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The world at her doorstep

Cheryl Chivers busy at work at Travel Travel in the Washington Square Mall. Photo by - Paula Quam1 / 2
Cheryl Chivers helped navigate her business, Travel Travel, through tough times in the early 2000s. Photo by - Paula Quam2 / 2

Cheryl Chivers is packing her bags tonight.

"I'm leaving at 3 a.m. for a girls' trip to Palm Springs," she said, excitedly. One might think that the woman who helped create Travel Travel in Detroit Lakes 33 years ago would be tired of the word "travel." Not so.

"I love the history of different places and learning the different cultures when you travel," said.

Chivers has seemed to especially embrace the Caribbean and the country of Belize.

But Chivers wasn't always a travel gal. A Minneapolis native, she started out in fashion sales and marketing, then worked in the restaurant business for several years. But when she moved to Detroit Lakes, business as usual would change.

The charismatic, brown-eyed young lady married Real Estate Broker Jack Chivers, and the two of them bought an already existing tour company in the Graystone building called "Lake Region Travel."

They renamed their business Travel Travel of Detroit Lakes, then proceeded to give it a sister company, called "Magnum Belize Tours" -- a wholesale business that works with other travel agencies throughout the country to book Belize trips.

"We chose Belize because the country wasn't really visited by a lot of tourists yet, and we knew it was a great opportunity to open it up for a destination place for diving, snorkeling, rainforest ecotourism..." said Chivers, who adds there were maybe 25 resorts there when she started Magnum Belize.

"Now there are around 225, and we have such a great relationship with them there -- we go every year and are the No. 1 tour operator that works exclusively for Belize."

And although Jack Chivers went his own way both personally and professionally, Cheryl stayed the course with Travel Travel, running the business and finding ways to make it thrive. But it hasn't always been smooth travels for Chivers, as the travel industry as a whole took quite a hit on 9-11.

"That was tough, especially the first year," said Chivers, who says she had to try to think of different types of marketing to capture the trust with Americans again.

"We had to let them know that you can go out; you can travel; you can go out and do this -- it's going to be OK."

And it was. Chivers navigated her business through the hard times; and even through many travel agencies closed their doors at the turn of the century, the only place Travel Travel went was a block away -- to the Washington Square Mall.

Great traffic and great visibility helped Chivers, but so did what she calls "a great staff."

"The internet never really hurt us (like it did many other travel businesses) because people wanted our service, our expertise and our knowledge," said Chivers, who says she has an intelligent, professional staff of seven that works to ensure clientele stay happy.

"Because that's what it's all about -- I just love to make people happy," said Chivers. "I love that I get to help make people's dreams come true ... to get to know them and help them figure out what it is that they want. Do they need all-inclusive or do they want a smaller, more boutique-style resort? It's fun -- I just love my job."

And yes, she admits part of her love also comes from the personal perks. When she travels, she tends to get wined and dined as resorts fight for her recommendations.

"Yeah, that's fun," she laughed, "I just love going around a destination and looking for things that it has to offer people."

But just because Chivers has her share of frequent flier miles, doesn't mean she's satisfied just yet.

"My goal is to get to Italy," she said, speaking wistfully of the historic and romantic country, and adding that she has had a companion of 13 years now.

"And I just love to travel with him and our group of good friends. It's exciting, and that's why I love what I do so much, because when we get to hear how excited and happy our clients are, it makes us happy, too."