It’s better to travel, whatever the weather

From Icelandic ash clouds to 9/11, Mary McKenna of Tour America has seen it all in her 24 years in the travel business, writes Lorraine Courtney

3rd March, 2019
Mary McKenna, managing director, Tour America: ‘We are focused on the customer journey’ Fergal Phillips

Last year was stellar for Tour America. The company had its best ever financial year, largest turnover and recorded sales of over €20.2 million.

“Profits remain excellent,” said managing director Mary McKenna. “We are now 24 years in business and have remained profitable from day one. We have also just opened an innovation lab.

“We felt it was important to give our team an area for innovation and brainstorming. This is an area where they can just sit down and put up any of their ideas about how to raise our standards and constantly add value for our customers. The team just love it, and every department is using it.”

The company was announced as the Travel Agency of the Year at the Irish Travel Awards 2018, highlighting its commitment to always offering the best experience for customers.

“We also won Best Use of Social Media at the Travel Media Awards 2018, as well as the Best Use of Social Media at the Social Media Awards 2018,” said McKenna.

“Tour America/Cruise Holidays was awarded Number 1 Irish Travel Agent with Royal Caribbean, and we have also won the Most Innovative Marketing Campaign at the Irish Travel Industry Awards 2017.”

The company was also delighted to receive the prestigious Deloitte Best Managed Company awards 2019 for the tenth consecutive year running. Most recently, McKenna scooped Woman of the Year at the Everywoman Awards in Britain.

Originally from Portlaoise, McKenna has been involved in the travel business in some shape or form since she was very young. When she was a child, her father would bring her and her siblings into the travel business he ran on weekends, where she would help out. Then, in classic entrepreneurial fashion, Tour America started life in McKenna’s living room back in 1995.

“I have never sold a single holiday myself,” she said. “Even at the very beginning, I focused more on the business side of things, calling up airlines and suppliers to get the best deal possible.

“I made my first hire three months in and they did all of the company’s selling. I’ve always been working more on growing the business.”

McKenna eventually opened an office in Dublin's Eden Quay and, despite warnings at the time from other business people, remained in profit. “Somebody said to me: ‘You don’t make money for the first three years’, and I said: ‘Who made up that rule?’.”

Over the next two decades, the business grew and grew. Now it is Ireland’s largest seller of holidays to the US and the largest seller of cruises.

Tour America offers once in a lifetime holidays to America, Canada and Mexico, but also specialises in cruises around the world with its Cruise Holidays brand.

The benefit of booking with Tour America and Cruise Holidays is that their team has experienced their products and destinations first hand, so that they can offer customers the best advice and guidance when booking a holiday.

The company is licensed and bonded, is fully Irish-owned and offers competitively priced holidays.

Disasters are never far away in the travel business, but McKenna has managed to survive ash clouds, the sinking of cruise ship Costa Concordia and, of course, 9/11. Her business remained resilient through it all.

“Today, we employ 50 staff, have offices in Dublin and Cork and two representatives in the US, based in Orlando, Florida,” said McKenna.

“Our mission statement is very clear, ‘to have a raving fan club’, and our team are willing and able to exceed all of our customers’ holiday expectations. Tour America has over 54 per cent repeat business.”

A happy team, who feel respected and appreciated, in a high-performing organisation, is key to Tour America’s success and the business now employs more than 50 people.

“We are very focused on the customer journey and that makes us very different to others out there,” said McKenna.

“This is our tenth Best Managed award from Deloitte, so we have lots of really good things we can celebrate as a business.

“Being part of a Best Managed company creates the right culture in an organisation - it’s a stamp of approval from a recognised company and it means everything to us.”

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