Adventure travel CEOs share advice with Women Entrepreneur

The CEOs of Frontiers Travel, Ciclismo Classico and Xola Consulting, Inc., spoke with Women Entrepreneur about the adventure travel industry, which looks favorable for entrepreneurs.

Frontiers brings in an impressive $30 million per year.

However, because of an operating margin between 9 percent and 11 percent, adventure tourism is not an industry that will bring in large sums of money, Frontiers co-owner Mollie Fitzgerald says. Instead, she emphasizes the “psychic income” side of running a travel business, which includes a love of travel.

“The opportunity to travel, the things that you learn about, the experiences I’ve had certainly outweigh the financial side of the business,” Fitzgerald says.

An analysis of the last decade could be enough to scare off many entrepreneurs before they jump into the travel industry. Fitzgerald, who joined Frontiers full time in 1985, listed some of the most recent deterrents to travel: the Gulf War, 9/11, SARS, foot-and-mouth disease in Europe and acts of terrorism. But she has observed cycles in the industry during the 40 years Frontiers has been in business.

“I think travel has become an essential ingredient in people’s lives, and (the travel industry) does bounce back. It always does,” Fitzgerald says. “We’ve seen enough peaks and valleys over the years that I’m confident in saying that.”

Specialization is also an important factor in starting a successful adventure travel business. Since no one was offering cycling tours in Italy, Lauren Hefferon, founder of Ciclismo Classico, decided to start there. She had a passion for cycling Italy, and she had the drive to start a business.

Breaking into the adventure travel industry is different than starting up a business in a big city, for instance. That’s where Xola Consulting, and founder Christina Heyniger, come in. She helps entrepreneurs consider government policies in other countries. She also contributed largely to the Adventure Tourism Development Index, which ranks countries on their potential to be the next best adventure travel destination.

Adventure Life is also commended for the success of its social networking through Facebook. Adventure Life has more than 20,000 Facebook fans.

Frontiers co-owner Mollie Fitzgerald in Thailand