Gena Gunter, who has been a travel advisor for more than 30 years, has an impressive client list dotted with prominent CEOs; major studio executives; film producers and directors; Academy Award, Emmy and Tony winning actors; Grammy artists; sports figures; authors; Supreme Court justices and notable government diplomats.
In 2013, this resident of Redondo Beach, CA, who had been an employee of Altour International for five years, took a leap of faith and launched her own travel company called Eyes On U. Today, as an independent contractor with Altour, Gunter tells us she is forecasting a great success for 2016.
“From the early days of closing out that first year of 2013 just shy of $1 million in sales, our sales have more than doubled as we anticipate closing out 2016 with over $2 million in gross sales,” says Gunter. “With sincere admiration, respect and appreciation of a great team, none of this is possible alone.”
Credit also goes to Altour, which is very supportive of its independent contractors, she says, and to the luxury travel advisor community at large. “Collectively, we have the same deep core values for building personal client relationships, enriching our knowledge with first-hand travel experiences, and having treasured relations and resources with incredible vendors that give us leverage and clout. I like to think that the karma we put out to others will come back to us in positive ways.”
Selling travel runs in Gunter’s family. “In the ’70s, my father worked for United Airlines, starting out as a United ramp agent and eventually working his way up to being a sales rep” says Gunter. “In 1975, he left the airline and started his own travel agency, Dick Montgomery Travel Associates. He opened the first office in Yellow Springs, OH, and then opened the branch office in Dayton, OH.”
Gunter began working at her father’s agency when she was 15. She filed brochures after school, answered phones and helped agents handwrite tickets. She eventually went to Air Traffic Conferences (ATC) travel agent training and made travel her full-time career.
In the 1980s, Gunter moved to California, where she worked for Devoe Travel Service. She was given the responsibility of handling travel for then mayor Tom Bradley. “In 1984, Devoe Travel Service was one of the exclusive selected agencies to handle travel arrangements for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles,” she says. “It was a great experience to be a part of that historical event as it [is] still considered to be one of the most successful Summer Olympic Games.”
Gunter went on to successfully handle various projects, which includes film and television productions, world tours of musical artists, professional sports team travel as well as arranging travel movement connected with recent historical events and working with liaisons from the White House and the Bahamian government.
Gunter also worked for Mansour Travel for 16 years. She says the late Gary Mansour was a very big influence on her.
"I will always have the utmost honor and great respect for him and his agency. Gary’s influence on me was to think outside of the box and to remember that nothing is truly impossible or unattainable,” says Gunter.
“I’m so honored that Altour considered me as a trendsetter,” says Gunter. “When I walked in the doors three years ago as the sole member of my company, I said to them that I didn’t plan to run my operation as a single person; I had bigger plans — to grow and add others to my team. Three years later, I have done that.”
Her other significant feat? “I have shown [Altour] that I am a huge advocate of not being afraid to charge fees for my services rendered. I believe that any professional, travel related or not, should never underestimate the value of a job well done.”