Austin talks | Austin Travel Agency Featured In College Contest

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Naazneen Vhora and Sakshi Sharma won first place at the University of Illinois at Chicago Earth remediesCommunity counseling competition.

The pitch competition, organized by Earth’s Remedies and sponsored by Net impact, gave graduate students a real-world experience by connecting them with Crystal Dyer, founder and CEO of the Austin-based travel agency Go on a trip again.

Four teams of two to four people virtually presented their business strategies and solutions on February 6.

Vhora, an accounting student, and Sharma, a business analysis student with a background in economics, took advantage of the competition to put community first.

Considering how the travel industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, Vhora and Sharma focused on how they could optimize marketing strategies so that when it is safe to travel again, people will go to Gone Again Travel first.

Their main goal is to get through this difficult time while expanding the base of Gone Again Travel. Currently, Dyer’s demographics are 95% black and between the ages of 35 and 55; 50% of his clientele live within 25 miles of his business on the West Side.

To expand its customer base, Vhora and Sharma want to attract young people (18 to 35) by expanding the company’s social media presence and revamping its website.

They also offered to maintain relationships with previous customers by offering a special discount and offering local tours.

Other goals should be included in Choose Chicago and get listed in Black-owned business and travel agency directories.

“Due to the revitalization of the Black Lives Matter movement, other minorities in general are looking to contribute to black businesses,” Vhora said. “I think there is now this recognition and this awareness that we need to do more.”

Dyer has worked in the travel industry for 22 years and with her for almost five years.

She had reservations scheduled until September 2020 when the pandemic hit, which cost her $ 100,000.

Gone Again Travel specializes in black heritage group travel, including tours through Illinois, the Caribbean, and Africa.

In the last month of black history, Dyer organized a tour of Austin of about 45 people. “We went to these different points in our own community that we pass every day but the history of which we didn’t know,” she said.

Dyer is optimistic about the fate of her business, noting that she has been in business in Austin since 1999 and has overcome other challenges.

“I was around when the tech bubble burst. I was there when September 11 happened… I saw things where everything ends. I am very optimistic. I know the key is to get things done – and not to give up.


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