Looking Forward to the Next 40 Years 

By Brent Blake, President, Acendas Travel 

 It is indeed proper that the 40th anniversary is known as the “ruby” anniversary because it stands for the burning flame of passion that has sustained the relationship for four decades and supplies energy in moving forward. 

While the anniversary of a company’s start in business is not the same as a marriage, the parallel is that to stay in business that long you need passion to flourish in good times and energy to sustain itself during times of struggle. 

On October 21, 1982, All-About Travel opened its doors in Kansas City to serve the travel needs of leisure and business travelers under the leadership of owner and president Coby Gaulien. In January 2012, the company changed its name to Acendas Travel, a derivation of Latin and Greek words meaning “to lift” and “to serve.” It aligned with the company’s mission to lift the lives of individuals and the performance of companies by supplying high-quality service. Customer targets were corporate entities and their associates, vacation travelers, and those who planned and conducted meetings and events. 

I joined All About Travel in 1997 and bought into the company in 1998. As a young businessperson, I took those steps because the team was passionate about its ability to become a market leader in all aspects of travel. Along the way we grew through acquisition, not only in Kansas City, and increasing our organic business. Our footprint over the past 20 years has spread to Minneapolis, St. Louis and Sioux Falls, S.D.  

Our ability to weather the storms of 9/11, the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic sits squarely on the shoulders of a great leadership team which made critical decisions along the way. First, we decided to align our management style with the principles in the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins. Among his most principal issues was for a company to develop a focus on the one aspect it does best – known as the hedgehog concept. For us, it was to “create and develop lasting client relationships”. 

Second, we aligned with BCD Travel as an affiliate company in 2001 and in 2017 became a wholly owned subsidiary. BCD Travel is the world’s third-largest purchaser of air travel and provides resources to us to the benefit of our clients. Our role is to service businesses in the small to medium-sized market, with a travel spend below $35 million annually. 

Third, we began to accelerate our investment in technology just over a decade ago which allowed us to create a niche as a travel technology company. Our traveler tracking technology, called “Mission Control” enhanced our service from the moment you booked your travel to your destination and back to your front door. Our technology platform, using the resources of BCD Travel, allows us to compete with larger travel management companies while having the nimbleness to foster more responsive service. 

I am proud of what we have done and overcome challenges that have driven many agencies out of business. However, I am more enthused about our future. Our strategic decisions have paved the way for record growth and accomplishments. But more importantly, they have helped us weather the storms. 

My prediction is that travel will continue to grow as an important business tool, a means to enjoy and explore our world, and as a reward for those who excel in their jobs. That does not mean issues will not arise that will challenge those individuals and companies in the travel industry. But the industry’s record of accomplishment for innovation and improvement is amazing.  

Technology will continue to have a growing presence, making the travel experience safer, more efficient and more enjoyable. I also see an industry committed to sustainability and improving its relationship with the environment.  

Specifically, for Acendas Travel, I am bullish on the little guy. Our relationship with a steady parent company such as BCD Travel offers a wide menu of resources. But our size and focus on creating lasting client relationships allows us to keep an individualized touch.  

For those who have been around for a while, you might remember the highly acclaimed movie The Wizard of Oz. In it, Dorothy clicks her slippers and whispers “there’s no place like home.”  The symbolism of the ruby slippers is not lost upon me. It is the triumph of the little guy and good things come to those who are positive in their approach. 

I look forward to our future. I see no reason Acendas Travel won’t be around to celebrate another 40 years. That would be our “oak” anniversary. How appropriate that would be – standing for great strength and having deep roots.