1. How did you end up working in the tourism industry?
I started the Hospitality school in Curacao, but after two years I decided that working in hotels is not my thing. In the meantime my parents whom had established a DMC specialized in Cuba also came back to Curacao to live. This gave me the opportunity to start working with them after I quit my studies. While Cuba is not the easiest destination, till date (10 years now) I still enjoy it every day!
2. What inspired you to start this company?
As said above, my parents started the company. My mission is to expand the company as far as we can. We like growth and grow every year, but we do not want to grow too fast or too much. We want to stay humble and close to our clients. Our clients must never become numbers.
3. Describe your first sale/customer?
This is something that I cannot remember anymore as it has been a long time. I do often think about the new clients that we have gained also because my efforts. And knowing that we have grown so much with the help of myself.
4. What part of the company are you most proud of and why?
I am proud of every part of the company, we often get contacted by travel agencies wanting to work with us, because they hear good stories about us. That is something that makes me proud. That people recommend us to others. And another thing I am proud of is our ‘new’ webshop where people can buy the tourist cards for Cuba. We set up the website thinking we’ll send a couple of visa per week, but it turned out to be a very good step as we sell over 2500 visa per month through the website.
5. What do you feel sets your company apart from other DMC’s?
Speed of working. We are a small team and we try to reply as fast as possible. When we send quotes within a couple of hours people are often astonished by the speed, as they are used to other Cuban DMCs which reply after weeks or don’t at all. We also feel that we have a very good price/quality balance. We are not, and never were or want to be, the cheapest, however in return for a higher price, we do offer good service before, during and after the trip, and to us that is more worth than being the cheapest.
6. What does a standard working day look like for you?
Going to work, sifting through my mails first to see if there is something that needs my attention immediately. Sometimes I help with all the orders of the webshop, some days we need to process over 100 orders within a couple of hours, so an extra pair of hands is needed from time to time. Other days I work on the offer requests that we receive because I like to do some of the daily work as well. I discuss new things with the team when there are changes in Cuba, and also with my web developer I discuss the projects we are working on to see the progress and to give him my input while still working on it to immediately apply changes rather than after months of working.
7. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My two kids . I am a new father of two boys and they make me get out of bed in the morning, go to work to make sure that the company is at the best it can be, so they can have a nice and careless childhood as I had myself.
8. What keeps you up at night?
When there are problems in Cuba, for example hurricanes. They cause a lot of extra work and stress, and that can keep me up at night. I always want to have as much information as possible to inform my clients accordingly, but that is sometimes challenging because often power/internet/phones don’t work after a hurricane. I have clients on one side calling me to know more, but we have trouble connecting with the island to get more information. Luckily this does not happen often, and I can sleep pretty well at night.
9. What other CEOs do you look up to and why?
I’ve always liked the story of Corendon founder Atilay Ulsu. He started his company not having any experience in the field, and now his company is one of the top 3 travel related companies in the Netherlands. That is something that I can really appreciate.
10. Where do you see the company in 5 years?
While Cuba is relatively instable, and can change in the blink of an eye. We hope that we can keep selling Cuba and bring people to Cuba to visit this beautiful island. Our goal is to become sustainable as soon as possible, and to keep improving in this.