Sho Dozono’s response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks helped earn
the Azumano Travel President ASTA’s 2002 Travel Agent of the Year
award. In presenting Dozono with the award, ASTA President Richard
Copland honored his success not only as an agency leader but a
champion of Oregon as a leisure and business travel destination.
“Sho’s commitment and devotion to the travel industry and ASTA
is evident in everything he does,” Copland said in a released
statement. Shortly after Sept. 11, Dozono organized a group of
1,000 Oregon business and community leaders to travel to New York
“We were the first large contingent to fly across the country
after the terrorist attacks,” he said. “We wanted to make a
statement that we can take back our lives from the terrorism that
threatened to paralyze us.”
The project, Flight For Freedom, also helped earn Azumano Travel
the American Express Great Performers award.
Dozono’s high-profile leadership, which he has demonstrated
throughout more than 25 years in the travel industry, has paid
Azumano Travel has expanded from five employees in one location
in 1976, to 250 employees in 13 locations today.
Revenue has grown from $1.5 million in 1976 to a projected $120
million in retail sales and $38 million in air consolidator sales
Responding to Adversity
Over the years, Dozono’s quick and innovative responses to
challenges have helped Azumano Travel thrive.
Like all agency owners, he found Azumano Travel in a crisis on
the morning of Sept.11, and he knew he had to come up with an
immediate plan to offset the economic impact the terrorist attacks
On Sept. 12, to help keep the company afloat, Dozono convinced
78 members of his staff to either work as volunteers or go on
By Sept. 20, he had furloughed 35 more people, and the remaining
215 employees scaled back to a four-day workweek, all of which
reduced the payroll by more than 30 percent.
At the same time, Dozono completed the agency’s business plan
for the next three months.
“I anticipated a 30 percent reduction in business, and while it
was purely guesswork, I guessed right,” he said. “Because of our
quick actions we actually eked out a profit of several thousand
dollars per month in the fourth quarter of 2001.”
By January, 90 percent of Azumano’s staff was back on the job,
with the entire work force reinstated to five days a week in
Years earlier in 1995, when the airlines imposed commission
caps, Dozono set out to track down every hotel commission his
agency had earned, no matter how small. His efforts resulted in a
$60,000 increase in monthly collections for the year.
“People told me hotel commissions were too hard to come by,”
Dozono said. “But if you put your mind to it, you can collect the
revenue you deserve.”
Dozono sets goals and makes plans for reaching them. For the
coming year, he has outlined a characteristically aggressive
“We’ll grow by 25 percent and $30 million next year,” he
predicted. “We’re going outside of Oregon and bidding on national
accounts, since the Pacific Northwest is leading the country in
It helps that Azumano Travel is the only American Express
representative in Oregon and Southwest Washington, an affiliation
that began in 2001. As the firm reaches out to national accounts,
Dozono relies heavily on the use of e-tickets, which he called “a
“E-tickets are the single factor that has allowed us to expand
beyond our geographic boundaries,” he said. “There’s no way I can
deliver tickets to people in 50 states.”
But if Dozono were able to distribute each ticket personally, he
“It’s been said before, but this business is all about
relationships,” he said. “There’s no magic in it. Agencies need to
nurture relationships with customers, vendors and their own
employees. If they don’t, they won’t make it.”
Dozono developed his own people skills in the 1970s as a high
school history teacher. In 1976 he joined Azumano Travel, which was
founded in 1949 by his father-in-law George Azumano, because he
wanted to participate in the family business.
In 1980 Dozono joined the agency’s management team, and noticing
that the average turnover for travel agents was two years, he set
out to lengthen their stays.
“I figured if I could keep agents on staff for a longer period
of time, I’d be more profitable.” Today he has employees who have
been with him for more than 20 years. The secret?
“I treat them with the utmost respect, showing them that I value
what they do,” he said. “Our staff is the product we offer our
Dozono nurtures relationships outside the agency as well,
building Azumano Travel’s reputation in the community.
“We try to be a good corporate citizen,” he said. “We have
established a solid reputation by staying engaged in local
Leading by example, Dozono has chaired Portland’s 1,700-member
Chamber of Commerce, served as commissioner of the Port of Portland
and president of the Portland Oregon Visitors Association, and he
has sat on such boards as the Portland Public Schools Foundation
and Portland Art Museum.
“This type of local involvement has led us to quite a few
corporate clients,” Dozono said.
The largest is Wells Fargo, representing about $40 million in
air and another $12 million in hotel and car business.
“We beat out some pretty big agencies for the Wells Fargo
corporate account,” he said. “We believe there are customers like
Wells who want service above price or size.”
In anticipation of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake
City, Dozono solicited donations from corporations and local
supporters to promote Portland as a stop along the Olympic torch’s
“The motive was to put Portland on the map,” he said. “We’re a
major city and I’m proud of it.”
The Olympics committee acknowledged his efforts by choosing him
as one of Portland’s torchbearers.
Seizing the Moment
As the company has blossomed, so has Dozono’s ability to
recognize and seize opportunities. In 2001, for instance, when the
Seattle Mariners acquired Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki, Azumano
Travel became a licensed travel partner of the Mariners, bringing
thousands of Japanese baseball fans to the games ever since.
And, as co-chair of the International Air Service Committee,
Dozono led efforts to secure Lufthansa’s nonstop flights between
Portland and Frankfurt, Germany, the city’s first direct European
service. Portland beat out several cities vying for the service,
which Lufthansa will launch on Mar. 31, 2003.
“The new flights represent a huge opportunity for us to connect
with Europe,” Dozono said. “We earned it by presenting the airline
with a business case, demonstrating that Portland is a perfect fit
for them and that the business community will support the nonstop
The Portland-Frankfurt sale fares that Lufthansa offered on Oct.
23 sold more than 8,000 seats in one month, with Azumano selling
more than 450 tickets in 20 days, he said.
With characteristic foresight, Dozono is taking advantage of the
new air service in part by promoting travel to Athens, Greece, for
the 2004 Summer Olympic Games and weekly tours to various European
“We see 2003 and 2004 as Europe, Europe, Europe on Lufthansa,
Lufthansa, Lufthansa,” he said.