Immerse in Local Culture: Encouraging travelers to connect with local communities is essential. This can be achieved by organizing cultural activities, interactions with locals, or experiences that allow travelers to gain insights into the destination’s traditions and way of life.
As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Carfagnini.
As COO of Wingbuddy, Michael oversees the strategic and operational planning and execution of the fast-growing travel company that offers curated, hassle-free, and rich travel experiences to customers across North America and Europe. With over 18 years of experience in finance and operations, he has a proven track record of generating bottom-line contribution and customer satisfaction across industries.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my career performing financial audits as an accountant which does not shout adventure and fun but it was a phenomenal learning opportunity. This allowed me to see many companies and understand how they operate while meeting various people. I noticed I became increasingly fascinated about what made companies successful and noticed some commonalities around sound operations and great people. I continued my career in related roles but always gravitated to the business side, seeking opportunities to favorably impact the companies I worked for. Talking with Chris Hakim, Wingbuddy’s founder and CEO, I was struck by his focus on Wigbuddy’s customers and his team. This dedication combined with his evident passion for travel and connecting is what confirmed my decision to be a part of the journey!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Genuinely caring about people and showing curiosity opens up amazing opportunities. In one memorable experience earlier in my career, I was working on an engagement in Prince Edward Island, Canada and was invited to see the home and farm of one of our clients. As he showed me around I was taken by the beauty of his “backyard” which was the stunning Malpeque Bay where we picked fresh oysters and talked about his work to get there and how he always made time for family and friends. We all get busy in life and prioritizing what you value is one distinguishing factor about what I consider the real successful people accomplish.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was in a meeting with senior management executives and shared an opinion very openly that was not especially appreciated. I was unaware and naive about how this should be done in such a professional and hierarchical organization. This made me realize that being a part of an organization where everyone can share their points of view respectfully and with the intent to drive a better outcome is where I wanted to be growing my career. Thankfully this is something that we promote at Wingbuddy as we consider it best for our team and also recognize it’s best for our clients as we can learn from everyone who shares ideas from their direct interactions and experiences.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
One of the executives in that last story shared the importance of building a pyramid rather than a ladder in your career. This signified the importance of having a solid foundation that does not topple easily. I have kept that lesson throughout my career and it has reminded me to be patient which helped me arrive at my current role which is where I feel truly fulfilled. I value the confidence and trust I have from Chris which allows me to make important decisions quickly that are aligned with Wingbuddy’s priorities and Chris’ vision of making travel accessible to as many people as possible.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
As the COO of Wingbuddy, I’m proud to say that we’re spearheading several innovative initiatives in the travel industry. We’re harnessing the power of data-driven insights to understand traveler preferences and behaviors better, allowing us to tailor our offerings to provide travelers with precisely what they desire, whether it’s a culturally immersive adventure or a relaxing beach getaway.
We continue to invest significantly in cutting-edge technology to simplify travel, making it a ‘one click’ process, ensuring that every aspect of travel from booking to the journey is seamless and hassle-free, enhancing the overall travel experience. While less buzzy, sometimes less innovative solutions like picking up the phone and talking to a client can drive huge value so balance is critical to our continued success.
We’re also committed to sustainability in the travel industry. We’re actively exploring eco-friendly initiatives and partnering with eco-conscious suppliers to minimize our environmental footprint. Our goal is to contribute positively to the destinations we serve while providing travelers with responsible and enriching experiences.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Deciding on your next travel destination, planning hotels, transportation, and excursions is a major pain point. Wingbuddy aims to make this simple, showcasing amazing destinations where you can choose the level of organization that suits your travel preferences from a freedom tour where you get to decide what you do once you have arrived to a fully organized tour where you follow a prepared itinerary including the best of that destination with some free time to explore at your leisure.
Our approach is to streamline and simplify the entire travel planning process harnessing the power of data-driven insights and remembering that travel is a human experience that does not get replicated by technology so immersing yourself in rich new cultures and creating memories is what makes our industry so special.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
That period of time reminded us how important connecting with people and places is for all of us. Our industry is fortunate to have the privilege of showcasing this to thousands of travelers and we take that responsibility very seriously, always seeking ways to improve. We truly believe that travel is more than just a journey; it’s a way to build awareness, understanding, and a global sense of togetherness.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Balance is always my objective. My ideal vacation involves a blend of adventure and relaxation, and this desire is deeply rooted in my personal experiences and aspirations. Drawing inspiration from my own hectic schedule and the challenge of finding time to plan vacations, I understand the craving for a getaway that seamlessly combines exploration and tranquility. Wingbuddy seeks to offer travelers the kind of vacations I’ve longed for — ones that involve exploring but are still easy-going, allowing them to let go, unwind, and fully enjoy the experience.
