For this week’s #ShopFranklin Spotlight, I interviewed Vincent Dowling of Enchanted Memories Travel!
Before founding Enchanted Memories, Vince was already a seasoned traveler. His job in sales had him managing a territory consisting of Massachusetts and Europe, “and Canada, they decided, was going to be part of Massachusetts!”, so Vince was no stranger to the road. Later, Vince and his brothers created a family business with offices in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Florida; since Vince was in Florida so often for business, Disney World was the natural choice for a family vacation. Multiple park visits per year turned into a membership to the Disney Vacation Club, which provided Vince and his family with a home base at the parks. Vince soon found that “all of a sudden I became a popular person… Everybody wanted to be my friend,” and his self-taught Disney expertise was in high demand. Vince was able to guide his friends and family through their Disney vacations with ease, and he and his wife Maria started to discuss the idea of opening a travel agency to help share their expertise with others.
In 2012, their dream became a reality, and they opened Enchanted Memories Travel. Vince and Maria “decided that we were going to focus on what we knew best,” so the original Enchanted Memories specialized in Disney and European vacations. Since Maria’s family is from Europe, “[Europe] was going to be her side of the house, and then my side of the house was going to be the fun side,” as Vince puts it. Their first year in business was a smashing success, with “several hundred families from Franklin” enjoying fabulous Disney vacations through Enchanted Memories. Then, Vince and Maria ran into something they hadn’t anticipated: their happy customers started to come back, asking for trips to other places, “because they’re not crazy people like me that go to Disney every year!” Vince hasn’t lost his reputation in Franklin as the “Disney Guy,” and he says “we’re never going to get rid of that and we’re actually very proud of it because it’s what started us… but we have evolved over the last couple of years to a full-fledged travel agency.”
The modern Enchanted Memories partners with outside travel agents, known as Memory Makers®, to help clients book trips to anywhere in the world they’d like to go. Since the Memory Makers® are paid directly by the vendors, their services are completely free to their clients. According to Vince, it’s important in the travel business to have agents who specialize in particular areas or types of travel, such as cruising or Caribbean experts, because “there’s no way you can know everything about every place in the world,” but full-service travel agents are important parts of the business too. Enchanted Memories currently works with about 25 Memory Makers® around the country right now, and they’re continuing to grow. Enchanted Memories offers a comprehensive training program to help future Memory Makers® learn the ins and outs of the travel business, so experience is helpful but isn’t required. “We’re looking for enthusiastic and passionate people that like to travel and help other people with their travel,” Vince says.
It’s easy to book a vacation through Enchanted Memories. Just call the office to schedule an appointment, request a quote on their website, or stop into their office. Unlike many larger agencies, Enchanted Memories prides itself on being available to customers outside traditional business hours, since many people aren’t available during the day to discuss travel plans. “When you have your own personal Memory Maker®, you can call that person any time you want,” says Vince. Once you’ve made contact with a Memory Maker®, you’ll be given quotes for several travel options that fit your needs. When you’re ready to book, the Enchanted Memories website has a secure, detailed form to fill out with all of the information your Memory Maker® will need to reserve your trip. Vince has found that it’s best to have clients fill this form out themselves, to ensure that all names and addresses are spelled correctly, but that form is just about the last thing you’ll have to do yourself to prepare for your trip; Enchanted Memories takes care of everything else for you. For example, for a Disney vacation, your Memory Maker® will get up early in the morning on the 180th day before your arrival to make all of your dining reservations and make sure you can get into the most popular, hard-to-get restaurants. “We work very hard at making sure that our guests get those reservations,” Vince says. “We don’t ask the guests to do it, we do it for them and we do it for free.”
Despite the easy accessibility of travel information on the Internet, Vince strongly believes that full-service travel agencies like Enchanted Memories still have an important role to play in the travel industry. When booking travel on your own, it can be difficult to sort through all of the options out there, and selecting an option based solely on the best price doesn’t always work out well. “Sometimes you’d get lucky, and sometimes it would be awful. I am just as guilty as everyone else,” says Vince, relating a time pre-Enchanted Memories when his hotel choice ended up not being to Maria’s liking. As Vince puts it, “there’s so much noise on the internet, in terms of so many options, so many things to see, so many things to do, you have no idea anymore.” Enchanted Memories’ goal is to cut through that “noise,” and truly tailor your vacation to your personal needs. Especially as travel prices have risen, Vince believes it’s crucial to work with an expert who can advise you on how to get the most for your money. “It’s a little bit of insurance on your investment for your vacation.” For Enchanted Memories, it’s all about that full customer service and personal touch; today’s travelers aren’t interested in spending a lot of money on a vacation and still having to take care of all the details, like dining reservations, on their own. “They’re not going to do that anymore, and as long as I’m around, they’re not going to do it in Franklin,” says Vince.