Interview with Mira Borukhin, President of Downtown Travel
Mira Boroukhin started her travel industry career in 1983, joining Air Canada in New York, where she worked in Sales, ultimately becoming Ticket Office Supervisor. In 1988 Mira decided to go the entrepreneurial way and open her own travel agency near the World Trade Center, Downtown Travel, becoming a leading agency to Europe, especially Eastern Europe. Recognizing her qualities of entrepreneur, several airlines awarded the agency their wholesale contracts to Europe, which allowed her to test the waters in the consolidation business.
This venture also become successful and her agency’s following continued to grow until the agency was brutally destroyed in 9/11. Supported by her loyal staff and the airlines whose sales she had helped grow, Mira was able to reopen operations in less then 2 weeks after the attack and to continue her extraordinary route to success becoming one of the best and the fastest growing air consolidator in the USA. Mira graduated in Advertising from the Brooklyn College and has been at the rudder of Downtown Travel since 1988, as President and CEO, providing her team with a vision of new heights and a steady course to get there.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What inspired you to pursue a career in travel?
Mira Borukhin (MB): Since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated with aviation and always had a strong desire to travel and know places so, as soon as I finished college, I looked for a job related to it and started my career with Air Canada in New York.
TRO: What influenced the idea for you to start your own company and build Downtown Travel?
MB: As soon as I began working with the airlines, I started to enjoy helping passengers and travel agents with their travel plans, or the travel plans of their clients. The idea of opening a travel agency myself started to germinate and, in a few months, I decided to open my own agency to pursue my dreams and to be able to help other people. The idea of top service has served me well throughout my career and still is the dominant driving principle in Downtown Travel’s vision and action plan.
TRO: Your company was directly impacted by 9/11. How did the events of that day affect your business, and how were you able to recover and rebuild?
MB: It was a very emotional moment, seeing your dreams shattered and your work of years destroyed in a few hours! But, then, came an inside fire, a strength I didn’t know I had and my team was determined to make the recovery happen at any cost. So, all together we gathered old equipment, we had in storage, and started working from our homes with the absolute resolve to make the recovery happen. In two weeks, we had moved to another location, rebuilt the business with the help of clients and suppliers and have never stopped since then.
TRO: How have you seen the travel industry change over the years, and what has Downtown Travel done to keep up with the times?
MB: Well, technology has changed people and certainly is the big new trend in the industry. I see more and more reliance on the Internet, the usage of Internet Booking Engines and a lot more and fast access to information, which leads to the must of satisfying clients’ needs faster, better and in a more diversified environment. Downtown Travel has invested a lot of money in technology for many years and continues to invest to make sure that our clients continue to get the best product available, together with the best service they can get. I believe that the combination of technology and human touch are the new trend in the business.
TRO: What kind of experience is guaranteed through Downtown Travel and why should agents be inclined to utilize your services?
MB: First of all, there is stability and constancy in the relationship between the travel agents and our team. Our clients deal with the same personnel all the time because we have no turnover. Our personnel is committed and dedicated and the agents feel that in their daily contacts. Secondly, we rely totally on our USA staff, as we don’t outsource our service. Third we really build relationships with our clients and support them in good times but, also, stand with them in the bad ones. We work with them if they make a mistake, or if they need something special. We understand that their profit margins are small and cash flow is an important factor so we make sure that commissions are paid between 3 and 5 days. All these build a peace of mind that is appreciated by our clients.
TRO: What is the benefit for a travel agent using a consolidator?
MB: The are many benefits. They have access to lower net fares and to commissions that otherwise they cannot get. They don’t have to sign expensive contracts with GDS because they can use our own or the web tools we provide for free. They can use our negotiating power and relationship with the major airlines to get better fares and conditions for their groups and individual clients. They have at their disposal a diversified team with a vast knowledge of destinations, airports, airlines, rules, etc. that they could not afford to hire otherwise. And, don’t forget, Consolidation is a multi billion Dollar business so, agents who don’t participate in it are missing a considerable slice of income.
TRO: This past year, Downtown Travel expanded to include a Latin American Division to meet the needs of a growing Hispanic population and the growth of Latin American destinations. Can you explain further about the new expansion?
MB: For many years, now, we have been the leading consolidator to Europe and Israel and we see those markets to continue strong. However we cannot attain our traditional growth rate just relying on one market and Latin America appeared as a natural expansion, not only because of the growing number of American citizens and immigrants speaking the language and related, one way or the other, to Latin countries but, also, because the number of American tourists visiting Latin American destinations has been growing above average. The region also offers a lot of great airlines, themselves expanding, offering new destinations and services and bringing a totally new dynamic to this market and a great business opportunity for a company like Downtown Travel.
TRO: Are there any new projects in the works for Downtown Travel in 2015?
MB: Somebody said that “if you don’t diversify you die” and we believe that we can expand vertically as much as we can horizontally. That led to the idea of creating a division dedicated to leisure, to complete what we already do with airfares. In a few weeks we will be launching “Holidays with Downtown” (I hope TRO will cover the event) which initial footprint will be Europe, Israel and Latin America. This division will have services in both US coasts and will follow the same basic principles of great service, product quality and affordability. Travel agents will have new products at their disposal to increase their sales and generate more income. This division will also affect our group business – we just expanded our Group department – because now we can serve both air and land.
Also, continuing our belief in good technology we are revamping our website to offer a better interface, a new booking engine, more facilities and different languages. This new development will be announced during this year.
For more information on Mira Borukhin and Downtown Travel, check out their website at http://www.downtowntravel.com.