Something Inside of Us Sleeps, The Sleeper Must Awaken

Departure Lounge: 10 a long time of ‘doing it differently’: Travel Weekly

Twelve yrs ago, if a person told Keith Waldon he was going to head a host agency that 200 vacation advisors connect with house, “I would have laughed and probably guess all my money that you were being wrong,” he claimed.

But Waldon’s Departure Lounge turned 10 this thirty day period. And while the company has pivoted from its primary design, Waldon’s eyesight hasn’t strayed.

“The original Departure Lounge notion, by remaining a primary location coffee and wine bar that was also a luxury vacation company, was a way to get the enterprise of travel back and engaged with the regional local community in a very visible and participating way,” Waldon explained. “Also, our thought was to do things in different ways.”

Although Waldon failed to established out with the goal of owning an agency in an marketplace that he uncovered could be reticent to change, “I felt like any individual had to do it, and do it in different ways,” he claimed.

Waldon’s business roots are with Rosewood Hotels, wherever he started out as an intern and landed on the company team following a stint in public relations. When there he met Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso, and eventually went to perform for the consortium, still named API at the time. It was Waldon who led its rebranding. 

With Upchurch’s blessing, he still left Virtuoso immediately after 16 a long time to open Departure Lounge in Austin, Texas. Rather than seem to other agencies for inspiration, Waldon turned to other industries and businesses that relied on unbiased contractors (ICs), like actual estate franchiser Keller Williams and the technologies and payment designs they used.

At the time, Waldon stated, vacation businesses had been mainly invisible to individuals. He desired to alter that, and to lean into technological know-how for his ICs. For instance, Departure Lounge has never ever utilized a GDS. The agency also employs newer technological know-how like Sion, which assists advisors track and chase commissions.

To make the company much more noticeable, he introduced the wine-and-espresso-bar idea and manufactured ICs out there to speak journey with consumers. Departure Lounge operated below that design for four a long time.

“It was kind of a laboratory for us to master about what was functioning, what failed to get the job done, what was value the effort, what was not,” Waldon explained. 

Selling foods and drinks, as it turned out, wasn’t needed. When another storefront opened up in a much more upscale part of Austin, he leaped. He retained supplying food and beverages to purchasers, but he did it for free of charge. By that time, however, the agency was concentrating solely on journey.

Departure Lounge continued to mature by means of the many years into a regional, then national, host company. An additional storefront opened in San Antonio. 

When Covid hit, Waldon used his time to grow into Europe, launch a desired-supplier system and secure a booking system for his advisors to home favored partnerships.

This past January, Waldon shut down his two storefronts, however he credits them with the agency’s early success in community communities. (There is even now a Departure Lounge bar in Austin-Bergstrom Intercontinental Airport that ordered a licensing agreement from Waldon, presenting an fascinating and diversified revenue stream.)

Departure Lounge has grown from the eight ICs it begun with to 195 throughout the U.S., EU and U.K. Waldon not too long ago ordered a home in Tuscany and splits his time amongst there and Texas, helping him onboard advisors in the U.S. and overseas.

When he began Departure Lounge, Waldon’s 10-year aim was $100 million in yearly gross sales the company hit that in yr 9 and is on observe to exceed $200 million this calendar year, he stated.

Waldon stated he expects to continue on growing at a rate of around 4 or five advisors for every month. He nevertheless insists on assembly each individual of them and acquiring to know them, acknowledging that at some stage it will hinder the agency’s expansion. But he claims it is really section of the all round society of, and aim on, kindness.

“The only goal is to go on to keep in our lane, executing what we are performing, and have gradual, mindful advancement with the correct persons,” he said.