‘Passport’ to success
By Donna Rettew Post-Tribune correspondent August 31, 2012 4:52PM
Sharon Dull (left) of Crown Point, and Debra O’Meara and Diana Paris of Valparaiso are celebrating 25 years in business at Passport Travel. | Photo provided
IF YOU GO
What: Passport Travel
Where: 604 Morgan Blvd., Valparaiso
More information: Call 464-1102 or visit www.passporttravelvalpo.com.
Updated: October 4, 2012 6:06AM
When the travel agency for which Debbie O’Meara, Diana Paris and Sharon Dull worked in the late 1980s underwent major changes, they began looking for other opportunities.
Finally, they started Passport Travel in Valparaiso.
The women have spent 25 years helping people visit worldwide ports of call. Often, they have enjoyed the same destinations.
O’Meara, of Valparaiso, is the secretary-treasurer of Passport, although she said they rarely use titles. The trio had worked together for two years, got along well, and knew they had different areas of expertise.
“We were meeting to put together résumés and scout out job openings when it occurred to us that we had the knowledge and ability to open our own agency,” O’Meara said. “What each of us brought to the table was the perfect combination of experience and know-how to open and operate a successful travel agency.”
They opened their first office April 6, 1987, on East Lincolnway in Valparaiso. Ten years later, they purchased their current building on Morgan Boulevard.
“In 25 years, we’ve worked with thousands of clients from all over the United States,” said O’Meara, who has sent clients to the Antarctic, the Galapagos Islands, Iceland, Hawaii, Fiji and Tahiti, Africa, Australia, Europe, Russia, China and Thailand, and more places than she can remember.
Dull, who lives in Lakes of the Four Seasons, is president of Passport Travel. She said the last 25 years have been all about giving clients memorable vacations.
“What we wish for our clients is that their trip will bring them happiness and relaxation ...,” she said. “Travel can be hectic and aggravating, but if you don’t let the small stuff get you down, it is one of life’s most rewarding experiences.”
Dull said two of the best benefits of being a travel agent are the discounts and opportunities.
“Another great benefit of this profession is the people you meet, advise, plan for and befriend,” she said. “Our office has many great clients we have known and dealt with for years.”
Dull has visited many places worldwide, but her wish list still includes South America, Australia and New Zealand, Egypt in depth, and an African safari.
Diana Paris of Valparaiso is vice president. She said the women strive to give their clients great trips.
“Many people think travel agents have become extinct, but that is definitely not true,” Paris said. “Once you have had a problem booking online, you realize how much a good travel agent can be a blessing.
“We assist them and advise them with information they cannot receive from the Internet. We answer questions and give assistance with anything that comes up along the way.”
One example of that service is a client O’Meara had who wanted to see the Galapagos Islands for the sole purpose of taking a photograph of Lonesome George, the last surviving sea turtle of its kind.
“Because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the habitat where Lonesome George lived was closed during his visit and he did not even see the turtle. He came home greatly disappointed.”
The next year, another client visited the same place and, after O’Meara explained how disappointed the man had been not to see Lonesome George, she took several pictures for him.
“I feel extremely lucky to have chosen business partners who have become lifelong friends,” O’Meara said. “We have built a successful business, survived business, personal and health crises, and remained good friends, which, to me, is a true measure of success.”