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|Nassau Guardian - William Saunders, Majestic Tours|
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|Posted by:||Feb 26th 2004, 02:20:45 pm|
|chapel||Majestic tours voted number one by Expedia.com
By Diane Phillips
Majestic Tours, a family-operated business that coordinated the movement of more than 300,000 visitors to The Bahamas last year, has been named the world's best – the 2003 Transfer Company of the Year by Expedia.com.
"It was quite an honour to be named the number one transfer company in the whole world by Expedia.com, which is considered the world's top online travel company," said William Saunders, Majestic president and founder.
It was also a surprise.
The award was presented to Mr. Saunders at a dinner sponsored by Expedia during the recent Caribbean Hotel Association meeting in Puerto Rico.
"I had gotten an e-mail from Expedia saying please attend this banquet we are hosting. So I went, but I never expected anything like this. When they announced 2003 Transfer Company of the Year Majestic Tours, I was stunned. It was the only one they gave out in that category for the world so to be number one world-wide was just unbelievable. I was so proud."
For Mr. Saunders, the international recognition and good news was quickly followed by disaster. The paperwork supporting and explaining his award was still in his briefcase when he arrived home shortly after 10 pm a few days later and was confronted in his driveway by four masked men, one armed with a sawed-off shotgun.
They tied him, gagged him, dragged him and threatened to kill him. One of the men talked another out of murder, but they took everything in his possession, $120 cash, his wallet, cellphone and the briefcase containing valuable papers, including information about the award that comes once in a lifetime following a lifetime of work.
Robbers did not get the plaque. Nor did they steal his pride and conviction about what makes for success.
"I want this story told so young people coming up behind me know they can do it, too," said the 75-year-old man, his normally quick smile marred by the bruises his attackers left as a calling card. And, sitting in a crowded unpretentious office he shares with his son at Cumberland House, where he climbs three flights of stairs many times a day, he told his story.
"I came from nothing, I had nothing," said Mr. Saunders, raised by a single parent in a house on Mackey Street without electricity or indoor plumbing. He had to leave school at 14 to help support his mother. In his late 20s, he turned to someone for help.
"In 1958, my wife was working for Mr. Norman Solomon as a manager and he backed a note for me to get my first vehicle," Mr. Saunders said. "And for that, I would like to pay my respects to Mr. Solomon." He recalls his first passengers. "I picked up a couple from the airport and drove them to the Emerald Beach Hotel. In those days, once you met a taxi driver, you stuck with him throughout your stay." Later, he took them on a city tour and to their Sea Gardens cruise. Round trip transfers to the airport, the tour and the cruise came to about $33 per person. He worked day and night and one vehicle led to a second, a second to a third. Today, Saunders' Majestic Tours fleet numbers 61, ranging from mini-buses to large luggage trucks. He has 132 employees – and the support of his daughter and two sons, all of whom work with him in the business. He has a travel agency, a boat cruise that takes visitors to a fantasy-like beach experience on Rose Island. He's won every major award there is locally, including Cacique, and he's on many industry boards, including the Bahamas Hotel Association and Nassau Tourism & Development Board. He travels constantly and his advice about travel industry policies and customer relations is often sought.
"The message I want to send," he says, "to people coming behind me, young people, is they can do it. I had nothing. All I had was determination, tenacity and honesty. That's all they need." That, and the willingness to work night and day.
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