Shelby Donley

Shelby DonleyWhen Shelby Donley bought Camelback Odyssey Travel in 2008, she instantly embraced the Phoenix-based business and has never stopped growing it. We featured her on our November 2010 cover. Here, Donley takes a look back.

“In 2010, I was still exploring who we were going to be when we came out of the recession, but what happened instead is we vigorously grew through the recession each year, because of the talented advisors on our team and the relationships they have with their clients,” says Donley, who notes that things are changing every day at the agency as she and her team constantly reevaluate what can be done better for its clients or travel advisors.

Two years ago, she launched a Private Client Division that is by invitation only. “It better defines how we work with luxury clients and how we will be compensated for our time, and most importantly what we deliver to the clients,” says Donley, who adds that the agency is now in the process of launching an advisor engagement program that will provide a similar strategy for its independent contractors to grow their business.

Annual revenue has indeed jumped for the agency; in 2010 it was $10 million; today it stands at $23 million. Donley says that’s from a strategy that has remained firm in taking great care of its clients.

“We stimulate them with fantastic destinations and surprise and delight them throughout the process, so they send all of their friends as referrals,” she says. “We’re constantly trying to see where we can make improvements and to enhance our services to make the next experience better than the last.”

November 2010
November 2010

Donley’s private travel most recently took her to Trisara in Phuket, which “was the perfect oasis to unwind and refocus. I’m still fantasizing about the negative-edge private villa pool that looked like it fell right into the ocean. Swimming in the warm water was soothing and a great exercise. The spa treatments were off the charts and some of the most unique I have ever had.”

Another recent journey took her to the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. She had high expectations for the visit, but was still stunned to “find such precision and thoughtfulness put into every detail of the room. I felt so at home and cared for, I could stay forever. It also had the best shower I have ever had!”

What also keeps Donley jazzed are the personal relationships she’s forged since buying the business. “When you first interviewed me [for my Luxury Travel Advisor profile], I had no qualms or regrets about buying a business in an industry as an outsider. But I had yet to understand the amazing friendships I would have from the travel industry all over the world.”

She’s also blessed to be surrounded by an amazing team of travel advisors, “both those that were open to new leadership and vision and those that have joined since then, who continue to open our eyes to the future,” says Donley.