We had the good fortune of connecting with Tracy// Danielle Rouviere and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tracy// Danielle, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Tracy: Before I ventured out on my own, I had an office job as a travel agent. I was making a salary and it provided me with the stability I needed for my three young children. I had already been in the business for 16 years, so I felt like I had a good pulse on the industry. I was spending a large amount of my salary on childcare, so I decided it made sense to take the risk and start my own travel business from home. I had a few established clients that I was able to take with me, but it took around a year before I felt comfortable, and a few years before I really felt I had “made it”. I faced plenty of rejection and the industry was not always stable. I think with any small business you must keep in mind that there are going to be highs and lows. I had plenty! But I always tried to be prepared as best I could, even when business was good, I knew it was only a matter of time until a lull came. Taking risks seem a lot less scary, if you are prepared for the worst, and know that it will eventually get better. You must be ready for the rollercoaster that is owning a (travel!) business. Danielle: Taking risks has always been a part of my adult life. This seems a little contradictory for someone like me because I like to make plans and am a bit of an overthinker. The first big life risk I took was moving to London after I graduated college. I had no plans for a career, no job in the city, and was crashing on my cousin’s couch. It was the best decision I ever made. It taught me that taking risks is scary but well worth the reward. This has carried over into every year of my life. When I decided to go into business with my mom, I knew it was not going to be easy. I was told that travel agents were a dying breed and that there would not be much of a future for me. But I never listen to what “they” say. I helped my mom revamp her business and take her into the 21st century with new branding, a fresh website, and hip socials. When I got a few clients of my own, I decided to quit my day job and put all my time and energy into the travel business. Then the pandemic happened. But that is what happens when you take a risk, nothing is guaranteed, and failure is always a possibility. Thankfully, my planning and overthinking prepared me for this exact moment. Business came to a screeching halt. But I think it showed the world that travel agents were still needed in this digital world. Our clients were able to call us directly to help them reschedule or to get a refund. Those who booked travel through a third-party site (Expedia, Kayak, etc.) had a very difficult time. Even now, as testing has replaced quarantines, and business travel has resumed. We can prove our value by always having up-to-date information on travel restrictions and requirements. Even though the whole travel industry will take a while to recover, in the long run, I believe it will be a positive for us.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Our business is one that not many people are familiar with. Most of the time when we tell people that we are travel advisors, the reaction is “I didn’t know those still existed”. But they are also interested to know exactly what we do. Nowadays most people book all their travel online, and the truth is, if you want low-cost basic travel arrangements, we cannot compete with those prices. Understandably people want the best deal, but what we provide is value. The bottom line is that people who use online booking sites are not our clientele. We create bespoke itineraries, and piece together every tiny detail to build an unforgettable journey. For our leisure clients, we provide access to experiences they wouldn’t be able to find on their own, like private access to the Colosseum before it opens. For our corporate clients, its knowledge of the best airlines, simplest routing, and 24/7 availability. What we are most proud of is our resiliency and how well we adapt to this changing world. The most recent example is the pandemic. It has completely ravaged the travel industry. Our business came to a screeching halt, but we saw it as an opportunity to prove our value. When the world was in chaos, clients who needed to be refunded or change their dates of travel were able to call us and they didn’t have to lift a finger. Even as the pandemic raged on and our corporate clients were able to travel again, we continued to guide them through mandatory testing, quarantine rules, and visa requirements. This has really been a proud moment for us because we can show the world that we are here to stay. Obviously, my mom, Tracy, started the business. She hustled hard to make a name for herself, sacrificed a lot of family time but in the end, it was worth it. She often compares being a travel advisor to being a stockbroker, sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. She has weathered a lot of storms, losing clients, 9/11, and now the pandemic. But if