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Gloria Bohan's Omega World Travel
While most women have honeymoons that are memorable, few of them result in the launching of a billion dollar business.
But it was Gloria Bohan's honeymoon cruise aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 that inspired her interest in the travel industry. Thirty-one years ago, Bohan founded Omega World Travel. Since that time, she's transformed her one-person office into a travel agency with sales revenues in excess of $1 billion a year, with 200-some company offices and 1,100 employees worldwide.
Omega has been ranked as the largest woman-owned business in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area and the fifth largest travel agency in the United States.
Approximately 40 percent of Omega's billion dollar business Comes from the United States government. Major accounts include the Department Of Interior, Department Of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of Treasury, United States Marine Corp, and the National Institute of Health.
Omega was one of the first companies to competitively bid on official government business in 1982 under a GAO test program to determine how private industry could service travel. "It was very risky," Bohan says, "since the prior contractor had defaulted, the airlines were reluctant to pay commissions, and we were required to bill the government for payment "
"Through accurate billing, relentless pursuit of the airlines to work with us, and the enthusiastic support of government, the program became a success," Bohan adds.
"Largely, it was the government that found we brought to the table high service levels, better technology, and saved them money on staffing and other costs. This experience has brought us good referrals and respect for other business opportunities," Bohan says.
Considered an innovative, trend-setting company, the Fairfax, VA-based firm has a hands-on owner in Bohan. By continually diversifying Omega, she has built a company that serves every major area of corporate, leisure, and government travel. Omega's full service, on-site corporate and on-site government offices are located in cities throughout the United States and abroad in Okinawa, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Guam. London serves as the company's international headquarters.
A firm believer in personal contact, Bohan created the small office concept, an innovation among travel agencies, which has helped the company offer personalized service.
Office locations have been augmented with high-touch, high-tech customer service centers in select areas of the U.S. that provide the highest quality reservation services to Omega customers 24 hours a day. These centers work in tandem with Omega's large Internet presence. Cruise.com, a separate company founded by Omega, has become the Internet's largest cruise seller. Other Omega Internet sites include TourDeals.com, offering discounts on tours worldwide, and AirDeals.com.
Bohan's staff receives in-depth training programs, incentives, and bonus programs. "Education and incentives are a must for keeping service and motivation high," she says. "My goal is to make every employee think like a salesperson and have them offer the client the best deal, and be totally responsive to their needs."
A graduate of Marymount Manhattan College in New York (her alma mater honored her in May with an honorary Doctor of Laws), Bohan started her career as a teacher in the New York City Public School System and later worked for Forbes Magazine.
The co-founder of Space Adventures, Bohan was instrumental in sending the first tourists into space. She is a member of the Women Presidents' Organization, the National Association of Woman Business Owners, and the American Society of Travel Agents. Omega is certified as a woman-owned business by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council.
As one of the leading woman-owned businesses doing business with the federal government, Bohan has sound advice to share. "You must be prepared to be exact about what you can do, and live up to whatever it is that you agree to do in a contract."
She also advocates having a good quality control system in place. "All your procedures should be well laid out. You need to document what you are doing and keep good records. You will need them for any question that may arise," she adds.
Finally, she encourages other women business owners to keep an eye out for suggestions that can be made to help the government operate more efficiently and save money. "They appreciate knowing that their contractor is not complacent and is looking to save them money, bring them better information, and deliver higher levels of service."
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About Omega World Travel
Omega World Travel is a woman-owned, diversity supplier, and one of the largest travel management companies in the US. With worldwide headquarters in Fairfax, VA, Omega serves corporate, government, meeting, and leisure clients throughout the US., Europe, and the Middle East. Omega World Travel also owns Cruise.com, one of the largest sellers of cruises on the Internet, and TravTech, a software development company and Omega Meetings and Conference services.