Vacations are highly valued in today’s society – so many people enjoy having the ability to get away from their regular lives, find some time to relax and maybe explore a new destination. Sundance Vacations understands how important some time away and relaxation can be, and it strives to not only make vacationing easier for its clients, but also affordable.
Sundance Vacations was founded in 1991 by husband-and-wife team John and Tina Dowd. They had experience working in the timeshare industry in college and owned a couple of condos in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, when they decided to start a vacation company. The Dowds’ goal was to create a business model that was flexible and easy for customers to use when they wanted to vacation.
“With timeshares, sometimes there is gridlock in the reservation process,” Tina Dowd explains. “Maybe users have a timeshare in Hawaii, but decide they want to go on vacation in Colorado. They don’t, however, want to give up their space in Hawaii until they can confirm plans in Colorado, and users can be frozen into inaction.”
“With us, every customer has the ability to book a high-demand destination,” she continues. “Also, we didn’t want to limit our customers to vacationing just one week each year. They can use the vacation weeks that they purchase however they want.”
Sundance Vacations’ “product” is weeks of vacation, and customers can purchase various-sized packages. Customers then choose from a variety of popular destinations throughout the United States and Mexico, such as beach trips, family activities, golf outings and mountain getaways.
“We sell vacation time in bulk and customers can buy multiple weeks at a time,” Dowd says. “They can use their time in any way they want, in any destination or network and they don’t have to pre-choose a destination or time when they want to use their vacation.”
‘Opt to Have Fun’
Customers enjoy Sundance Vacations’ model of ease and choice, demonstrated by the fact that the company has been named to the Inc. 5000 list in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Dowd attributes the recognition to hard work, as well as having a team in place that understands what customers want and can deliver.
“We’re a relatively old company, and to be having that kind of growth – explosive growth, later in the cycle – is really something,” she says. “It’s the result of all the building we’ve done, and building our staff. When you have the right people in place, you have the human capital to expand. But we don’t grow to win awards, we grow because it’s the best for our customers and our people.”
In fact, Sundance is so focused on its people that it has been named to lists of being one of the Best Places to Work every year from 2009 through 2014. Dowd explains it’s important to maintain a strong culture even while growing. She knew every employee’s name when the company was small, but now that there are 500 employees, it is a challenge to ensure the culture doesn’t disappear.
“Our executives attend trainings and we spend time with other companies that are committed to being a great place to work – we like to learn from them,” she says. “One of our core values is ‘opt to have fun.’ If you’re not having fun, how can you sell vacations?”
Dowd believes that Sundance’s culture, as well as its focus on delivering quality vacations, will continue to propel the company forward. “Our culture really sets us apart – I don’t know any other companies that do the kinds of things we do and our people work really hard,” she says. “But growth also will come because of the guarantees we offer – satisfaction and availability guarantees. If a vacation doesn’t meet a customer’s needs, add the time back into their account.
“We have great information for forecasting and availability, and if we have proper notice, we can guarantee availability in 20 of our most popular destinations,” she adds. “We have fun doing what we do.”
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