David Alwadish of ItsEasy Passport & Visa: “Help People Become Their Own Travel Authorities”

Even with the mass introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine and potential herd immunity predicted in the coming months, the pandemic is going to continue to rule our travel plans for the next year or two. As travelers gear up for summer trips, it’s going to be important for them to become familiar with the destinations […]

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Even with the mass introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine and potential herd immunity predicted in the coming months, the pandemic is going to continue to rule our travel plans for the next year or two. As travelers gear up for summer trips, it’s going to be important for them to become familiar with the destinations they’re interested in visiting — much more than they would need to be in a regular travel season.

As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Alwadish, CEO and founder of ItsEasy Passport & Visa.

ItsEasy started in 1976 when David Alwadish dropped off a friend’s passport application because they couldn’t leave work. This simple gesture of friendship sparked an idea for an entire industry: How do you make passport and visa processes easier and more convenient for day-to-day travelers. Fast forward 40 years, with three offices in New York City, and service centers in Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Denver, and additional processing centers located in key cities, ItsEasy is one of the largest and most established names in the business.

David’s passion for customer service has driven ItsEasy to be at the forefront of the most advanced technology available, including real time order tracking, comprehensive communication channels including 24/7/365 live phone, chat, and text coverage, automated email updating, and the highest levels of digital security available. In addition, ItsEasy pushes industry leading technological breakthroughs like our award-winning smartphone app that makes passport renewals a breeze.

ItsEasy’s commitment to being the best in the business is driven by David’s desire to provide the highest quality passport and/or visa experience. We are reminded every day that ItsEasy is more than our name, it’s our promise to you.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My father was an entrepreneur growing up. He owned a group of auto schools in NYC. Of course, there were no computers 40 years ago, so one of the things he did was go to the DMV for people. I used to work at his auto school and gravitated toward the paperwork side of the business, much more so than the driving school. I really enjoyed renewing drivers licenses, auto registrations, and getting license plates and as I was graduating college in NYC I saw a need for helping people with their passports and visas as well.

There happened to be a passport agency a block away from his Rockefeller Center office and there were always lines, I knew I could help people avoid wasting their time. ItsEasy Passport and Visa was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Years ago, I had a young woman come into my office to drop off her boyfriend’s passport for expedited renewal. This woman was going on about how in love she was with this man, so she decided to surprise him with a cruise that was departing the following day — hence the need for the emergency passport renewal.

The next day, she came back with her boyfriend to pick up the renewed passport and depart for their trip. Unfortunately, it was rejected because the man had not paid child support. The worst part? The young woman didn’t know her boyfriend was previously married or had a child. Needless to say, the two of them did not end up going on the surprise vacation together.

From my 40+ years in the travel industry, I’ve met a lot of people, many with interesting stories to share. I have to say, this particular story falls under one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in my career.

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 remember in my second year of business, during a cold winter New York day in January, I was offered my first ever, high-level business meeting in New Jersey with the senior executives from Liberty Travel. They set up the meeting date and time and I confirmed that I would be there for the meeting. I was beyond excited. I couldn’t stop thinking about this dream opportunity to provide passport and visa services to one of the top travel agency groups.

As soon as I got home, I proceeded straight to my wonderful basement apartment to prepare the outfit I was going to wear for this executive meeting with Liberty Travel. I pulled out the only suit I had….a bright, 5-year-old royal blue suit, and matched it up to a white shirt and a big pink bow tie.

I put the outfit on, slipped into white socks to match my white shiny faux leather loafers and proceeded upstairs to ask my parents how they thought I looked for this important meeting. While my dad thought I looked “good”, I could immediately tell by my mom’s expression that while she absolutely adored her son, she thought I looked like a “total dork.”

It was quickly unanimous that I needed new business attire and a handsome pair of black shoes. That Saturday my mom took me to some fine stores and treated me to a new corporate outfit and shoes. I was beyond excited for my meeting.

So excited in fact, that on the following Thursday I woke up early, put on my new business outfit, drove to Ramsey, NJ and proceeded to enter the Liberty Travel Corporate Offices for my meeting. I sat down in the reception room and waited until I was told by the lovely receptionist that I was there a week early and I should return the same time the following Thursday which was the correct date of the meeting.

From that day forward, I always Dressed for Success and I never got an appointment date or due date wrong. I was always on time, and, until I found girlfriends with exceptionally good taste in men’s clothes I always had professional stylists at Bloomingdales or Saks help me dress for success.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

I think in any industry, presenting a united front is key. In this particular line of business, everyone does their own thing, and we are victims of the whim of the Department of State which closed services for months on end.

If the industry were more united, we could have pressured the Department of State to open sooner or keep some services going throughout the pandemic.

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?

I am very old school, and it is all because of my father and grandmother.

Because of my Grandmother who was too tough and too strong to be denied, we all lived in a 2 family house while I was growing up. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that made a huge impact on my childhood and I learned a lot from them.

She ran a business that was the largest manufacturer of children’s pajamas at the time. I inherited her work ethic, which was second to none. She used to tell stories about my grandfather walking across the Brooklyn bridge to sell a few aprons or anything he could to support the family.

My father owned many businesses including parking garages and auto schools. One day, right after I received my driver’s license, I went to work with my father at the auto school and one of the instructors didn’t show up. It was too late to call the customer, so as if it was an everyday thing, he took the keys off the wall and said give Mrs. Wilson a one hour lesson. She was definitely surprised given how young I was but he said if you don’t like Dave, we’ll give you a full refund.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but we had such a great lesson. When we got back to the office, she said, “I want to book another lesson and I want him!”

If I didn’t have them in my life I do not think I would have been so hungry or hardworking as I still am today.

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?

ItsEasy Passport & Visa started in 1976 when I dropped off a friend’s passport application because they couldn’t leave work, and to everyone’s surprise it worked!

