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From her earliest memories growing up in Riga, Latvia, Mira Borukhin wanted to work with planes and see the world. She emigrated to the United States in the late ‘70s, and after finishing college, Mira opened her business in 1988 in New York City. What started out as a small retail travel agency has grown to employ 80 people, becoming one of the largest air consolidators in the U.S.
What inspired you to start Downtown Travel and how has it evolved?
I’ve always been driven to help people, and I found a home in the travel industry where I can make that goal a reality on a daily basis. Over the past 30 years, Downtown Travel has evolved to primarily focus on air travel consolidation. But we also have an amazing groups and tours department. We have top-tier contracts with over 100 carriers and sophisticated 24/7 ticketing automation for simple to complex itineraries. We provide a wide range of content and good customer service with global call and response centers not only in the U.S., but also in Bangkok and Moscow. There isn’t a time of day in any time zone when we cannot be reached.
In your view, how has the role of women in technology evolved over the years?
It’s always been interesting to me that the retail travel industry has historically been dominated by females. I believe technological change is driven by the users. And I think women always have and will continue to promote the growth of technology in the industry by running the front lines of this business and constantly pushing for advancement.
What’s the most profound change you’ve experienced in this industry?
I know this may seem like a simple answer, but it’s been the technology. When I first started in the travel industry, everything was manual. Tickets were handwritten and there was a lag between booking and ticketing. Nowadays, our booking engine, TheBestAgent.Pro, can automatically book and ticket 24 hours a day with our proprietary ticketing robotics. It’s really incredible how technology has sped up the pace of our industry and made us more efficient.
Can you share a pivotal point in your business?
Throughout our 30-year history, we’ve proven to be resilient across both industry changes and unfortunate events. One of the most profound times for our company was during the September 11 terrorist attacks. The company was named after the downtown area where our first office and first clients were located. At the time, our office was destroyed. We could have easily packed up and closed. But instead, we were back to ticketing within days – even before the airlines could open their flights again. It’s one of my proudest Downtown Travel moments.
What excites you about the future of the industry and your business?
I think our globe is growing and shrinking at the same time. We’re growing as a population with more and more people traveling every day. But with the advent of technology and popularization of social media, we’re shrinking in the sense that we can more easily connect with people all over the world. People see pictures on Instagram of food or a beautiful beach and they get inspired to travel and experience it for themselves. At Downtown Travel, we’re always working to innovate and bring new services to our customers. Right now, I’m especially excited about our B2B booking engine TheBestAgent.Pro. It’s so easy to use that it allows anyone to become a travel agent. And we can always use more travel agents in the world!
Why did you begin working with Amadeus? And what solutions do you use?
We began working with Amadeus in 2001 when we were looking to add an additional GDS. We quickly recognized Amadeus as a technological leader in the space. And Amadeus matched our passion for customer service. I love working with our reps and I have become so close with the Amadeus family. They’re always willing to lend a helping hand, make an introduction, or simply listen to our business needs or gripes. We now use a whole host of Amadeus products and solutions; 20 to be exact. The most beneficial is Amadeus Web Services, which powers our booking engine and brings our unique fares to our clients and reservations team. Another one of my favorites is the Master Pricer Expert that prices an itinerary to find the cheapest fare. Gone are the days of tediously searching through dozens of fare options and deciding what fits best. Another tool that brings a lot of efficiency is Amadeus Ticket Changer. It used to be that any small ticket change required completely redoing a reservation, but now we can simply change a small detail and copy the rest over. Like many of the Amadeus tools, it saves a lot of time.
What inspires your view of life and work?
One of my favorite quotes is from the French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He wrote, “Tout objectif sans plan n’est qu’un souhait,” which translates to, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” It’s very easy for us to rush into things and find out later that we weren’t fully prepared. Achievement requires careful planning and preparation.
If you weren’t working in travel, what would you be doing?
I simply cannot imagine doing anything else. This was my dream and I am living it.