Operating a tourism business can be a challenge, even more so in an industry that is constantly impacted by new technology, innovation, and competition. Adobe Rent a Car is one example of how kindness, openness, and strategic thinking can help you succeed and sustain your position in the tourism marketplace.
We spoke with husband-and-wife team Alejandro Riggioni and Katia Enriquez, President and Business Manager of Adobe Rent a Car, respectively. Successful pioneers in Costa Rica’s tourism industry, Alejandro and Katia’s story is very inspiring and is worth sharing.
From 20 red taxis to more than 2300 rental cars
Adobe Rent a Car was born in 1990, when Katia and Alejandro visited Flamingo and noticed a lot of tourist license plates along the way. Alejandro had an affinity for cars, and he was an entrepreneur with a restaurant that was coming to an end. He saw a business opportunity, but he also saw flexibility, because cars can move – they are not attached to a specific location like his restaurant. He realized that if a car is not giving him any money back, he could just sell it. He visualized a flexible business model with not a large investment.
They started with a loan and 20 cars that were meant to be taxis. In the beginning they used notebooks rather than software, and they paid large telephone bills in order to communicate with foreigners. The first reservation – from Florida – came through via fax machine, a memory they’ve never forgotten. Lack of expertise or knowledge of solutions to problems have never been an impediment to Alejandro and Katia.
“Adobe Rent a car is a rip off”
A complaint from a client – immortalized on the internet – provided a good lesson on how a negative comment can actually help you in a positive way. In the subsequent comments the good reputation that Adobe Rent a Car enjoys was made very clear. People chimed in that the problems the complainant had were not related to the rental car company, but to other issues, and one complaint soon became a string of endorsements.
“We had faced economic crises, many big competitors, and even “Guerra del Golfo” (the Gulf War), and what we learned from those is that everything comes to an end and you will always have clients to serve,” said Alejandro. He insists that challenges help us to understand better ways to do things, and to be aware of new opportunities.
Take a step forward and the rest will come along
“Young people tend to think that every successful entrepreneur predicted the future, but it is not that way,” says Alejandro. “You never think about the end when you are just starting. You just have to take a step forward and suddenly you will see that there is a way. Life has so many variables that it is impossible to predict most of it. Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Visualizing diverse markets has been key
“Diversification is what makes us different from our competitors,” says Katia. “Many of our competitors stayed with just one market. Apart from tourists, we thought about corporate people, expats, and Costa Ricans.
More than that, we thought about new consumers based on different behaviors, and we decided to create three different brands to solve their specific needs.”
What we do better is customer satisfaction
This changes through time and Alejandro and Katia are aware of this. In the present era, customizing is key. Their main goal has always been customer satisfaction, and they are always willing to innovate in order to continue successfully meeting this goal.
They have succeeded in their business because they are single-minded. Their goal is not being the biggest or most powerful tourism company – their goal is just to be focussed on offering the best service and the best experience to their customers.
They mentioned that millennials no longer stay loyal to brands the way their parents often did. However, their quality service still stands them in good stead with this demographic, as good service can always be verified through the digital channels on which millenials typically depend.
We are facing the mobility era and technology is protagonist
Katia and Alejandro believe that people do not want a car these days, they just want to move. They say a new market is opening and it is called shared services, and that it definitely impacts the tourism industry. Changes are fast and new technologies like Uber and Turo have affected them, but they remain strong in the market by adapting to new technologies and thinking out-of-the-box in order to create better solutions for customers.
“You cannot take short cuts or simply rely on online agencies, you have to build a brand. Sustainability comes from a marketing plan which gives value to your company,” said Alejandro.
According to Alejandro and Katia, we are facing an era where cars will be autonomous, and we will acquire a car like we acquire phone service – we’ll be able to use it even when in another country. They say that the change is already here and it is called shared mobility. People will not know how to drive in the future.
ICT will have to adapt to changes along with the tourism industry
Modernization and adapting to change is what Katia sees as a need at ICT (Costa Rican Tourism Board). ICT is making many efforts but they are not sufficiently considering the digital part, though we are stepping forward compared to some other countries. More regulation, use of new technologies, and consultancies to small and medium businesses are what that these car rental entrepreneurs see as priority for ICT.
“Costa Rica will always be desirable – this country is inherently a great product as it is. A mix of authentic people, nature, conservation, and uniqueness, it is what many countries wish to be,” said Katia.
“We have to avoid becoming a massive destination because we will lose our magic. We have to boost small businesses, maintain great quality, and continue promoting the Costa Rican experiences at our core. ‘Expensive and massive’ are enemies: we have to remember that we live in an expensive country and it obligates us to maintain quality and exclusiveness.”
“Tourism is all about experience and service”, says Alejandro. “What is great about Costa Rica is our people: most locals are naturally kind and helpful people. We just need to know a little bit about tourist expectations and be allowed to be ourselves. The world is turning to specialization and technological conveniences, and Costa Rica has everything to meet those needs”.
Katia and Alejandro off the clock
When asked what they do when they aren’t working, Katia answered “We really don´t have many hobbies, but we love to travel to different places. We are very open to go to interesting places and cultures. We also both love Formula 1.”
“We love to travel. This would be what we like the most. We are very open to see different cultures.”
Favorite place in Costa Rica?
“We love the Atlantic and especially Puerto Viejo. We don´t go as often as we would like, but enjoy very much when we go there.”
“I love cats,” says Katia, “and spend a lot of time taking care of my 10 cats. 7 stray cats that live inside our home with us and 3 feral cats.”
The tourism business is all about the people who make it happen. “Conversations With…” is a series we launched to help our members get to know some of the people making it happen in Costa Rica’s tourism sector.