Interview with Shlomo Scholnick, Founder and CEO – Travel Deal Israel
Traveling to Israel is different from traveling anywhere else in the world. No matter where you live when you come to Israel you’re coming home. Enter, Shlomo Scholnick, CEO of Travel Deal Israel, a thriving local business that has been around for over 15 years. Travel Deal is a leading provider of travel services for groups, and individuals visiting Israel. Since 2000, Travel Deal has built a reputation as a major player within the travel industry. As one of Israel’s largest wholesale tour operators, Travel Deal has a relationship with major hotels throughout the country which enables them to get better deals and better service for their clients.
We know success when we see it and we are thrilled to share it with our readers.
What is Travel Deal Israel all about?
We don’t book airline tickets. We leave that to others. We stick to what we do best: Getting you the best prices on hotels, tailored family tours, and other land arrangements like VIP assistance at the airport, van transfers or car rentals. But we don’t stop there. After we get you the best price, we stay in touch to make sure your accommodations are everything you desire. And that’s how Travel Deal Israel wants you to feel, it’s our mission for you to “see the good land” and “to see that it’s good!”
So that’s why we make sure you have the best experience – and the best deal – possible.
What prepared you in your life for having created and managed this thriving company?
Well siyata dishmaya would be the main thing really. As one of eight children, growing up in Israel was not smooth sailing. My parents were hard workers and I knew that if I wanted to make it, I had to be hard working and ambitious. The analytical skills that I gained while learning gemara in the yeshiva system have helped me tremendously in life and in business. Beyond that, I had lots of determination to create what I had in mind, without really knowing how it would all turn out.
What were your dreams in regards to business during your teenage years?
To start my own business! Although I had no idea what field it would be in.
How did you decide to get into the travel industry?
I worked as an administrator for an American Yeshiva after I got married, so I was in constant contact with parents. The parents would come in for the winter break and sometimes ask for help with hotel arrangements and car rentals. Soon after, I felt I needed something more challenging and started Travel Deal Israel.
When did Travel Deal open and what were the most difficult challenges you had to overcome?
I launched the company at the end of the year 2000 when the Second Intifada started. The Tourist industry was not doing well, to say the least. Hotels were firing staff and closing down entire floors to save on maintenance. I remember calling the Ministry of Tourism to apply for a license. The reply I received was: “a license for what?” When I responded that I was starting a company for incoming tourism they simply responded: “NOW???” The beginning was tough as beginnings always are…
What were your doubts and fears when you started Travel Deal Israel?
I guess the same fears everyone would have… Will I succeed? Where will I get the money to start my business?
What was your vision?
Well, it was all about service to me. At that time I knew very little about the hotel and tourism industry but one thing I knew for sure was that service in Israel was non-existent and new olim as well as tourists who come for a visit will need someone they can rely on to become the “buffer” between them and the entire industry. I decided to become that person.
What are the main advantages your customers have when booking through you?
* Accountability – With Travel Deal, you have an actual person you can speak with to work things out, whenever needed.
* Knowledge – Our agents know all the ins and outs of travel. Are you visiting Israel for the first time? Instead of deciding where to go based on anonymous comments on a website, speak to someone in our offices who will refer you to the best spots in this tiny country that we take personal pride in.
* More for your money- When booking an expensive trip, travelers want to see everything and experience the best the destination can offer. We can ensure you that the money you spend will go a long way.
* Setting an itinerary – While some people enjoy “just winging it,” we at Travel Deal Israel can give you a clear-cut schedule of what will be happening on a day-to-day basis, and keep a clear record of everything that’s included in the trip.
* Budgeting -Travel Deal Israel can help you map out exactly how much a trip will cost, so there are no surprises. We’ll guide you and help you save your money!
* Details -We all know to expect the unexpected, but it still feels good to have a backup. So if things don’t go as planned, Travel Deal has the resources and the contacts to get you and your family to the head of the line.
* Resources – After being in the business for over fifteen years, we have created a personal connection with all leading hotel managers in the business, as well as front desk managers, the reservation centers, over 100 certified tour guides whom we personally match and all the major tourist attractions.
* Exclusivity- Let’s face it; we all want to be a little bit different. We use our exclusivity to help you with yours.
* Time – Researching the perfect trip can take up a lot of time. We at Travel Deal will do the research for you, and at the same time, learn you and your family’s specific needs.
* Leverage – Travel Deal spent years developing long-term relationships, and hotels understand how important our repeat business is to them. Travel Deal has leverage with most hotel companies and resorts, and we are more likely to get you what you want than if you tried on your own.
What motivates you now and what’s you ambition at this stage?
Succeeding in what I worked so hard to achieve and to be able to keep up with the fast growing expectations people have when it comes to servicing them. When I first started 15 years ago people were not “connected” the way they are today – with easy access to their emails and messages. My staff can reply to 100 emails within the first two hours of a working day and once they are done, people from around the world in different time zones have already replied once or twice and so on.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned in your career?
-Genuinely offer service and not just “sell it”. Many business “sell” good customer service by advertising it, but when it comes down to it they don’t really offer it.
-Be unique in the way you treat your clients. Go the extra mile so they will appreciate you as much as you appreciate them.
-Be a great boss by treating your own employees with the patience and respect they deserve. They are instrumental to your success.
How do you deal with an upset client?
It’s really all depends on the situation. I found that there are two things that solve most problems almost every time.
Number 1. Letting the client speak out the problem without cutting them off, which usually solves most of the issue. Aside from being a listening ear and allowing them to vent their frustration, we gain an understanding of what’s really bothering the client. Then we have the task of trying to solve the problem in the most efficient way possible.
Number 2. When possible, giving the issue a few minutes to “sink in” can also be very helpful, as most issues solve themselves.
Case in point: Last week a client called our office at 5 PM. He had just landed and the driver we reserved for him wasn’t to be found. This is a reputable van company that we have worked with for years and we never had a problem with them. We asked the client for five minutes to either try to locate the driver or find a different arrangement. I called the client five minutes later to discover the driver had found him and all was good.
At the end of the day, no matter what you do, people will complain about something, and it’s our job to work through it and make sure they are as happy as they can be.
What’s the most challenging customer service case you ever had and how did you deal with it?
As you know, when you travel anything can go wrong and it’s out of our hands to guarantee it won’t rain, you won’t be snowed in, or you won’t get a flat tire at 2 AM on your way back from up north. So when these things come up they are all challenging.
But I’ll share our favorite Travel Deal Stories: We received a call from a client at 1 PM that she just woke up and missed breakfast because… the hallway was painted recently and the fumes from the paint knocked her out and she wants us to credit her for breakfast (not just because maybe she landed in the wee hours of the night and she may have a case of jetlag?!). Or the time when a client called us that someone stole her underwear from her room – and wanted us to credit her for them. How we dealt with those situations I’ll leave to your imagination.
What do you think has been the key to becoming one of the top travel operators in the country?
I think the answer to that would be Service, Honesty, Efficiency, and Integrity – it all speaks for itself.
What’s your goal for the Travel Deal Company?
My goal is to make sure each and every one of our clients have the best experience and best price possible. When traveling in Israel we are always available and there for you.
If you had to start again, what would you do differently?
Absolutely nothing! Everything that has happened is total siyata dishmaya so if you believe in it you will know that no matter what route you take you will find yourself right back where you belong. So keep our number handy- you’ll want to give us a call…
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