you love what you do, you stick with it. When I came into the business it was already established. I updated things like created a social media presence and designed a website. Learning in this business is a struggle because we do not actually work from an office, and travel school is a thing of the past. So, everything I know I’ve either taught myself or learned from observation. There is so much you need to be familiar with. From hotels to airlines to tour companies and everything in between. It can be overwhelming at times, but I love it and I know that I’m meant to be in the travel industry. What we want to share with the world is travel. Our whole life is centered around it. We believe it’s one of the greatest pleasures of life and can teach a person more about the world than any classroom. We love talking about it and happily provide anyone who asks with advice about destinations, hotels, or anything else. Even if you just want to chat about cities on your wanderlist or places you’ve already visited, our doors are always open!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is an amazing question, and hard to answer because there are SO many great places and things to do here. Whenever I have been away from Phoenix and then come back, I always forget how much goes on here. I have lived in big cities here and abroad and Phoenix can hold its own with all of them! I will start by saying anytime I have an excuse to book a staycation I am all in! So, I would take them straight from the airport to a hotel. Day 1: A hidden gem that I love in Scottsdale is The Bespoke Inn. This is what boutique hotel dreams are made of! It’s tucked away in the heart of Scottsdale and is so small and quiet you would never know it was there. It only has 4 suites and 6 guest rooms, so the service and interior details are incredibly unique. One of the best things about it is their restaurant. To kick off the first night, dinner at Virtu. This place is exquisite! Their menu changes almost daily so it is hard to recommend something, but I will say, I had the BEST octopus of my life here! Day 2: Breakfast at Berdenas- they have amazing coffee, and only 2 food items on the menu, sometimes it’s best to stick to what you’re good at, and you won’t be disappointed with the avocado toast! Since we are in Old Town we must walk around and check out all the art galleries and boutiques! I love that you can be outside (almost) all year round here. So, we must take advantage of that and rent a bike to cruise around. Then we need to get ready for a big night in Scottsdale! To get glammed up, we would stop by The Sparkle Bar to get our makeup done and say hi to our friend Alex Bradbury who owns it. One of the things I love about Scottsdale is dressing up and hitting the town. The perfect place for a fancy dinner is Steak 44. The bar is SCENE and the food never disappoints. After filling up on martinis and steak we would head to the bars. We could start at The Beverly because they have any type of cocktail your heart desires. After that, we could walk around Old Town and see which bars call our name. Day 3: Pack up our stuff to head back to my house in Arcadia for two nights. But you can’t leave Scottsdale without doing a little shopping. I love the vibe of the Scottsdale Quarter because it’s an outdoor mall, with upscale and affordable shops and plenty of restaurants. One of my favorite spots is Sorso Wine Room. They have Italian-inspired food, from plenty of salads if you want to go light, to sandwiches, bruschetta, and flatbreads. The owner’s Mark and Lauren Teahen travel to Italy and Napa Valley often, so their list of wines is impressive. To close out the day, we would hit the spa. One of my favorites in town is Joya at the Montelucia. It’s hard for spas to be truly memorable, but I love this one because of the experience. From the moment you walk in, it’s all about tranquility. You pick your crystal to set the mood for your day and then place your hands on huge rose quartz to purify your mind. Even after your treatment you won’t want to leave, because not only can you steam and sauna, but you can also order food and drinks on their terrace that overlooks Camelback Mountain. They also have an outdoor pool exclusively for spa guests. Afternoon sorted! Day 4: Start the morning with a hike at either Piestewa Peak, or one of the easier trails at Dreamy Draw. Every Phoenician knows, if you get up early to hike, brunch is mandatory after. After the hike, we will make our way to LGO because it is a Phoenix staple, and it’s also another great place for people to watch. Literally, everything on the menu is good, and trust me, get a coffee AND an iced green tea. Since we got our exercise done early, it’s only right we do what we do best here: lounge by a pool. The Hotel Valley Ho has the vibes just right. It’s very trendy and of course so Instragrammable. Time for another fancy dinner. To really impress a guest take them to Binkley’s. It’s a little-known place, in a converted house. It is pricey and reservations need to be made well in advance. But it is an experience. The