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CEO Profile: Gloria Bohan, CEO of Omega Travel

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CEO Profile: Gloria Bohan, CEO of Omega Travel

Gloria Bohan founded Omega travel in 1972 as a single office travel agency. Today, it is a $1 billion enterprise with global reach, and a powerhouse in the travel management industry. From the July/August Issue of PRESIDENT&CEO Magazine.

The company she founded has grown through the most tumultuous periods in the travel industry, overcoming challenges as profound as the collapse of the fundamental revenue model for travel agencies (commissions from carriers) and exploiting new technology to create new pathways to growth.

Bohan has also overcome the challenge of being a female entrepreneur when such women were few and far between, and the untimely death of her beloved husband and business partner Dan two years ago.  We had the honor of speaking with this remarkable person recently – about her life, her business and her extraordinary serenity in the face of both tragedy and success.

"I think entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial spirit is what makes our country great."“I founded the company in 1972.  We have moved through the growth of an industry that reflects the growth of the economy, the growth of America, the problems that have occurred throughout time - not just economic but cultural changes and so forth.

“My goal is to tell people what is important to me, and how it reflects on what I think is a gift that we have in this country – entrepreneurship - and why I think entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial spirit is what makes our country great.  It is not a political discussion, but it is one of fact. Wherever people want to take it from a political standpoint, they can do what they want with it, but it's not Republican, Democrat, Liberal or Conservative.  It's just what I have learned.”

Amusingly, Bohan came into the travel industry as a result of a great honeymoon.

“I used to be a teacher, and [when I got married] I had a great honeymoon reception, almost accidentally, on the QE2. I had a great honeymoon and all of that, moved to Washington where my husband was living after serving in the Air Force, and the whole next year while I was teaching junior high school in Washington, I was thinking, ‘Oh goodness, I'd like to get back on that cruise ship for my first wedding anniversary.’  Now, things were different one year later than they were when I was a bride aboard the cruise ship.  Because I was a bride, we were upgraded to a beautiful suite.  The second year we weren't so lucky, because I didn't have ‘the gown.’  Nobody knew me.

“So we got the minimum cabin (double bunks and all), but there were a whole bunch of travel agents onboard and they were participating in a ‘familiarization trip.’  I thought to myself ‘who are these people - I save all year to go on this great anniversary cruise and suddenly I’m not being upgraded, but they seem to be getting the best rooms and en suites.’  So my husband, who was getting serious about his career in real estate, told me that sometimes if you can’t beat them, you join them. With that in mind, we were moving down to Fredericksburg, Virginia, so I looked around for job as a travel agent. 

“I didn't have any experience and couldn't get one.   So, I decided to open an agency. With one person and then a second person, I got approved. [To actually learn the business,] I took a correspondence course given by the American Society of Travel Agents!

“I was just a very young travel agent trying to do something with this little business, which I never really thought would get too big. I figured my husband would be the chief breadwinner.  But over time, I was very ambitious and I obviously wanted to do well, and it was in me to want a career. I grew up in New York, and for some reason I always envisioned myself as a kind of career woman.”

Fast-forward to the late 70s.  In 1978, commercial aviation was deregulated, and suddenly an entire new world of challenges and opportunities opened up for travel companies. Having purchased additional small agencies, Bohan saw this as an opportunity for growth.

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Subscribe to comments feed Comments (2 posted)

snore stop 02/19/2014 01:49:22
It is inspiring news to read about the journey of Omega travel agency reaching a billion dollar enterprise. To begin as a small firm and to reach globally in a few span of time is a brilliant achievement and you can see that their dedicated services ensured that. Thank you.
Julie 10/20/2013 07:38:36
I find it interesting that this remarkable. accomplished, self made business woman, with all her accomplishments and hard work would make the statement "try to get out and deal with people" will not see her way clear (or even assign someone) to work with a tiny neighborhood in Maryland, that has a marina in it that she owns, that has practically begged to have a meeting with her or her representative - understanding she is very busy. There are a handful of residences and our local park, that had nothing to do with the "marina war" of the past, that just want their view -- life is short and to be able to enjoy the south river and Chesapeake bay beauty is being denied those residents with no hope for a compromise in the situation.
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