Small Fish, Big Travel Pond

By Shirley Cambe
Wednesday - September 12, 2007
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Cambe Corp. took client Sue Gaddes and her sister Fiona to Danny Couch's recent show at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.
Cambe Corp. took client Sue Gaddes and her sister Fiona to Danny Couch’s recent show at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. Pictured are (from left): Shirley Cambe, Kevin Murray, Fiona, Danny Couch, Sue

It may seem cliché to say that my philosophy for success is providing the best customer service for our clients, but it’s true. Cambe Corp. is a tour operator and a “small fish in a big pond” with only five employees and a modest but comfortable office in the Hawaii Kai Executive Plaza. Without multiple locations, huge staffs and marketing budgets, our customer service is our survival.

Our marketing budget is pretty much nil, which means our business success depends entirely on customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth. That’s quite a motivator, making sure we do things right the first time, and every time.

Cambe Corp. specializes in leisure group tours - senior citizen groups, church groups, school groups, sports groups, etc. It’s much easier for groups to work with a tour operator who can pull all the tour components together from their client’s wish list and work within their budget. Some groups have generous budgets that can afford luxurious tour elements, while others, like church groups who do fundraising all year to finance their trips, still want to have a great experience, but within a tighter budget. We are the experts that need to direct them, but we do not want to dictate. We play close attention to each group’s wants and needs, and then put our experience to work to achieve these goals for every client. When a client refers us to someone they know, it is the most gratifying feeling and reinforces that we are doing things right.

My entire career has been with the tour industry, and I love what I do! I have been in it for more than35 years, starting out as a tour director for three years, then moving to sales for another company for seven years, and, finally, handling sales and marketing for another company for 12 years and managing a Mainland staff of 30 employees, before starting my own business 15 years ago.

The first year was spent building my company’s reputation and clientele. Some of my clients from the previous company I worked with started coming on board, and I still have almost three dozen of those clients who continue to book their group tours with Cambe Corp. Long-term relationships like those are extremely gratifying, and clients become family.

Through the years, the visitor industry has faced some highs and lows. Obviously, the events of 9/11 dealt a catastrophic blow to Hawaii’s visitor industry and overall economy. I believe one of the advantages of being a smaller company is our ability to bounce back faster. We are a strong and solvent company, with “gravy” during high times, and still manageable during the lows. Although we adjusted work schedules a bit during the post-9/11 slump, we did not have to layoff any of our staff. Groups that canceled with us during that period were reimbursed 100 percent, but every single one re-booked with us once they were ready to

In addition to the leisure group tour business, Cambe Corp. also has a division called USA Hosts Hawaii, which is a destination management company, commonly referred to as a “DMC,” handling incentive, corporate and association groups. USA Hosts Hawaii coordinates with our vendor partners for themed events at a hotel or off-site at a private estate, including coordinating the food, decor and entertainment. We also plan team-building events and final night galas, buy out restaurants for a private evening soiree, or offer “dine around” programs to many of our wonderful restaurants. The options are endless, and each event is customized for a particular group to make it special and memorable for them.

For incentive tours, we coordinate special trips for companies who want to reward staff who achieve certain goals. For example, an insurance company might send salespeople that reach a million-dollar sales goal on an all-expenses paid trip as an incentive. These can be a lot of fun to plan, but we also must provide a memorable experience so that these salespeople are motivated to hit their goals, again.

Technology has certainly changed things for every business over the years, making things faster, more efficient. We’ve graduated from faxing itineraries to clients, to e-mailing itineraries across the world in seconds, complete with photos or virtual tours and paperless tickets. Changes can also be made with the click of a mouse.

However, with all of the blessings the high-tech world gives us, we always remember the importance of the lowtech element, as well - the aloha spirit, the warmth and laughter of a friendly voice over the phone, and the expertise and gentle handling that only come with the human touch.

Next Week: Mountain Pacific Quality Health

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