Owner of Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours
Chris Pilley moved to Fort Collins and began his career in the tourism industry as a part time and seasonal employee with Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours. At the end of the season he stayed on and began working closely with the owner, later working his way up in the company. He worked on winter contracting, allotments, reservations, accounts receivable and contracting. After seven years of learning the ins and outs of the business, Chris purchased RMHT from the founder of the company, who is now the General Manager.
Chris lives in Fort Collins with his fiancée and their two dogs and three cats. When not travelling, he spends most of his time outdoors hiking, biking, backpacking, camping, fishing, golfing or enjoying a Colorado craft beer.
1. What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced as a Generation Y’er in a business where many are decades older than yourself?
The difference in understanding technology between the generations is what I’d consider the biggest obstacle. There are many companies that we work with, both as suppliers and tour operators, that haven’t fully committed to using today’s technology and to be honest we’re behind with this as well. Nowadays, the technology is advancing so quickly that the longer the implantation process takes, the further behind you are, thus making the implantation process even more difficult. It has the potential to become a very vicious cycle if not actively managed. The younger generation books travel differently, much in part to the advances of the large OTA’s booking methods, so for the small, specialized companies to stay relevant it’s imperative that we keep up with technology.
2. You chose to purchase Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours from Gary Schluter. Why did you decide to become the business owner? How have you managed the transition?
When I was growing up, both of my parents owned their own business so I’ve always wanted to be a business owner. However, I was never quite sure what that business would be and if you had asked me eight years ago, before I had much travel experience, this wouldn’t have been the industry that I would have imagined myself owning a business in. At the time of the purchase I had worked for RMHT for almost seven years and had really developed a passion for the industry and the travel that goes along with it. The company has a great reputation, wonderful staff, strong sense of direction, and is successful, so when Gary and I first discussed the possibility there was no doubt in my mind whether I wanted to buy it or not.
The transition has gone very well. Gary started the company 30 years ago and has dedicated much of his life to it so I wasn’t sure how easy it would be for him to give up control of the company and become an employee but that hasn’t been an issue in the least. After working for him for seven years, he’s confident in the choices and changes that I make and with him still around if I have questions I know that I can go to him to get his input and expertise.
3. What can those experienced in the international inbound travel business do to help the next generation be better equipped to fill the positions they are vacating?
The younger generation doesn’t understand the value of customer service and that personal touch that the older generation has made such a priority. I think those values need to be reinforced by those who have been in the industry for so long.
4. What has surprised you the most about the international inbound travel industry?
The cooperation amongst competitors in the industry was what surprised me the most. Competing tour operators, international inbound tour operators, and even suppliers all seem to have a good healthy relationship and even work together to promote growth in their industry and regions.
5. Where do you see the industry headed over the next 5 years?
I think with the advances in technology that the industry is going to continue growing and moving forward at a quick pace. With the current state of the infrastructure in many of our National Parks, this growth is going to force the industry to become a very strong voice for the National Park Service and their mission to both preserve these sites, while sharing them with the world.