For me, the perfect vacation is about more than just checking off tourist attractions; it’s about immersing oneself in a new culture, savoring local cuisine, and basking in the natural beauty of the destination. I believe that the ideal vacation strikes a harmonious balance between discovery and rejuvenation. It’s about creating memories that last a lifetime while leaving behind the stress and hassle of planning.
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
Certainly, at Wingbuddy, we wholeheartedly believe that travel is not just about escaping but also about connecting, both with oneself and with others.
In today’s fast-paced world, where the demands of work and other commitments can be relentless, travel can help individuals disconnect from their busy lives and prioritize their mental well-being. This could be while marveling at the Alhambra in Spain, enjoying delectable food in Kyoto, or being inspired by the ingenuity of the Incas while at Machu Picchu.
Our goal is to provide travelers with packages that go beyond traditional vacations and provide everyone with a reason to disconnect while making that process hassle-free.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
Creating a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more involves several key principles that we’ve learned from our experience at Wingbuddy:
- Immerse in Local Culture: Encouraging travelers to connect with local communities is essential. This can be achieved by organizing cultural activities, interactions with locals, or experiences that allow travelers to gain insights into the destination’s traditions and way of life.
- Seamless Booking and Travel: Making the entire travel process hassle-free is crucial. This includes efficient and user-friendly booking systems, as well as ensuring that every aspect of the trip, from transportation to accommodations, is well-organized and stress-free.
- Safety and Transparency: Prioritizing safety is paramount. Travel providers should communicate transparently about health and safety measures in place, partnering with trusted accommodations and services that adhere to strict safety protocols to ensure traveler confidence.
- Feedback and Improvement: Continuously seeking feedback from travelers is essential for improvement. This ongoing dialogue allows travel providers to adapt and enhance their offerings based on real experiences and preferences, ultimately leading to more satisfying journeys. We truly believe that feedback is a gift and that’s why this is something that we have set a very high standard for at Wingbuddy and aim to be in the top 5% of companies that not only seek feedback but do something with it and then communicate back what actions we have taken and any results we can share.
- Authenticity and Local Insights: Providing travelers with authentic and immersive experiences that allow them to gain deeper insights into the local culture and environment is invaluable. This can be achieved by offering guided tours led by knowledgeable locals, supporting local artisans and businesses, and emphasizing authentic culinary experiences that showcase the flavors of the region. Travelers often seek genuine connections with the destinations they visit, and offering these authentic experiences can leave a lasting impression and encourage repeat visits.
These principles, grounded in our experiences at Wingbuddy, have consistently contributed to our success in creating travel experiences that leave a lasting impression on our clients and keep them coming back for more.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Here are some ways we’ve leveraged our success to make a positive impact:
- Supporting Local Communities: We believe in responsible tourism. Our success has allowed us to contribute to the well-being of local communities in the destinations we operate in. Whether it’s supporting local artisans or collaborating with community-based initiatives, we aim to leave a positive footprint.
- Environmental Responsibility: We recognize our responsibility to protect the environment. As we grow, we’re investing in eco-friendly travel options and supporting conservation efforts.
- Promoting Cultural Exchange: Travel is a powerful tool for cultural understanding. Our success enables us to create opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to connect, fostering tolerance and appreciation for different cultures.
- Education and Awareness: We’re dedicated to promoting awareness about responsible travel. We aim to instill a sense of responsibility and respect for the places our travelers visit.
Our commitment to using our success for the greater good is at the heart of our values and mission. It reflects our belief that the travel industry can be a powerful force for positive change in the world, and we are dedicated to continuing our efforts to make a meaningful difference in the lives of communities, the environment, and global cultural understanding.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could initiate a movement that would have a far-reaching positive impact, it would be centered around the belief in the transformative power of travel and knowledge to help educate and inform people which helps combat ignorance. At Wingbuddy, we firmly believe that curiosity is a powerful force for change. We understand that prejudice can often stem from ignorance, and by making travel accessible, we aim to spark curiosity toward one another and open channels for dialogue and understanding.
Our vision is to make travel accessible to everyone, allowing them to flourish through the knowledge of others and the world. We envision a movement where travel becomes a tool to foster interest, curiosity, and empathy, rather than letting ignorance breed prejudice. By providing opportunities for people from all backgrounds to explore and connect, we hope to contribute to a world where not only is diversity celebrated but used to make all of us stronger, more informed, and genuinely happier.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can connect with me and stay updated on our travel adventures and innovations through our official social media channels:
Facebook — wingbuddy
Instagram — wingbuddy
LinkedIn — personal
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!