Travel Agent Talk: Betsy Donley

Travel Agent Talk: Betsy Donley

The long-time adventure travel agent shares how to make money selling the adventure travel niche By: Melissa Karlin
Donley in Borneo island in Asia // © 2015 Betsy Donley
Donley in Borneo island in Asia // © 2015 Betsy Donley

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The Details

Camelback Odyssey Travel

Betsy Donley of Camelback Odyssey Travel has been focusing on adventure and active travel long before it was popular, and about 60 percent of her bookings include some kind of adventure.

She says it’s clear that the trend has arrived, which is leading to more unique ways to add culture (and profit) to active and adventure itineraries.

Are there any particular trends you are noticing in the industry?
People are demanding unique experiences. The Internet is making this job a bit more difficult because our clients are finding wonderful little places with a real local feel on their own. 

At the same time, clients want our assurance that a given destination is a good place to go. Another trend related to adventure travel is wellness. My adventure clients are interested in wellness for the simple fact that they have to stay fit in order to do rigorous trips.

How can adventure travel be profitable for agents?
Concentrate on luxury. Qualify what you are going to sell so that you are able to make a profit. For example, trekking can be a romantic adventure, but ask these questions to clients who are considering a trek: ‘Where are you going to stay? Who’s going to carry your backpack? Do you want to have a glass of wine and a nice bed at the end of the day?’ 

If you are trekking from hut to hut in Ladakh, the huts can actually be very luxurious. This is an excellent way to have an adventure and enjoy a luxury vacation simultaneously.

Who’s booking active trips — is it just Gen Y and Gen X?
Baby boomers in the 55 to 65 age group are a huge demographic. The people who are booking these trips are active, in good shape and want to do the things that they were doing at ages 30 through 40. They realize that in a few years they may not be able to do them anymore and are looking at the destinations and activities as bucket-list experiences. 

At the same time, they are searching for places to go with their families, from trips with college-age kids to extended family vacations with grandchildren.

Can cultural trips be adventurous or active too?
Yes, there are options that are more adventurous than anyone would have thought 10 to 15 years ago. For example, there’s a fabulous way to go to Versailles by bike. You ride around the grounds and picnic before you enter the palace. In Berlin, I had the most amazing experience riding through the Holocaust Memorial — to be right there on the ground. 

These are the kinds of things that families can do outside together,  and the level of adventure can be adjusted for the client. It can be a golf excursion in Ireland or a quad bike tour in the middle of the Andes. It’s about creating something that no one will ever forget.