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Plans subject to change
Gloria Bohan said that willingness to make changes has been a key to the success of her company, Omega World Travel.

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Date published: 1/20/2013


Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social networking are changing the way people plan vacations and business trips.

In many cases, they're relying on the opinions of others they think have similar interests to make their buying decisions.

That's the latest in a long string of changes that Gloria Bohan, owner of Omega World Travel, has seen in the travel industry since opening her first office in Spotsylvania County in 1972.

And, true to form, she is already working on ways to integrate social media into her company, which now has more than 100 offices, 1,000 employees and $1 billion in annual revenue.

"You have to be willing to make changes," Bohan said in a phone interview from her Fairfax office. "You have to be willing to learn new products and adapt to new technologies."

That's an attitude that's served her well. Omega World Travel is now the largest travel agency founded, operated and majority-owned by a woman, as well as one of the top 500 woman-owned businesses in the United States.

Bohan was inducted into the Washington Business Hall of Fame in 2011 and named a Silver Winner for Lifetime Achievement in the Ninth Annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business for her accomplishments last year.

Not bad for a former teacher who was inspired to go into the business after taking cruises on the Queen Elizabeth 2 with her husband, the late Daniel Bohan.

They had their wedding reception and honeymoon cruise on the ship, and had followed relatives' advice to get one of the less- expensive cabins and then ask the purser for an upgrade.

"He said, 'So many people say that they're honeymooners, but I can tell you're for real,'" Bohan recalled.

Not only did he give the couple an upgrade, but the ship's newspaper wrote an article about the newlyweds.

"We were like little celebrities," Bohan said. "All of a sudden all of this glamour was hitting me."

The Bohans tried the same tactic on their second trip a year later, but it didn't work. Travel agents onboard, however, seemed to be having a great time.

"I looked at my husband at the end of the cruise and said, 'Those people were loud!' He turned to me, and I'll never forget this, said 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'"

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Gloria Bohan said that she's learned a number of important lessons about running a business in the 40 years that she has helmed Omega World Travel.

Here are a few:

Don't do everything by yourself. You need backup and someone who can fill in if you're unavailable.

Do know all the ins and outs of your business and your industry. That way you can feel more confident and can spot opportunities.

Find and encourage talent in others, because you want them to grow with the company.

What doesn't get evaluated doesn't get done.

Give back to the community. You'll get a lot of satisfaction in return, and it will help to expand your social network.

Put yourself in new situations so that you're always learning new things.