whole meal is a culinary journey, for each course they take you to a different room to match the vibe of the plate. They even pair each course with the most elaborate cocktails I have ever seen. Day 5: Breakfast at Richardson’s New Mexican-inspired cuisine. They have an amazing outdoor courtyard perfect for brunching. I love their Bloody Mary’s and they even come with a beer chaser! I always order the same thing here, the breakfast enchiladas with shrimp. Then we could stop by Lux on Central for the vibes. Get a coffee or cocktail, they have great food as well. But I would say if you’re hungry sneak over to Pane Bianco for a sandwich or a salad. For dinner we would get takeout from The Parlor because tonight we are having cocktails in Arcadia, so we’ll need some greasy pizza to line our stomachs. The first stop of the night is cocktails at Century Grand. I love that it’s an interactive experience; it actually feels like you are sipping drinks inside of a train car. Then we would go somewhere a little more local. My favorite dive bar, The Little Woody. We could dance or play pool and then venture to another local spot after. Day 6 & 7: Time to head out of town for a few days to show them Arizona’s natural beauty. I thought about Sedona, and yes, it’s an amazing place, but I think I would choose Castle Hot Springs instead. Its located in the Bradshaw Mountains, only about an hour and a half outside of Phoenix. Again, I am slightly obsessed with boutique hotels, and this is another secret spot not to be missed. This place is truly amazing, especially if you need some unplugging and relaxation. I think after the itinerary we’ve had, eating and drinking our way through the city; this is a great way to wind down. This is an all-inclusive experience, so all meals and most activities are included. As the name suggests it’s located on a natural hot-spring and you can take a dip whenever you fancy. Other activities included in your stay are paddleboard yoga, guided hikes, mind-body classes, and a farm tour. Yes, they have an organic farm on the property! And this is where all your meals will come from, straight from the farm to your table! This is a rustic, authentic, back-to-nature experience like no other! After feeling totally refreshed we can head back into town. For a casual sendoff dinner, we would go to Glai Bahn and feast away on Thai street food. There are so many amazing restaurants and activities to do in the city it’s hard to fit everything in!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Tracy: I have to say my biggest support has always been my kids. As I said, they were young when I started the business. Working from home does not always mean you get to spend more time with your family. Those first few years I was hustling. I had to put in a lot of overtime hours, and always be available when a client called. My kids were patient with me even though I was glued to the phone and my computer most of the time. I used to load them up in the car when I had to hand-deliver tickets (back when paper airline tickets were a thing!), take them with me to visit my corporate clients, dinner parties, and everything in between. Even when we went on family vacations, they knew they would never get my full attention. Their mom was never just a mom, she was a working mom. I am grateful that even if I was not always mentally there, I was always physically there. I went to sports games, school events, and dance recitals but always with my phone and laptop in hand. It is hard being a working mom and finding the perfect balance, but I think working from home and being able to take my work on the road was the best thing for my kids. Danielle: My parents have always been my biggest support system. Ever since I was little, they encouraged my creative endeavors, from sports to instruments anything I wanted to try I was able to. I really love the way that they approached parenting. They were there to guide us without being too overbearing. When I graduated high school, I wanted to travel for a year or two before I went to college. My dad was very adamant about me going straight to college after high school, so we made a deal. He told me if I went straight to college and graduated, he would fully support me in whatever I decided to do after. He has kept his promise all this time. I went traveling for the next few years, moved countries a couple of times, had many different jobs, and never did anything the conventional way. Sometimes I got scared before I moved or started a new job, and he would tell me, “if you fail you can always come home”. I think that is why I have been able to take so many risks, because I know I will always have a support system and a bed if I need one. When I start to feel insecure about life decisions I have made, he tells me how envious he is of me. That I have a skill that many do not: I can make any place my home and live out of a suitcase. Naturally, when I decided to join my mom in the travel business, he thought it was the best idea. Even now when the industry is suffering, his response is “you can always get another job”.