speaks as a successful entrepreneur, herself. Here she uses her experiences and deep connections in the small business marketplace to bring you inspiration and knowledge through stories of great entrepreneurial success.