Al Ferguson sees himself as a world traveler. The co-owner of Legendary Journeys and the brand new AlAndChuck.Travel website has traveled since he coordinated a spring break trip and a ski trip during his college days at the University of Central Florida.
But today, Ferguson and his partner of 22 years, Chuck Scott, own what they say is the largest gay-owned travel agency in the country. In fact, the company has become so successful that the pair have formed AlAndChuck.Travel, which will cater exclusively to LGBT destination seekers. The new site should be officially launched sometime this fall.
Ferguson, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, took time away from his many ventures to share his secrets to success and what is hot this year in LGBT destination traveling.
To what do you credit your success?
Reinvesting in our business. Today we have 11 offices in Florida and our growth in travel is because when we made a a dollar we reinvested in the business. Today, we own our buildings, we own motor coaches, our equipment, everything. That put us in the position to be able to do things our competition could not do because we were not leveraged. Of course, our business is in the traditional travel market.
But you do LGBT-oriented travel as well.
My 22 year business and life partner, Chuck Scott, and I organize gay groups for travel just because we had fun doing it. That is what has led us into our new LGBT brand, AlAndChuck.Travel. We believe it is the first gay travel brand in the world to be designated with the .travel (as opposed to .com, etc).
Where would you like to see your company in another 10 years?
This fall we set out to see what we can do in the Gay Travel marketplace. Ten years from now I hope that Watermark will be reporting that AlAndChuck.Travel is the most successful gay travel product in the World.
What are this year’s most popular travel destinations?
Europe, and Europe, and Europe. The dollar is at a 10-year high and that helps a lot. For the gay market, cruising is also gaining in popularity. Of course, there are the gay charters and they are great (basically a circuit party at sea.) But that product is very finite. What is growing is “cruise within a cruise” gay cruises. This means the cruise is a general interest traditional straight cruise but the ship is catering to large gay groups aboard with parties, dining and entertainment.
With the economy the way it is do you find that people are more conservative in their travel spending?
It’s surprising, but the reverse is actually true. When the economy melted down, the travel industry got very aggressive in pricing. As a result, everyone continued traveling because of tremendous value. For the LGBT market it didn’t change one bit. Look at the cruise charters, Gay Days, etc.—absolutely growing even in this economy.
Are there differences when working with gay and straight clients?
Straight clients like more hand-holding. They like the security of having everything handled for them. The biggest difference in the LGBT market is that you don’t have anybody in that market. Unless you are going to sail on a gay cruise charter or stay at a gay guest house, where are you going for planning help? You are planning your own arrangements. We will provide destinations packaged for the LGBT market that include much more than you have seen offered before.
What was the most memorable trip that you and your partner have taken together?
We went to Alaska’s Denali National Park in April. We had always wanted to cross the famous “haul road” from Denali to Valdez. It is a 200-mile remote gravel road with no services. For 12 hours we encountered only one living soul, but we encountered herds of caribou (crossing the road), grizzly bears, wolves and multiple flat tires. We were prepared for that. When we finally got to a paved road we thanked God, but it was one of the best days of our lives.
Do you see the slow acceptance of same-sex marriage affecting clients’ travel plans?
Not yet, but we hope to see some soon.