Written by The Business Journal Staff
Denise Martin Donathan, Owner
What we do:
I have worked in the travel industry since the fall of 1981. In October 2008 we opened Winsome Travel. All of our travel advisors are all caredentialed travel professionals. We specialize in honeymoons, destination weddings, multi-generation family travel and custom itineraries. Our areas of expertise are Hawaii, Tahiti, Europe, Costa Rica, South America and the Caribbean.
I have been married for 25 years. We have four children and two grandchildren, and a third on the way. Our two daughters live in Chico; oldest son is in the Navy and lives in San Diego with his wife and two kids. Our youngest son lives in Clovis with his wife and they are expecting their first child in August.
How did you get involved in the travel business, Denise?
I started working in the travel industry for American Airlines in Los Angeles in the Fall of 1981. When I moved to Fresno in the Fall of 1983 I made the transition into the retail travel part of the industry. The most rewarding part for me is building long-term relationships with my clients. I have had many of them as customers for 20 years. I consider a lot of them extended family. I love the progression of planning travel for customers over several years from honeymoon, anniversaries, first family vacations, special occasions like graduation, retirements and much more. We really get to know our clients and what their travel desires are. I get a big jolt from talking to a customer when they return from their trip and have had a wonderfully fulfilling time that had exceeded their expectations and they have built unforgettable memories with the people that are important to them.
What’s your busy season, Denise?
Our busiest season is the first quarter of the year. We book about 75 to 80 percent of all our annual business during this time. Most customers plan their travel six to eight months in advance. Some clients know they have to book their trip ten to eleven months in advance if they are traveling for holidays or peak vacation times like spring break.
During our busy time the days are long working into the late evening and most weekends. But it’s exciting talking to so many different people each day. For me I like the fact that we have to work on multiple trips all at the same time; each one of them in different stages of planning. Being in the travel business requires being very detail-oriented, from routinely making sure payments to vendors are done on deadline or to the smallest customer preferences and special requests are met. Making sure the customer requested are confirmed makes all the difference between a good vacation and a great vacation.
What is different about Winsome Travel, Denise?
We take the time to establish a relationship with our clients.
How has your business survived in a tough economy, Denise?
By providing expert travel advice and honoring the relationship with our customer. Winsome is part of an international travel group that allows us to offer great value and competitive pricing to our customer.
Are people concerned about traveling to certain areas of the world, Denise?
No. Customers realize that travel anywhere requires a normal amount of vigilance. If an issue develops in a certain area we evaluate the situation and advise our customers accordingly.
How important are regular or repeat clients, Denise?
Our repeat and referral business is very important. About 80 percent of our business mix is based on that. We use a variety of marketing tools to keep in touch with customers and to grow new business.
What are the places Fresno residents most like to travel to, Denise?
Hawaii, Europe, The Caribbean. Mexico is slowly coming back — if offers a great value now and the resort areas are safe.
Do cruises remain popular, Denise?
Cruises are still very popular and are a great way for multiple generations of a family to all vacation together and each person can do something they prefer.
What is your key business strategy?
To always be the best possible advocate for my customers, even if it means not making a sale.
What was the best business advice you received?
The customer is always right. Without the customers there would be no Winsome Travel. Be truthful and always do the right thing, which sounds like common sense, but some people have a hard time doing that.
Was there someone who inspired you, Denise?
Yes, my high schools honors English teacher Wendy Marber. She made work very hard, she believed in my ability to get an “A” in a subject I did not like. In the travel industry, Nolan Burris of Future Proof Travel Solutions is brilliant.
What was your first job, Denise?
I was terrible at it, serving customers at a Friendly’s Ice Cream shop in West Bridgewater, Mass.
What do you do in your spare time (music, hobbies, cooking, exercise, sports, entertainment)? Do you like to travel yourself?
We have two great dogs. Both are Coton de Tulears and we love taking care of them and doing things with them. I love crime drama — books, movies, TV programs. I try to go somewhere at least once a year. It can be tough sometimes with planning around office staffing and our family schedule. Our most recent trip was July 2012 to St. Lucia.