The Namu Travel Group is a Central American travel company specializing in personalized, boutique vacations to Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. The Namu family consists of the following brands; Costa Rican Vacations, Costa Rica Fishing Pros, Panama Vacations and Nicaragua Vacations. Our name, Namu, is Bribri for “jaguar,” one of Costa Rica’s (and Latin America’s) most sacred animals. The Bribri are today one of the nation’s largest indigenous tribes, residing in the Talamanca Mountains near Puerto Viejo and Cahuita.
At the Namu Travel Group, travel defines our very lives. Our staff of globetrotters come from all corners of the world, and have explored every nook and cranny of Central America. Travel is our passion and our job, and we evaluate every hotel and tour with this two-fold approach. We know what it’s like to visit for the first time, and we also know every destination inside and out, as only locals can. We vet every experience, and only recommend the ones we love – the places we wish we could visit again and again.
The Namu Travel Group marries our passion for travel and local expertise. We use our expert knowledge and insider information to curate true travel experiences. Our goal is that every client go home with a story.
What's Your NativeAdVice:
Tony Silva responses:
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
My mother was a travel agent, so as a child I saw all the great extras she received. We would be able to stay at hotels for a weekend at little or no cost and fly from one state to the next for free. Listening to her tell the exciting stories about her adventures to potential clients also intrigued me. When the opportunity availed itself to me in Costa Rica, I jumped at the chance to be part of this exciting industry!
Tell us about Namu Travel. What inspired the idea and what is the vision for your business?
When Casey Halloran and I formed the company, we saw that so many hotels and travel agencies in Costa Rica did not understand how to properly service their North American clientele. As two transplants from the United States who loved traveling, we felt confident that we could do a better job. We formed Costa Rican Vacations, which later became The Namu Travel Group, on this belief. We then assembled a team of individuals who were as excited and passionate about travel as we were. After 15 years, that team has now grown to 80 people.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Namu Travel's success?
In the early days of Central American Travel, several large agencies sent most of the business to hotels in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. They would block rooms they never used and pay months after the client experienced their vacation. From the onset, we wanted to differentiate ourselves by being the agency who would perform first and then ask later. We have developed close relationships with the owners of each hotel and tour company we work with. We never ask for more rooms than we actually sell and we pay these providers before our clients arrive. This has allowed us to earn the trust and respect of hundreds of hotel and tour company owners throughout Central America and catapulted us to the top of Central American Travel.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
The Travel Industry has for years worked on antiquated technology. Over the years, we have developed our own internal reservations and booking system and believe that we can help to transform the industry and bring it up to the 21st century.
Casey Halloran responses:
Describe the ideal experience provided by Namu Travel.
The ideal experience is a vacation that is easy from start to finish -- from the "dreaming" phase right through the return home. Throughout the experience, the guests' needs are anticipated and exceeded. During the actual vacation experience, the traveler should have several unique and unforgettable memories that he will cherish for a lifetime. If, for whatever reason, the guest should contact our support team, issues are resolved in such a manner that they IMPROVE the experience.
How do you motivate your employees?
I motivate my team by getting to know their unique skills and talents and then matching them with challenging tasks ideally suited to them. I try to be hands-off, doing more explaining of the reason behind our org's need to meet a particular challenge (the Why) and letting them come up with the tactics (the How) to get there. I am fortunate to work with high level talent, so this approach works.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Food: My mother's Chicken and Dumplings
Drink: a Jameson whiskey on ice, on my patio, with my Dad
What literature is on your bed stand?
The Obstacle Is The Way -- Ryan Holiday
Influence - Dr. Robert Cialdini
Richard Bexon responses:
Have fun, whether it is at work or at home, life is too short for your work to feel like work, make it fun for you and the people around you. We use the words 'seriously casual' in the company, that is basically my life motto, whether it is Triathlon training or implementing a new CRM at work, I always have fun.
The Namu Travel Motto?
Our clients should be able to travel without any remorse of fear that there vacation will be anything but perfect, that's why we guarantee it and are the only ones to guarantee it.
We hand pick, experience and know the providers we work with on first name basis. We are a big family helping people create memories. We are only as good as our best and worst provider!
Your greatest success as owners of Namu?
Being able to be surrounded by great people who are different, that maybe I would not normally chat to, but that I now consider my family.
Just seeing the client reviews coming through the doors. It is this feedback that validates everything we do, we are passionate about our clients and travel!
Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
October 2008: This was a defining period for the company as no one, I mean no one wanted to buy a vacation. The actions we took in late 2008 and early 2009 really defined who we are today and allowed us to really identify our unique selling point.
We identified areas of income that we had not seen before as we did not need to. When you are pushed into a corner and have to find income and cashflow, it's amazing how quickly you can find other ways to generate income. We asked our providers to help us with marketing $$, as we were better at it than they were, they agreed! This allowed us to reduce our marketing budget
We focused on what made us unique and made sure this resonated throughout our whole literature, from our website to our call scripts. We were Expats that lived in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, we knew the hotels, the tours and areas. We were your guides on the ground to make sure you picked the right vacation for you.
We also negotiated a VIP Airport Meet & Great that allowed our clients to be met as soon as they step off the aircraft, to go through the diplomatic line and be out of the airport in under 15 mins, into their transfers with a nice cold drink in their hands.
Your advice to an aspiring start up?
Do not be afraid to fail, take risks (increase your marketing spend, invest in consultants) and learn quickly. You can see the effects of most of your investments online quickly, so measure the outcome.
Surround yourself by people who are different than you. Getting on with your colleagues is great, but to build a great business you must have all of your weaknesses covered by others that you trust.
Roman Venegas Responses :
Role model - business and personal?
Business: I would say Amazon, because it shows the efficiency of using technology, people and logistics in a way that nobody else has done before.
Personal: John Maxwell, he has created a big company, and he is teaching how to lead in a way that it is more human and less academic.
I like to create new things and I have discovered an entrepreneur in myself, exploring more fields of knowledge like technology, marketing, costumer service and project management. That sounds a lot, but CRV is giving the opportunity to explore all those fields beyond my finance carrer.
Favorite travel destination?
One of the best places I have been is Guatemala, people is so friendly and the culture is so rich, and it is really close to Costa Rica.
What's next for Namu Travel?
After 13 years working in Costa Rica as a main market, and lately working in Nicaragua and Panama, I think is time to explore new options (clients are asking of them), South America maybe. Internally, the company is moving fast to a better way to do things, base on better technology, in order to provide more and better information and service to our clients.