Five Questions With Avanti Destinations Founder Harry Dalgaard

Patagonia is just one of Harry Dalgaard's favorite destinations in the world. // Photo by kavram/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Harry Dalgaard

As part of our “Five Questions With…” series, Travel Agent chats with soon-to-retire founder of Avanti Destinations, Harry Dalgaard, about his proudest accomplishments in his roles at both Avanti, as well as the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA).

Plus, Dalgaard, who plans to officially retire on June 30, shares some of his favorite destinations.

Find out what he had to say. 

1. In your 37 years at the helm of Avanti Destinations, what are some of the most significant changes in travel patterns that you’ve seen over the years?   

What are some of your proudest achievements with Avanti? 

And what are some destinations that you’ve seen evolve over the years to become hot spots for today’s travelers? 

Technology has changed travel more than anything else. It has made it incredibly easy and fast to customize travel arrangements. As we move forward, an even higher level of personalization and customization will be the key factors in winning new customers and keeping existing one.

Proudest Achievements     

The 1990 charter of a British Airways Concorde for its one and only visit to Portland. Not only was it a grand affair, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, too. Also, I’m tremendously proud that Avanti pioneered the development of dynamic packaging on the web for multi-destination global FIT itineraries.

Evolving Destinations

Belize, Iceland, Croatia and Vietnam. The changes in these countries during the course of my career have been nothing short of phenomenal. 

2. On a similar note, tell me your proudest achievement(s) with the USTOA?

The USTOA brand has become a symbol of quality, integrity and trustworthiness to the traveling public – that is a wonderful accomplishment. 

3. So, why retire now? Tell us how you came up with the decision to retire, where you would like to see Avanti evolve to after your departure and what you're planning (if anything) on doing next in the travel world? 

I’m ready to retire. I’ve accomplished all my initial goals of making multi-destination FIT travel easy to book for the travel agent community. I think of what I’ve done as being similar to creating a microbrewery. Now, we’re a brewery serving tens of thousands of clients. So it’s time to move on to my next adventure. It is my sincerest hope that Avanti continues to grow and offer easy-to-book, high-quality, authentic FIT experiences in even more destinations.

4.  What is your favorite destination in the world and why? Tell us about the best vacation you ever had there? What destination are you off to next?

There’s not just one. I have many favorite destinations. Patagonia, the fjords of Norway, the Amalfi Coast, and Paris are just a few. It all depends on my mood.

Best vacation ever with my family was a seven-day Galapagos [Islands] cruise on the [Metropolitan Tours'] Isabella II back in the early 90’s. My next trip is a private charter sailing from Split to Dubrovnik to celebrate my 70th birthday. It promises to be a terrific time.

5. Tell us about one destination that you expect to be incredibly popular in the next 3-5 years. Why hasn’t anyone heard of it until now? Why do you think it will get hot?

I’m saving that up for my next adventure. Stay tuned.

I do want to say that most American travelers typically visit only the best-known sights and capital cities. There are so many amazing secondary and smaller cities, towns and regions that deserve to be popular, that are off the beaten path, like Todi in Umbria. I could give you examples in nearly every country in Europe.

Visit and keep visiting for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260.

Want more “Five Questions with…” stories? Click here for some archives from the series. 

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