Q&A with Dan Austin of Austin Lehman Adventures

20 January 2011

Dan Austin is a longtime ATTA member and serves on the 2011 Adventure Travel World Summit Advisory Committee.

You are now the sole owner of Austin-Lehman Adventures - can you tell us about this transition?

After 10 very enjoyable years working together and building the Austin Lehman Adventures Brand, Paul Lehman made the decision to free up more time for new and personal adventures and elected to sell his shares of the company to my wife and I.  We worked together over the last few months to structure a sale that worked well for all. We have an amazing staff in place and all are supportive. We move forward knowing that fundamentally nothing will change in the management or direction of the company. We are very thankful for this great opportunity.

What’s your future vision for the company and for adventure travel in 2011, 2012 and beyond?

Simply put, to stay the course.  All of us at ALA have worked tirelessly to create a company that continues to set the bar year after year in the adventure travel sector.  We really don’t see that changing and will just continue on the journey we started some 10 years ago.  We will continue to develop new programs and destinations as opportunities present themselves and our guest request them.  Adventure Travel may make a few “adjustments” along the way and we will just work to adapt.  Example may be the shift to more experiential or sustainable tourism, I think most quality operators are seeing this trend and adjusting product lines accordingly.

When Wall Street collapsed in Fall 2008, how did that affect your operations?

I think it is safe to say it had a similar effect on us all.  It was a good time to reflect on how and what we were doing and what was important to us as a company.  To use the “downturn” as an opportunity to “right size” overhead and spending.  Thankfully we were not as adversely effected as some, and just saw as a “correction”.  I believe in every adversity there is an equal or greater advantage, one must just look for it.

Are you still feeling the effects of the economic downturn? If so, what do are you experiencing?

Right now we could not be more pleased with the direction we are going.  Sales continue to see solid growth and our alumni continue to not only return in record numbers, but referrals from alumni are reaching new highs.  We are focused on continued moderate growth and  just sustaining the level of quality we are known for.

And, based on those experiences, how have you adapted? What are you doing different? And, what specifically forced you to the make the adjustments?

Again, we are pleased with the direction we are headed.  We will be cautious to not “over” staff or spend.  We will just continue to do our best to provide a fabulous experience for our travelers and let them be our best voice.

As an industry veteran, what 3 key pieces of advice would you have given yourself 10-15 years ago when you were just starting out?

1)      Be patient, creating a dynamic brand takes time.

2)      Stay focused and on course. Work to not go off on tangents.

3)      Create a solid and realistic business plan and do your best to stick with it.

Has the ATTA figured into your business at all? You've attended the ATTA's Adventure Travel World Summits, been an active member - how has this affected you and your operations?

ATTA if a fantastic organization...  great support team, but more important is the network of incredible associates in the industry.  It is always well worth the effort and expense to attend the events/summits as it is a chance to rub elbows with some of the very best in the business.  There is also ample opportunity to meet with new and existing suppliers.  We continue to utilize contacts made over the years at these events and look forward to each and every fall event, reconnecting with friends in the industry and making new ones as well.