Avenues of the World immersed in travel
Vacations have changed in the last quarter century, and so have those who remain in the travel industry.
“In the beginning, it was pretty much Europe and beach vacations. Over the course of 25 years, [we’ve realized] people have passports and they’re not afraid to use them,” said Monika Leuenberger, who with her husband Yves has owned Avenues of the World Travel since it opened Nov. 1, 1993.
The Leuenbergers say travel has not only become larger in scale, it has also become a more immersive experience.
“People want to experience a location,” Monika said.
To do so, Avenues of the World uses its connections to set up unforgettable experiences, such as visiting a market with a cruise ship’s chef to choose the produce for that evening’s dinner.
Multi-generational travel has also become vastly more popular, with entire extended families hoping to gain these experiences together.
“Grandparents are more aware of sharing the world with their grandchildren and their grown kids,” Monika said, adding that parents seem more willing to take their kids out of school in order for them to have these experiences.
This desire for unique, cultural experiences has become the foundation of modern travel. Some clients visit a country several times within the course of a few years, which allows them the opportunity to sample a culture more off the beaten path. The world is more diverse than people expect, the Leuenbergers say, and it’s Avenues of the World’s goal to bring that knowledge to Flagstaff residents.
“It is our job to find out what it is you’d like to do during your vacation,” Monika said. “We want to make clients realize what all is out there, what the possibilities are.”
In its early years, Avenues of the World often helped with smaller travel requests, such as purchasing airline tickets. Today, though, because of the ease of online travel planning, the company focuses on creating custom experience-based packages for longer vacations, which can last up to several weeks in multiple countries.
With their two and a half decades of experience, the Leuenbergers have helped plan vacations in locations ranging from Peru to Antarctica and noticed how, even in Flagstaff, travel itself has changed. While European and tropical vacations have remained popular, Iceland, New Zealand, and South Africa have become especially appealing destinations for Flagstaff travelers over the last few years.
Avenues of the World’s agents are travel experts as a result of both personal experience and continued education. The Leuenbergers, for example, have firsthand knowledge of Europe because they were born and raised in Switzerland, but they also stay up-to-date on the latest travel trends and destinations by attending monthly seminars hosted by the top names in travel. The Leuenbergers and each of their agents also take at least one company-funded “familiarization trip” per year so they can experience a particular vacation before recommending it to clients.
Generally, clients meet with these consultants one to four times before leaving for their vacation. Avenues of the World assists in the complete planning process, from securing travel insurance to providing necessary tips and tricks, often based on their own experiences.
Yves says these personalized consultations distinguish Avenues of the World among other travel booking apps and companies.
“We make the planning an easy and pleasant experience that matches the excitement of the vacation,” he said.
The company also relies on its connections as a member of leading global travel organizations, including Signature Travel Network and ASTA. These companies are located throughout the world, so they can help with travel preparations and mid-vacation emergencies, if they arise.
“The companies we work with are all experts with these destinations,” Yves said. “Even if we are not experts ourselves, we have relationships with those who are.”
Planning a vacation through Avenues of the World will cost travelers booking fees, which vary from a flat rate to an hourly fee, depending on the vacation. These fees should not be a concern, though, the Leuenbergers say, because of the value their agents can provide through instant travel updates within their app, free airline and hotel upgrades, personal recommendations, and other waived costs, such as airline seat fees. Avenues of the World offers these amenities to their clients at no extra cost.
Although they frequently help locals plan international trips, Avenues of the World also stays involved in its home community. Since it was opened, the company has made efforts to support local nonprofits through direct donations and fundraiser cruises. The personal relationships formed when planning a vacation extend into everyday life, as well.
“We like to support the organizations that our clients belong to,” Monika said. “After all, we all live here.”
To commemorate their 25 years in business, Avenues of the World will be hosting two upcoming events: a small, private celebration at Lowell Observatory with some of their top clients and their 5th Annual Northern Arizona Travel Expo, which is open to the public.
The expo will be held September 20 at the DoubleTree from 5 to 8 p.m., and this year, the company plans to give away more travel prizes than ever before, ranging from local gift cards to multiple nights’ stay in exotic locations. All of Flagstaff’s travel enthusiasts are encouraged to attend.