INBOUND’s editor-in-chief, Jake Steinman, recently had the opportunity to speak with Enzo Perretta, CEO of Teamamerica, one of the largest privately-held receptive tour operators in the eastern United States; it specializes in North American and Caribbean product. Perretta founded the company 21 years ago and jointly operated until not long ago with long-time business partner Veronique Hubert. Following is an excerpt from their conversation. Known for its upscale tours and a multilingual staff (Perretta graduated from the University of Naples with a degree in Oriental Language and Literature, with an emphasis on Arabic), Teamamerica also has a reputation for highly personalized customer service. Following are excerpts from the conversation between Steinman and Perretta.
INBOUND: You recently bought out Veronique Hubert, your longtime partner. What drove that sale?
Perretta: We have been great friends and partners for over 20 years; however, our lives took different courses, Veronique started a new life recently—got married and had a wonderful baby—so, she decided that was time to dedicate her life to her new family. I treasured the years we spent together and the “American Dream” that we lived over these years, she is family to me.
Before Teamamerica, I had already started about two years prior a transportation and sightseeing company, VOLATOUR, that that proved to be very successful and definitely the leader in the Italian market. Now, owning solely both companies allowed me to have an even better synergy between the two resulting in offering great unique perks to our clients.
INBOUND: In these uncertain times, how is your business this year?
Perretta: We’ve invested a lot of time diversifying our base. Italy was our largest market, now is about 25 percent of our market. For the past years we joined over 25 trade shows picking up new clients and presenting our different lines of business: Our “Elite” tariff program is very strong. Our Escorted Tour programs running about 80 tours all over the U.S. and Canada in Italian, Spanish and German almost doubled for 2018. Group business is also up but FIT, which represent the largest part of our business, is suffering a bit for a variety of reasons, so, overall, 2018 will be slightly down but, looking at 2019, we are extremely positive as the potential is humongous and numbers too good to tell!
Meanwhile, Volatour is up double digit and services are more and more in demand with request from new markets as well. While we were conceived to supply land services for non-English speaking countries (Italy and Spain), our largest clients now come from the UK, simply because our clients really want someone on site to take care of them regardless of language barriers. We offer unique services in our New York office, conveniently located minutes away from Times Square and open seven days a week. In our private conference room we organize meetings each morning in several languages where we even offer light breakfast, coffee or tea and even personalize the welcome reception according to client nationality or to the specific request of each Tour Operator that may want to create his own experience for his clients while traveling to New York.
INBOUND: What are you finding at the various trade shows you are attending?
Perretta: Well, as I said, we participate in several trade shows all over the globe—always looking for the new emerging market; this year we started to explore Africa and we are getting already decent results. We try to add a certain amount of new accounts from new markets every year, I am extremely focused on diversification. In traditional markets where we have been for two decades—like Fitur in Spain, or TTG in Italy—we host dinners and roundtables events that functioned as Town Hall-style meetings where I moderate a debate in either Spanish or Italian over tourism from that region to the USA. These meetings are usually attended by some of our leading tour operators, as well as partner hotels from U.S. airlines and software houses, so we have all the components of the “package” available to our clients to enable a well-educated discussion.
We always invite the local trade press and, all together, we can debate all the issues and get answers from the professionals all in one spot. When in Milan and Rome, I immediately brought up the biggest elephant in the room by asking their thoughts about our new president. Although they commented that he was “different” and hated his arrogant approach we had a lively discussion that went both ways and I answered a lot of questions. I told them he is a businessman and he does a have huge personal interest in tourism, so we should just focus to bring business to America and to be patient and open minded and, as a matter of fact, results are coming in already. After all, Italians endured Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister for nine years and Spain went for years with no government.
INBOUND What, if any, impact is Trump having?
Perretta: Some people are requesting Trump properties out of curiosity. They think they might see him or his family there. At an event at a hotel in Dubai, they’re serving an Ivanka salad on the menu. The reaction is quite different from country to country—I noticed a bit more resistance from north Europe while south Europe is quite intrigued.