More than 40 years, with three offices in New York and service centers in Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Denver, and additional processing centers located in key cities, ItsEasy is one of the largest and most established companies in the industry.

We have continued to innovate, providing the most advanced technology in our industry including real time order tracking, on-line chat services, automated email updating, a fully dynamic website feeding off the most up-to-date requirement changes, and the highest levels of digital security available. ItsEasy has a dedicated team of specialists ready to assist you in any way they can 24/7 with the industry’s best and only primary and extended hours call center.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, ItsEasy quickly pivoted to create the ItsEasy Passport App, the only COVID-safe way to renew a passport. For just $34.95, travelers can renew their passport, with photos included, all from the safety of their home.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

ItsEasy Passport & Visa was created to help people get time back in their day by renewing their passports and visas on their behalf. We offer this service at a much lower cost than other competitors in the industry because I am extremely passionate about giving back to others and helping them in any way I can. Too often, passport renewal services are hundreds of dollars for travelers, but it doesn’t need to be this way.

The ItsEasy Passport App solves the pain point of people trying to renew their passport in person. When the pandemic started, the Department of State shut down all passport renewals, other than life and death emergencies. As travel starts to reopen a year later, the renewal process is still extremely delayed — 10–12 weeks vs. the typical 4–6. For people looking to travel this year, the time to start the renewal process is now, and our Five-star rated app allows travelers to do this from the comfort and safety of their homes.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

ItsEasy Passport & Visa provides a way for travelers to renew their passports without ever visiting a physical passport renewal office. By providing a simple, cost effective way for people to renew their passports, they will have more time to spend on the things they love — like traveling. It also makes expediting passports accessible for people across the country who live hundreds of miles from a passport office. We hand deliver their documents to the agency offices, so those in more remote areas do not have to fly or drive in order to get a passport renewal expedited.

ItsEasy is also disrupting the status quo by making this concierge service affordable and accessible for anyone. Other companies charge $180 and above for similar services that do not include photos or shipping. After the travel industry was hit so hard by the pandemic, it’s important for those of us in the industry to do what we can to get people traveling safely and affordably again when the time comes.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 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?

Help People Become Their Own Travel Authorities

Even with the mass introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine and potential herd immunity predicted in the coming months, the pandemic is going to continue to rule our travel plans for the next year or two. As travelers gear up for summer trips, it’s going to be important for them to become familiar with the destinations they’re interested in visiting — much more than they would need to be in a regular travel season.

To ease the time-consuming nature of travel planning and research, travel and hospitality companies should get ready to provide essential information to customers looking to visit a particular destination. Travelers will want to know the rules and regulations, starting with what each airline is requiring, including mask requirements, as well as how long the flight is. People will also look at whether each destination or airline requires a COVID vaccination or quarantine on arrival to that city. As they consider visiting a particular resort, some will heavily consider those that make the quarantine or testing process simple — some places even offer free COVID testing a day before returning to the United States.

Supporting the Return of Travel

Working on passport renewals, I am often able to learn from my customers where they are planning to travel on their upcoming trips. Over the last month, ItsEasy Passport App has increased downloads by 277%, showing that people are getting ready to start traveling again. My friends who are travel agents have seen a similar increase in requests.

After the lockdown and last year in general, it’s clear that some people just need to get away for a vacation to refresh and reset. That being said, there are still concerns over catching the virus, so travel and hospitality industries should get ready to support this return of travel in a safe manner, when the time is right. Even once things go back to “normal,” there will still need to be health and safety measures in place to keep guests and employees safe at all times and provide a sense of security for those ready to travel again.

Prepare Now for a Smooth Transition to “Normal”

Once travel fully returns, travel and hospitality industries need to be prepared for the influx of bookings and requests that will likely flood in. By encouraging travelers to plan ahead and giving them all of the information they need in advance, companies will be better equipped to handle the increase in travel that’s headed our way.

A great example of this is in the passport industry, where expedited renewals that used to be completed in a matter of days are now taking 4–6 weeks. Non-expedited renewals are taking 10–12 weeks, rather than the usual 4–6 weeks processing time that most people are used to. For travelers who may have expedited their passports ahead of an international trip in the past, it is not an option right now. It’s important to understand current delays at passport agencies during the pandemic. At ItsEasy, we are doing everything we can to encourage people to renew their passports now, because it’s only going to get more delayed once travel opens up entirely again.

Vaccination Required?

As travel and hospitality companies prepare for increased travel, they should start considering what their plan is for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated travelers.

For example, Hawaii already announced that it is working to implement a digital health pass to allow vaccinated travelers to skip quarantine when entering the state, and Israel is implementing a similar idea to provide access to gyms, bars and other amenities. Conversations around digital health passes are coming up all the time in the travel industry, and it’s important that each destination adjust its plan to keep this ever-evolving discussion in mind.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

For myself, the perfect vacation experience is being in love with the person you’re going with. Whether it’s a road trip across the country, which has always been on my bucket list, or a trip to a tropical destination, it’s most important for me to be there with a person I care about.

For others looking for the perfect vacation experience, I recommend going on a well-planned trip. Tours and other pre-planned activities are a great way to meet new people!

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

While the service I offer at ItsEasy doesn’t bring direct goodness, I try to do the best I can to bring out the human side in others, to make things less stressful for people and help people in emergencies regardless of whether I am paid for it or not.

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. 🙂

I have always been moved by those who haven’t had the proper parental leadership figures and when someone doesn’t have two parents, so many younger people grow up without a good role model and they don’t get the guidance they need. I work to inspire others on how to be more entrepreneurial and less self destructive, to develop what’s inside of them and give them the tools and information to become successful.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow ItsEasy updates on our website and social media channels, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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