Bryan Cole: Always a Super Adventure
When you ask Bryan Cole, President of Orlando-based Super Holiday Tours, how he got involved in the travel industry, he'll tell you it happened by accident.
Though he wasn't a music major, Cole was involved in music from middle school all through college at the University of Central Florida, where he participated in the marching band and other musical programs. In 1981, the previous owner of Super Holiday Tours reached out in need of tour guides for visiting high school bands. Cole took them up on the offer and later reconnected unexpectedly after graduating college in 1984.
"Out of the blue, the company called and asked if I would like to be a travel agent," said Cole. After some initial hesitation, he accepted and recalled a statement that later proved to be true. "At one point they told me that if I stuck around long enough, it would be my business—not theirs."
When the opportunity presented itself, Cole went for it, purchasing Super Holiday Tours in 1991. Today, the company remains one of the most successful and recognizable student group travel organizations in the industry.
"I was 29 when I acquired the company, and it's been a wonderful ride all these years since," Cole said, noting how much technology has changed over time. "Everything used to be pretty manual. Even to this day, I'm amazed at how we used to do it. Technology has really made things easier for not only my company, but for everybody in the industry."
Cole's industry experience is vast, having served as the incoming SYTA president six weeks after 9/11—a challenging and uncertain time for many—and is currently on the boards of both the American Bus Association and its foundation. He doesn't refer to his peers in the industry as competitors, but colleagues, and has garnered many lessons over the years, including that it's OK to ask others for advice.
"We don't have the nuclear codes in what we do; we're not developing a cure for cancer. There really are no big secrets in our world of student travel. If there is, I'm fully unaware of it," he said. "To be able to bounce thoughts, ideas, advice—or to receive it—is one of the biggest honors I've had recently."
Giving youth the opportunity to experience and see things they may never get to again is a reason Cole says he and so many in the industry are passionate about what they do.
"There's a whole big world out there waiting to be explored. When you travel, you break down your preconceived notions of prejudice," Cole explained. "I'm a firm believer that most people throughout the world, whatever their culture and religious beliefs, want the same thing. And you don't realize that until you travel."
He encourages industry newcomers not to discount other people's experiences and to be open-minded.
"When you're young, you think you know everything ... you don't know everything," he said. "Don't discount the experience of seasoned industry veterans, whether you're a hotelier, motorcoach operator, attraction or tour operator. You don't have wisdom until you experience life."
Did You Know?
Cole is a self-proclaimed "band geek" and percussionist who played as a musician at Disney through high school and college. He still plays locally on occasion, in addition to participating in the SYTA Band and ABA Jam Band. He's also sold an airplane, flown a glider aircraft in Hawaii and has gone skydiving.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.
This article originally appeared in the Jul/Aug '23 issue of Groups Today.
Photo Courtesy of Brian Cole.