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O.A.T.: Our Story

Our Philosophy: Change is Good

After purchasing O.A.T., Alan and Harriet worked closely with company veterans and new associates alike to determine ways to enhance travelers’ experiences.

Change is never easy, but often necessary. Judi Wineland, O.A.T.’s founder, ultimately decided to move on. We were sorry to see her go, but we found a strong leader in Executive Vice President of Product Development Kate Cooney, from Grand Circle’s executive team, who came to Cambridge and helped us refine the O.A.T. repertoire—making enhancements similar to the ones that had helped make Grand Circle Travel so successful.

First, we increased the length of the trips. This was not only a great way to heighten the experience for our travelers, it was also a great way to improve the value of our adventures: the longer you stay, the lower your per diem costs. We also eliminated the trips to really obscure places that only a handful of people were interested in taking.

With longer trips available, travelers could spend more time exploring exotic destinations like Machu Picchu.

Second, we started buying direct. The regional offices Grand Circle already had in place enabled us to cut out the middlemen O.A.T. had been using, and capitalize on the insiders’ knowledge of where to get the best accommodations, transportation, and meals for the best value.

Finally, we included airfare in the adventure package price, something that was unheard of back then. Because we were able to provide air service at our incredibly low group rates, individual travelers really benefited with the best prices around. It was a huge competitive advantage, as most tour operators sold their trips on a “land only” basis.

O.A.T. also began offering more in-depth and interactive cultural discoveries, including a visit to a Maasai village in Tanzania.

These three enhancements drastically improved the experience, cost, and value for our travelers, and by keeping the already successful strategy of limiting group sizes to no more than 16 travelers, we’d crafted a winning combination.

In fact, we changed the adventure travel world. We were offering adventures that cost $2,000-$3,000 less than those of our closest competitors. But what was even more exciting to us was that in creating adventures we could offer at unbeatable value, we opened up the world to folks who never dreamed it was possible to travel like this before. But travel this way they did, and O.A.T.’s financial outlook improved right away—dramatically. Finally, adventure travel was accessible for mature Americans. We made the market broader, and gave more people more choices when it came to travel.

Our dream of bringing people places they’d never dreamed of going, where others didn’t go, was already coming true.

Next page

O.A.T.: Our Story
In the Beginning: Making Adventure our Business
» Our Philosophy: Change is Good
Growing the Business … and our Family
The Fundamentals: Small Groups, Small Ships
The Next Chapter: More Choices, Better Value
The Story Continues: O.A.T. and YOU ...

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