Five Questions for Andy Levine
Fourteen years ago, Andy Levine founded DuVine Adventures by taking two clients on a ride through Burgundy, France. Since that journey, DuVine has become one of the most popular tour operators in Europe, with added sojourns to South Africa, North America, Argentina and Ecuador. We asked Andy five questions about where DuVine has come from – and where cycling tours are going.
BICIKLO: Even though the global economy has not fully recovered, you’re seeing great demand for your tours. What do you think is driving that demand?
ANDY: We’re not a traditional travel company. We’re focused on an experience – not a commodity. We focus on connecting with people: guests, vendors, staff and the community of cyclists around the world. This special connection we share with travelers is driving the demand from our loyal repeat travelers. Many DuVine guests are returning every year and bringing their friends. Two words: repeat and refer. Another key issue: being small is a good thing. We didn’t need to cut overhead and we were very reactive to the needs our guests. In 2009, many large tour operators canceled tour dates well in advance of travel. We didn’t, and therefore filled those trips, as we were the only option. We were also able to hire during this year, adding ten delightful, experienced team members.
BICIKLO: What sets DuVine apart from other tour companies?
ANDY: I have respect for all adventure tour operators, as many tours are run by innovators with a love of travel, but most have reached the point of being managed by yields, not experiences. DuVine is run like a tiny restaurant you would find in Tuscany or Paris. Great staff, people that care about all the details. We always try to have our clients say “wow, how did you do that?” Each tour is like a handmade loaf of bread served with organic vegetables fresh from our garden. We don’t manage by margins. We’re ruled by experiences and our clients, and that ultimately helps the bottom line.
BICIKLO: Are you seeing any change in the kind of people signing up for your tours?
ANDY: We’re seeing travelers who love our ‘bike drink eat sleep’ concept. People who want to live the good life on a bicycle without the stress of the words ‘hurry up’. We’re also seeing more of a global clientele. Brazil, Canada and Australia are important markets for us, and our clients from those countries are also so much fun.
BICIKLO: Do you think a greater awareness of cycling worldwide is feeding the demand for cycling tours?
ANDY: Absolutely. I believe adventure travel, the healthy style of travel is important. Traveling by bicycle is not only healthy for you, but for the planet. In many segments, cycling vacations are overtaking golf vacations.
BICIKLO: What do you see as up-and-coming tour destinations?
ANDY: Norway, Jordan and Argentina. But the big three – France, Italy and Spain – will always be very strong. Cycling in those countries is like traveling in a dream.