My Father, Founder & Friend
“It Doesn’t Matter Where You’re Going, It’s Who You Have Beside You.”
Early Travel Pioneer
Draper was a traveler long before it was cool. As a young man, he worked for SperryUnivac, traveling all over the country to install and maintain computer systems. I was in awe when he would win awards trip to Europe or other exotic destinations that I could only dream about. My earliest memories in elementary school include seeing photographs of him at the Eiffel Tower and visiting the hip promenade in Nice, France.
When he met June Morris, things changed. June was an up-and-coming travel agency owner with Morris Travel, and she was in the process of expanding the company’s operations to Ogden, Utah. Kent quickly saw the potential in joining forces with her, and so he left his job at Sperry to work with June. My mother, Glenda Draper managed the office.
The move turned out to be a wise one. Within a few years, Kent and June had built up a thriving corporate travel business. They were running airline tickets out of an office building on Riverdale Road in Ogden and doing quite well thanks to their hard work and dedication. However, they weren’t content to rest on their laurels. They both knew that the leisure travel market was growing rapidly and that there was room for them to get in on the action.
They started offering vacation packages and tours, and soon they were one of the leading travel agencies in northern Utah. They continued to grow their business by staying ahead of the curve and always offering their clients the best possible service. Over time, Kent and June became known as two of the most experienced and trustworthy travel agency owners in town.
I was just a young 14 year old girl when my father invited me to work at the office. We now joke there could have been a touch of child labor laws violated back then! He would always takes us on amazing vacations to Hawaii, Mexico, California or New York City.
I learned some of my most important life lessons working side by side him as a young girl.
He hired me to file brochures and I eventually graduated to ticket delivery girl and office assistant pretty much assigned to any job that nobody wanted.
By my junior year in high school, I was booking charter flights on Morris Air Service to Mexico, Hawaii and California.
At the time, I had no idea the powerhouse of minds that were training me and influencing me. I had no idea that I was literally working for the early pioneers in the aviation industry while working for my dad.
Morris Air was a low-fare airlines, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. It began operations in 1992, and was sold to Southwest Airlines in December 1993 for over $120 million in stock. The airline officially became part of Southwest in the autumn of 1994.[Morris Air was the first airline in the world to invent e-ticket (ticketless) travel based on the suggestion of Stuart Thatcher, an employee at the time. Although Southwest Airlines is often credited with offering the first e-ticketing system, it was in fact created and implemented by Morris Air and later integrated into Southwest Airlines after their purchase of Morris Air.
The airline began charter operations as Morris Air Service in 1984. It was launched by Utah businesswoman June Morris, who also founded Morris Travel in 1970, and David Neeleman who also co-founded WestJet and JetBlue. [Neeleman worked with Southwest for a short period and when his non-compete agreement expired, he founded JetBlue Airways. June Morris sat on the board of directors of Southwest Airlines until she retired at the annual shareholders’ meeting on May 17, 2006. Subsequently, I wrote my entire master’s thesis on the Diffusion of Southwest Airlines in 1994 when it was on the rise to making real change in the airlines industry with a low cost segment model.
Senior year of high school I was shipped off for a couple of weeks to San Francisco to train at the United Airlines school to learn their new Apollo system.
Kent travelled the world with suppliers and often I would join him as my mom suffered from a rheumatoid arthritis and all too often couldn’t travel with him. This early trips around the word instilled in me the love of the business and built a bond with the two of us that couldn’t be replaced.
The exotic places and interesting cultures we sold always fascinated me. I would sit for hours dreaming about the day that I could go explore the world myself. As it turns out, my childhood dream became a reality. But it wasn’t thanks to some fancy travel advisors or extravagant tour group. It was all thanks to those early pioneers in the travel industry, especially my father who showed us that anyone could see the world if they just tried.
In 1987 Morris Travel acquired Bountiful’s Faldmo Tours, Ogden’s Fishburn Travel, TourWest in Utah County, Logan’s Travel Chalet, and Salt Lake City’s Travel Express, five agencies that had been incorporated in 1984 under the name Travel Express. That acquisition increased corporate sales some $30 million to reach approximately $90 million. At the same time, June Morris sold Morris Travel to two company officers and Travel Express shareholders. Since Travel Express had become a franchise of the national travel chain called Ask Mr. Foster, the newly merged firm became known as Morris/Ask Mr. Foster.
Through the series of mergers and acquisitions, Draper became the vice-president of marketing of Morris Travel, which operated travel agencies throughout the western United States.
Before the merger with Travel Express, Morris Travel was Utah’s largest travel agency, but the merger resulted in the company’s first major sales outside of Salt Lake.
Morris made Richard Frendt its new president in the 1987 reorganization. However, in 1989 Morris Travel elected Mark Slack as its new president and the following year made him the CEO and chairman of the board.
Morris Travel in was sold in 1995, at which time Morris had 50+ offices and over 400 employees. At the same time, Tragedy hit the travel agency sector with the massive commission cuts by the airlines in the early 90’s Agencies all over the United States were forced to close their doors or consolidate. With the merger and aquistion, Draper left Morris Travel and started Trips Inc. with Angela Hughes in a small bountiful office with a handful of independent contractors.
Draper made the quick move to open a boutique tour and cruise brick and mortar shop. We made the collective decision to move away from the airlines and focus on what we knew best, tours and cruising.
The rest is history, since 1994 we have grown and built our boutique luxury agency to meet the needs of our changing clientele.
Our longevity and experience through the roughest world climates has taught us many valuable business lessons that continue to make us better everyday.
Together, we have travelled the world visiting Japan, Israel, Peru, Chile, Dubai, Egypt, China, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Austria, Italy, France, Czech, Hungary, Poland, Greece, Spain, Mexico and locally travelled the United States together.
Kent has always loved skiing and built a good share of his business right inside the gondola at Snowbasin Ski Resort in Utah.
Regularly, he escorted groups around the world and loved cruising.
My dad knew how to build strategic partnerships enable teams to bring the best of their talent and strengths forward.
He passed on those strengths to me!
My father lived a life of integrity every day; with his partners, employees, suppliers, travel advisors, and travel agencies. I remember traveling with him from an early age, and no matter where in the world we went, we were never alone.
We would always feel the love, whether visiting local partners for lunch, or dinner at their homes or meeting with families and friends of his colleagues.
It was never about business first. It was about friendship, trust, loyalty, and oh by the way, how is business? He taught me that every person and every business has unique strengths, so narrow in and hone in on your partnership strategy to play to those strengths and you will shine.
Some of my greatest life lessons were learned sitting on trains to Poland or in an empty Machu Picchu after the daily tourists left.
My fondest memory of our travels together include a tiger safari in India.
My father is now 84 and retired but he still finds time to travel and continues to give valuable input where needed.
He will always be considered a pioneer in the travel agency industry. His in-depth knowledge and relationships with suppliers continues to live on.
Often, I run into colleagues in the industry who still remember working with him from ages ago and they all remark what an incredible person he was to do business with.
His integrity, kindness and ability to change lives through
travel will continue to be his legacy!