Life as an entrepreneur is like a pinball game
The transfer expert brings around 160,000 Tyroleans and travelers from all over the world quickly and reliably to their destination.
But then came Corona. How the crisis has affected the Tyrolean family business and what new products customers can look forward to.
customers can look forward to, we found out in a conversation with Managing Director Oliver Dold.
TIROLERIN: How have you managed to keep yourself and your company at the top despite the COVID-related restrictions?
Oliver Dold: The first lockdown was like a catastrophe. We were forced to completely stop our operations overnight, and no one knew what would happen next.
knew what would happen next. I'll be quite honest, for a few days I was relatively at a loss for the first time in my life. The biggest concern was for my
employees, because in the end I had to keep an operation with almost 90 people and about 50 vehicles afloat without a cent of income.
without a cent of income. But of course, out of the initial perplexity came a plan, and thank goodness it worked. We have launched numerous
new products to the market and will continue to do so, the first news are already very positively received. During this initial phase, however, we all had a lot of time to regroup and, among other things, to devote ourselves intensively to our hobbies again. In my
case, that was playing pinball.
Why did you turn to pinball in this hopeless situation?
A few years ago I rediscovered my great youthful passion, pinball. I compare this game to life, because you can never have a smooth
and, above all, as an entrepreneur, you always have to be flexible and adapt to the market and the circumstances. Innovative strength and strong leadership are indispensable. It's much the same with pinball. You also learn to concentrate and focus. You immerse yourself in the game with all your senses - that calms me down immensely and gives me serenity.
What have you learned from this game as an entrepreneur?
As in all areas of life, if you want to achieve something, you have to show commitment, be willing to take risks, but also practice and train a lot.
And most importantly, you need a strategy.
How can you learn strategy management for your company from a pinball machine?
By learning to understand the game. There are a hundred different ways to play the ball and get to the goal. That's how I've been doing it with Four Seasons Travel for many years. When the market I'm aligned with changes, I look for new ways to get where I'm going. There are always market changes, new competitors. Unfortunately, there is also a pandemic, but I always focus on the ball I have in play at the moment. I always choose the best way for my customers and employees to reach the goal.
What new routes have you found?
During the lockdown and while the border with Bavaria was closed, we served Vienna and Zurich airports primarily for corporate customers. In the meantime, we also go to Salzburg Airport for our Tyrolean guests because there is an excellent charter offer here. In addition, we have positioned ourselves on the Salzburg market as a shuttle company with home pickup for trips to Munich Airport, and we are also getting a lot of interest here.
You spoke at the beginning about "numerous new products"?
Correct. Since July, we have been driving our bathing shuttles very inexpensively and individually to Lake Garda, to Jesolo and the surrounding area, and to Istria. Our
vehicles offer sufficient place, in order to transport also bicycles as well as climbing or sail luggage. The prices are really interesting, so you can go from 59 euros to Lake Garda or from 124 euros to Istria. With an on-line reservation one saves additionally up to 30 per cent. There the question does not place itself actually any longer whether one for a attendance in the Gardaland or to the bath vacation in Jesolo with the own car arrives.
If we once again compare the pinball game with Four Seasons: What are the strongest balls they play?
The undisputed strongest ball is understanding the individual. We serve a huge market of passengers, but not as a mass on board. This means that with us, every passenger is personally picked up from their front door, looked after and taken to their destination comfortably, quickly and safely. Our Private Class is still strongly booked and perceived, just as it was in times of the pandemic. Our customers want to travel with class and not with the masses. We also have the only shuttle service online booking platform in Tyrol: every transfer can be booked directly at www.tirol-taxi.at.
What would be your greatest dream that you would still like to fulfill?
Can I wish for more than that my family came through the pandemic in good health, that I was able to save my business and keep my employees?
and retain my employees? Then please: no more lockdown, a terrific summer and winter season in 2021, numerous satisfied Four Seasons Travelers - and, if it still works out, the new pinball machine from Guns N' Roses.
History of Four Seasons Travel
About Thorolf Dold
Thorolf Dold founded Four Seasons Travel and began supporting himself at the age of 16.
He initially earned his living as a hotel porter, skiing instructor and labourer. Then, at the age of 19, he graduated from secondary school in Innsbruck and went on to complete his military service with the High Mountain Company regiment (no. 6) in Absam.
Straight after completing his military service, Dold accepted a job as Managing Director of Wagons Lits in Innsbruck where he was responsible for the station restaurant and all the businesses in the station area.
He then went to Germany, where he went from being a tour guide to the chief tour guide of NUR Deutschland within the space of a few months.
After spending 2 years as a chief tour guide in Romania for the German tour operator Neckermann, Dold moved jobs to TUI where he soon became the area representative for the Far East, Italian Adriatic coast, the cost of West Africa from the Cameroon to the Ivory Coast and the Costa Brava. Finally, he became manager of the Tui international travel agency and then returned to Tyrol in 1972.
