If you’ve met Hans Paap, you already know he’s a conversationalist. You probably also know it’s that very same character trait that enables him to have connections worldwide—connections that allow you things like early admission to the Vatican so you’re standing in front of the Sistine Chapel with six other people instead of 200. Or when you’re in a foreign country and you don’t speak the native language, Hans’s connection with the general manager of the hotel will walk up to your table to greet you in English and offer to answer any questions you have, as well as bring you a complimentary beverage.
Hans and his wife Maureen own Art of Hospitality Travel, a custom luxury travel business that has helped EO members for years. From personal vacations to forum retreats and more, AOH Travel ensures you have an unforgettable experience.
His (and Her) Story
Hans and Maureen met and married in Austin, Texas. He has a culinary degree and work experience in various hospitality roles, and she has a marketing degree and experience in the travel and events industry—complementary backgrounds that would align well for more than just marriage.
In 2011, Hans and Maureen decided to take a hiatus from their careers for an eight-month road trip through Mexico and Central America. When they returned, Maureen’s passion for travel had been reignited, and she began working in the custom luxury travel business.
As her workload—and their family—grew, Maureen needed a teammate, and Hans was looking for a career change. “We wanted flexibility as a family to travel together,” he explains. “And when I’m working a nine-to-five job, going to Italy for three weeks becomes very hard. But if we’re working together, then we can work from anywhere and work for ourselves. She had been wanting to go out on her own, and with me on board, we decided to start a new company.”
In the spring of 2017, Art of Hospitality (AOH) Travel was born. But that wasn’t the only major shift in the Paaps’ life that year—they also moved from Austin to Chicago, allowing the couple and their son to be closer to Maureen’s family.
The travel-loving couple now has two sons, and they enjoy roles as both entrepreneurs and “Mom and Mr. Mom,” as Hans puts it.
The year 2017 was also when AOH Travel became an EO Chicago Knowledge Partner. “My wife had been doing work for the local EO Austin chapter—both forum retreats and personal travel for some of the members,” Hans explains. “And when we got to Chicago and we started AOH Travel, we asked for an introduction to the Chicago chapter. It was a good fit for us, and we have been a Knowledge Partner ever since.”
AOH Travel has helped EO plan travel for the Global Leadership Conference (GLC) the last few years, along with travel for forum retreats and chapter retreats. “We handled a forum retreat for an Auckland forum who was coming to Chicago—we planned their trip all the way from New Zealand here,” Hans says, adding that AOH Travel works with chapters all around the country—and occasionally internationally, like the Auckland group.
“When it comes to popular retreats, private villas and homes in Mexico are at the top of the list,” he says. “When you go on forum retreat, you want to be able to be together, and it can be hard to find a nice seven-bedroom property in, say, downtown Chicago. But Mexico has no shortage of super luxurious homes at a good value in popular destinations—whether it’s Cabo or Riviera Maya. [We arrange to] have a private chef come in, cook most of your meals for you, and you can go and do your deep-sea fishing, your ATVing, and things like that.”
One of Hans’s favorite retreats to plan was a trip to Guatemala. “It was a four-day trip for an Oklahoma City forum, and they went down to Guatemala and did a helicopter ride out to Lake Atitlan where they had a complete buy-out of a hotel. They explored the lake, they did a sunrise hike up a volcano to watch the sunrise. On their way back to Antigua, they stopped at Mayan ruins and had a shaman give them a spiritual awakening ceremony. And then we tied it together with a local micropub business where they got to make their own beers with a beautiful view overlooking the volcanoes.”
The Current State of Travel
It’s no secret that travel has been difficult during the pandemic. But what has emerged in these unprecedented circumstances is the value of being in contact with a knowledgeable travel partner.
“People are just trying to figure out how to travel in the state of COVID,” Hans says, noting that his family just took a trip to Mexico to understand firsthand the situation for families traveling—from going through airports, in and out of hotels, renting cars, etc.
“One of the things that we decided early on in COVID was: We are going to work hard to get our clients credits, refunds, and the best possible outcomes even if it means we take a loss this year. We’re going to give our clients good customer service, we’re going to support them with whatever their decision is. Some people are ready to travel now—some to Cabo, some just to Galena, Illinois—and some not at all. And that’s fine.”
AOH Travel’s firsthand experience and finger-on-the-pulse-of-change assistance is invaluable right now. “We’re constantly monitoring the situation, Hans explains. “We can give CDC guidelines, what the State Department is saying, information on the latest border openings, testing requirements, insurance options, and the like. If we don’t know the answer, we know how to find the answer.
“What COVID has taught people,” he continues, “is that having someone who will fight to get those refunds back for you, make last-minute adjustments when your hotel closes early or your plane gets delayed or canceled and you have to rebook a new flight—you want to have someone there to be an expert on your behalf.”
The Benefits of Travel Partners
AOH Travel is a member of the Virtuoso Travel Network, which allows them to provide VIP treatments and added amenities at more than 3,000 hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, and more around the world. Beyond Virtuoso, they are preferred members of 14 different hotel groups, providing discounted rates and other benefits.
“There’s a catchphrase in the luxury travel industry: ‘You can’t VIP yourself,’” Hans says. “You can’t call a hotel and say, ‘Hey, I’m a really important person.’ That doesn’t work. But having us call and say, ‘Hey, this person is coming down, and I want you take extra special care of them. They like wine and salty snacks.’ And all of a sudden when you get to your room, there’s a welcome note from the general manager and a complimentary bottle of wine next to a bowl of salted peanuts. And it didn’t take you any extra effort.
“If you booked the room yourself, you’re just a reservation number,” he adds. “When you book through us, you’re a person.”
The beauty of AOH Travel’s Knowledge Partner relationship is that it never hurts to give them a call. “Give us a call, there’s no pressure,” Hans explains. “We have a good product. If you’re interested in it, you’ll use it. If you’re not, feel free to ask, ‘Hey, Hans, I’m going to Croatia. Do you think I should go to Dubrovnik or Split?’ I’d say, ‘Well, sure, I have an opinion on that.’ Because we travel a lot.”