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Meet Shelley Williams of Great Exploration Tours

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelley Williams.

Shelley, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a former banker at Bank of America in its corporate banking division. On 911, we were evacuated from the Bank of America Tower in Midtown. I didn’t sleep well for days, I reevaluated my life and career and decided to take a risk and follow my passion.

My career at the bank was going well, but I knew I wanted to work for myself. I’m a born entrepreneur, I was that kid on the block with the lemon aid stand. Four months after 911, I quit my job at BofA and moved to the US Virgin Islands, I didn’t look back and I haven’t regretted yet. While in the Virgin Islands I learned the tour business from my Husband. Who ran his family owned company for over 20 years. In 2016 a family illness required me to relocate back to Atlanta. Our company has established great partnerships with two major players in the online tour business. I pitched them the idea of opening shop here in Atlanta and they were on board, and very excited about the collaboration.

Has it been a smooth road?
Learning the ropes in Atlanta. Operating a tourism business in the US Virgin Island is a different ball game, all we do is tourism there and we do it well, relatively easy business to run. Atlanta tourism is total different, and learning what will be successful has been a challenge. One of the most serious obstacles I’ve faced is large corporations run the tourism market here, a small company like mine doesn’t even get the opportunity to set at the table to show our abilities to provide excellent services.

There are many companies out there that talk a good game about wanting to support diverse business and they outline a strategic plan, but when the decision maker or the gate keeper for these programs won’t return your call that’s a problem. I can’t take them serious, which is not only a challenge for my company but other women and minority own business too.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Great Exploration Tours story. Tell us more about the business.
Great Exploration Tours is a tour company, as a family-owned business operating for the past 20+ years, we have worked with some of the top names in the industry. We are proud to say that we go above and beyond to offer all our customers the best experiences. We do so through a personalized experience, a dedicated selection of destinations and an appealing package of services ranging from Concierge Services, Destination Tour Packages and Cultural Heritage Tours, to Historical Tours, Family Excursions and Group Tour Packages. Our tours and day trips are the perfect overview of each destination’s history, culture, activities, scenic views and cuisine.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
According to U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. travel and tourism industry generated over $1.5 trillion in economic output in 2016. Equally, tourism is big business in Georgia, especially Atlanta. Our industry is closely tied to the economy as long as the economy stays strong our industry will continue to grow. Right now, tourism in Atlanta is focused on people visiting Atlanta for meetings and conferences. With the building of major tourist attractions, downtown like the Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coca Cola, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum and CNN, etc. I do see an increase in the leisure tourism industry in Atlanta. We also have seen an increase in our international tourist clients. for future local industry growth, I believe it to be a miss opportunity not to capitalize on the hip hop industry here in Atlanta as a major tourism generator. We have seen what country Music has done for Nashville, and Jazz for New Orleans, and Graceland and the Blues has done for Memphis. I believe Hip Hop Music can do the same for Atlanta.

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1 Comment

  1. Diana Parker

    December 21, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Ms. Williams is one of the smartest business persons that I know, male or female. She puts customers or clients first always. I worked for her in St. Thomas Virgin, Island. Watch out Atlanta!!

    Diana Parker

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