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Interview: Nicholas Hentschel, COO American Tours International

Nicholas Hentschel, COO American Tours International

“Over our 43 year history, ATI has navigated many crises, but none has been as profound and prolonged as the current pandemic. I personally think that you learn how strong partnerships really matter and the importance of diversification, both in terms of product and source markets”, this is one of the reflections of Nicholas Hentschel, COO AmericanTours International, one of the largest tourism companies, also partners of TravelgateX. In this interview, Nicholas Hentschel also defines the next strategies for the tourism of the future and the growth of the sector.

Has the crisis motivated American Tours to make internal or external changes? 

The ongoing pandemic has forced all companies, especially those in travel and tourism, to make significant changes to their business. For AmericanTours International (ATI), we focused on promoting our newly enhanced proprietary DriveAmerica road trip building platform, which we has scheduled fo release just before Covid hit. This has enabled us to grow our domestic business, focusing on inspiring travel professionals to plan their customer's next road trip journey with ATI.

What is your growth strategy post-COVID-19 and how is TravelgateX going to help you?

While our primary focus has been on promoting our own platform for growing our domestic leisure business during the pandemic, it seems clear to me that international leisure travel will be amongst the first to return once testing and vaccination regimes are put in place for facilitating cross border travel. Tour Operators will be well positioned to capitalize on the pent up demand at that time because of the trust factor and protective measures they provide to their customers to feel more secure while traveling.TravelgateX will help all Tour Operators through the recovery period by facilitating rate and availability in a streamlined manner while focusing on the expertise that certain operators have in a given destination or region. 

How did you come to work with TravelgateX?

We started working with TravelgateX several years ago after hearing from both current and potential clients that their solution was very robust and would lead to growth for all involved. 

With regard to partners in our platform, what destinations are interesting for American Tours?  

We focus on North America as a travel destination and will continue to do so. We are particularly strong in America's National Park areas as well as leading gateways like New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We also have a very strong presence in Hawaii, having been there on the islands for over 30 years. 

In your personal point of view, what would you say has been the biggest lesson learned from this crisis?

Over our 43 year history, ATI has navigated many crises, but none has been as profound and prolonged as the current pandemic. I personally think that you learn how strong partnerships really matter and the importance of diversification, both in terms of product and source markets.

What do you think are some of the biggest opportunities that may come from this time for your sector? For the travel industry?

There will certainly be an opportunity for leisure travel to bounce back and deliver on demand sooner than other segments. Much of this will depend on how air routes / airfares return and hotels will have to be aggressive during the recovery period to compete with other leisure destinations for the business. For the industry as a whole, I think the opportunity for travel companies that focus on service and maintaining trust with their customers cannot be underestimated, and so I think that the role of the tour operator will be reinforced. 

What is a crazy or out-of-the-box product or technology that you would personally like to see attempted for the travel industry?

It doesn't sound that crazy being able to deliver an inspired trip recommendation that can be easily booked or be fully customized from A to Z. This what we at ATI through our DriveAmerica platform are seeking to deliver to our customers, specifically focusing on road trips in North America. As an aside, I also think we are likely see more subscription based models in our industry, which have already taken a strong hold in others.