Here, he found employment as Managing Director of the Inner Ötztal valley tourist board with virtually unrestricted responsibilities. Within 4 years, he succeeded in increasing the number of overnight stays from below 700,000 to 1,300,000.
In order to move to Innsbruck and spend time with his mother, who lived there, he secured the post of Managing Director of the Neustift tourist board in 1976. Despite being very successful here, he decided to become self-employed in 1982.
With a starting capital of around 70,000 Austrian schillings he opened the Four Seasons Travel office, supported by his wife Britta. He quickly expanded his business, targeting tourists from the USA and Israel.
Following a decline in US tourists, Dold switched his focus to the East and began to encourage Eastern Europeans to visit Tyrol. He encouraged Österreich and Tirol Werbung to focus its advertising on the Russian market and presented their first Russian directors to the Russian travel agencies and Russian market – employed at his own expense.
He also invited in excess of 00 Russian travel agencies to Tyrol, again the expense of the Four Seasons Travel agency, where he introduced them to the tourist region of Tyrol with the help of various broad-minded hotel owners and tourist boards. This led to an ever increasing number of Russians travelling to Tyrol each year.
As part of this tapping into the Russian market, Thorolf Dold began to move away from mass tourism. He held Tyrol evenings and served food created by award-winning Tyrol chefs in a highly regarded 5-star hotel in Moscow which was always fully booked. Here, ministers and members of the Duma assembly met Tyrol representatives. As such Thorolf Dold left the other large-scale operators like TUI behind and began to serve more individual travellers and small groups from his own travel agency in Moscow.
Today, the Four Seasons Travel agency has significantly honed its approach, focusing primarily on business travel, seminar groups and study groups, especially from Russia. The company also offers expeditions into the outermost areas of Siberia, organised by the Moscow office.
The founding years
The incoming tourists required a well-functioning transfer system linking Tyrol with Munich airport and the world at large. Following numerous attempts to meet this demand by Tyrol’s taxi and bus companies, all of which fell short of the required quality level, Dold decided to set up his own transfer company with the motto ‘Your holiday begins at your front door’.
The aim of this new company was to offer a top class service with top class employees at prices equal to or below those of train travel. Of course, the first few years were difficult – Dold often drove to and from the airport himself while his wife completed the administration work, ensured that the drivers arrived on time and took telephone bookings round the clock from all over the world.
When the fleet finally reached a certain size, a night service was introduced to ensure that no driver arrived late and that the vehicles were always kept clean and technically proficient.
Four Seasons Travel has always placed a great deal of importance on the state of its vehicles – its 8-seater mini-buses and limousines are replaced every 2 years on average and are subjected to ongoing technical checks. This work was initially carried out by a mechanic employed by the company but when the fleet expanded to more than 40 vehicles during the peak season, Dold decided to assign the technical maintenance work to an external dealership.
The next step was to hire a counter at Munich airport as a fixed meeting point for arriving guests – the ever expanding scale of the airport also made this counter necessary.
The Success Story
It was at the end of the 90s that Thorolf Dold and the current managing director Oliver Dold recognised the future significance of the internet. This was at a time when many companies were not aware of the world wide web or else did not take it seriously.
Despite their employees initially failing to comprehend their approach, the two pursued the route of internet marketing and continue to do so today – with great success…
The aim from the very beginning was to ensure that bookings made over the internet could be completed easily and securely. The multi-lingual and clearly structured website design, avoiding the use of pointless animations, has helped to make sure that customers can easily make bookings made via the website.
In 2006, there were 66,950 visitors to the website which increased to 77,598 visitors in 2007 and 933,639 hits in total. Dold predicts that there will be over 100,000 visitors in 2008 with over a million hits in total. This offers all partners linked to the website the opportunity to explore new marketing avenues with Four Seasons Travel and to benefit from this successful internet presence.
Various cooperative agreements with renowned airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM, Emirates and TuiFly have also helped to strengthen and constantly expand the Four Seasons Travel internet presence and the company’s associated position on the market.
On its busiest days, the Four Seasons fleet transports over 2500 passengers safely and comfortably to their required destination with a shuttle service leading Munich airport or departing Tyrol for the airport every 10 minutes on average.
In 2006, Four Seasons Travel was named Austria’s best transfer company by Munich international airport. In regular customer surveys, passengers confirm the reliability of the serviced paired with an unrivalled price which either equals or undercuts the cost travelling with a different supplier, by train or by car.
"Progress is the realisation of utopias” – the Dold family have taken this quote by Oscar Wilde to heart and try to apply it wherever possible. The Four Seasons Travel team is a modern service company which constantly seeks to optimise itself and always wants to offer its customers a better service.