Our communities are connected. Businesses, people, and organizations all sharing a common goal; to create the best place to live and work possible. Everyone has a story to tell about their businesses and the place they call home. We are here to tell your story. This is “Your Network” powered by D & P Communications. We spoke with the owner of Horizon Travel and Cruises, a local travel agency located in Adrian. We got a chance to learn about her history and how she started a business in the travel industry in Lenawee county.
Dawn Harke, an Adrian native who has been working in the travel industry for 35 years, owns a local travel agency Horizon Travel and Cruises in Adrian, Michigan. Starting at a young age, Dawn traveled with her family which sparked her interest in the industry. After high school, she attended school at Southeastern Academy of Travel and Tourism in Florida which was a trade school for the industry. She planned to work for an airline, but was homesick and decided to move back to Michigan. Shortly after, Dawn received a job at Imperial Travel, located in downtown Adrian and worked there for six years. In 1996, she took a job with Horizon Travel and has been there ever since, working her way up in the company.
When she started in the travel industry, the agents would have to handwrite airline tickets for their clients. At one point, her only job for the day was to call their vendor’s 800 number to get through and make reservations for each customer. In 2010, she bought the agency and became the new owner of the Adrian Horizon Travel branch. There were seven other office locations in the area, but as of today, her Adrian location is the only brick and mortar building remaining as the other offices have transitioned to consolidating and working from home. Dawn does not plan to go anywhere until she retires, which will not be any time soon.
Experiencing upgrades in technology, agents in the industry feared that the Internet would make travel agencies obsolete, but it has actually helped them. With so much out there, people are overwhelmed with information and need help sifting through it all. In the early 80’s deregulation of the government pricing went into effect and there were no longer set costs for each travel expense. This is why it is so important find a reputable company to work with especially at this time during a pandemic when travel requirements change constantly. Assuring they are financially sound when planning a trip is imperative. Establish a relationship and have an advocate for when things go awry, Dawn advocates for her clients. She likes the personal interaction and to sit back and talk with her clients about what their wants and needs are.
During our interview with Dawn we asked her, “Why travel?” She told us that traveling gives you a new perspective. There’s art, culture, and so much diversity. Seeing these new things makes you think beyond where you are, you think outside the box. There is so much to see and do, the world is massive if you stop and think about what we have here around us, even when traveling just within the U.S. You should think outside this community and this area to see what is out there.
“It is a really fun industry to work in,” stated Dawn. Of course, this last year has been hard, but “I still love what I do and love my clients.” Reservation wait times during this pandemic have been in the 2 or 3-hour range on a normal day. Client’s time is valuable, so working in the service industry, Dawn takes care of these service calls so they don’t have to. When asked about working and traveling for work, she said “You just love it! You don’t think of it as a job, you think of it as a lifestyle.”
Why start her business here in Adrian? Well, Dawn was born and raised here. She was away at travel school and after graduating, realized how homesick she was and that is how she made her way back to this area. Adrian is a great community with many parks and recreation, and it is a great place to raise kids. While she still leaves occasionally to travel, she always comes back to her roots. When you are building a business, there are strong relationships that you build with your clients. She has a customer who she helped with planning their wedding and their honeymoon. She has had the chance to watch their kids grow and now has the pleasure of scheduling their children’s travel reservations. You get to experience the longevity, and Lenawee County has been very good to her and her company.
What is hardest part about building this business? Keeping up with the technology while it is everchanging and the new travel requirements. So, what does that mean for the future of Horizon Travel and Cruises? Dawn believes that the future looks really bright. After getting through this pandemic, when people have been home for so long, they are eager to get out of here and travel.
What are your parting thoughts? Dawn is passionate about travel and she really does love her job. Her clients are amazed with the amount of information she has. Dawn loves helping her customers, and it is clear that she is a people person. People think that when using a travel agent, they will end up spending more money. The fact is that most of the time she can match the prices you see online or better yet, beat them. She holds resources that are not available to the public. She also knows how to navigate through the information on the Internet finding the best available booking options.
After 35 years in the travel industry, she handles whatever problems come her way. In this industry, it is buyer beware, so keep it local. That local connection is right here in Adrian at Horizon Travel and Cruises. You can come in, talk to Dawn, and feel it out, rather than sending an email. Her reputation stands for itself, the biggest thing anyone can do is give her a referral from their personal experience. There have been challenges in 2020, but she is fighting through the adversity and feels blessed. “The strong will survive, I’m a survivor.”