Meet Your Merchant: Beyond sun, sand and sea — Nevada County travel agency celebrates 20 years of creating ‘meaningful travel experiences’
Know & go
What: Travel Expo and 20th anniversary celebration of Grass Valley travel company Dolphin Destiny Adventures
When: 1 to 8 p.m., Oct. 8
Where: Foothills Event Center, 400 Idaho Maryland Road, Grass Valley.
More Information: http://www.dolphindestiny.com or call 530-273-0558
Mary Jane Augustine has been to 83 countries and she’s hoping to hit 100 within the next few years. Name a place that’s off the beaten path, and chances are she’s been there. Has she climbed the Pyramid of the Magician in the ancient Mayan city of Uxmal? Dived the emerald waters of Vanuatu in the South Pacific? Gone swimming with the spotted dolphins of the Bahamas? Why, yes, as a matter of fact.
Augustine’s Grass Valley company, Dolphin Destiny Adventures, was established in 1996 as one of the first internet-based dive travel companies. It quickly became the go-to company for adventurous travelers and travel agencies due to its competitive prices, the staff’s detailed knowledge of destinations and their ability to provide full trip packages.
“I chose the company name because dolphins are the only creatures other than humans that do things just for the joy and fun if it,” said Augustine. “I just love introducing people to places around the world and providing accurate information.”
Early on, Augustine was able to register with tourist boards around the world as a “wholesale seller of travel and destination specialist,” which gave her coveted access to some of the best tourist resources across the globe. As a result, Dolphin Destiny Adventures quickly expanded from simply specializing in diving to a general wholesale travel company, which can handle both group and individual reservations.
In celebration of their 20th anniversary, Dolphin Destiny Adventures is hosting a Travel Expo on Oct. 8 at the Foothills Event Center on Idaho-Maryland Road in Grass Valley. Representatives from different countries, resorts and airlines will be on hand to provide information on a broad variety of destinations, said Augustine. But the highlight of the event will be the opportunity to win a free trip to the Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean or Fiji.
“There are only seven wholesale companies like us in the U.S. that are contracted with countries, hotels, dive operations, recreational companies, transport companies and more,” said Augustine. “We package these trips and sell them to travel agencies, as well as to individuals. Our pricing is very competitive because we offer wholesale prices, don’t charge a service fee and can make personal recommendations in order to match customers with their idea of a perfect experience. Too often, people tell us they booked a trip over the internet and their trip did not turn out to be what they thought it would be. Well, chances are we’ve been to the places they’re interested in going to and can tell them about it first hand.”
Augustine moved to the area 13 years ago and opened a 1,500-square-foot home office, which the company has since outgrown. Today, Dolphin Destiny Adventures is located on Manor Drive, just off Nevada City Highway in Grass Valley. While Augustine and her staff of five spend much of their day communicating with customers and colleagues all over the world, Augustine is eager to reach out to greater Nevada County.
“We want to be part of the community and let people know what we’re good at,” she said. “We don’t just sell packages to travel agencies — our services are also available to individuals. We’re a valuable resource … For example, we know Mexico, the South Pacific, Australia, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Bali and the Philippines better than anyone.”
From 1991 to 1995, Augustine hosted a television show, “Western Style Vacation,” on the Travel Channel, which sent her all over the world. But when her then-14-year-old daughter, Kara, was diagnosed with leukemia, Augustine opted to stay home, and that’s when the online travel company was born. Kara is now a fully recovered young adult who also works in the travel industry.
Last year, Dolphin Destiny Adventures branched out to establish a new division called “Adrenaline Travels,” which includes Alaskan and international fishing trips, white water rafting, paddle boarding, surfing and sail boarding — not to mention zip- lining tours in Fiji and Costa Rica.
Demand for themed group trips has also taken off, said Augustine, such as yoga and spiritual trips to such places as Bali, Costa Rica and Australia. Additionally, destination weddings are one of the hottest trends, and due to their relationships with resorts, Dolphin Destiny Adventures is often able to offer discounts or free accommodations to the couple or wedding party, said Augustine.
“We’ve experienced double digit growth in the past three years,” she said. “Our catch phrase is ‘A more meaningful experience.’ Our trips are beyond sun, sand and sea. They’re about culture, that perfect destination and what brings you joy and gets you out of your everyday life.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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