After working in the travel industry since he was 23, Chris Lee created ACCESS Destination Services in 1999. ACCESS is a leading provider of group experiences at many destinations around the world. Lee pioneered a licensing approach to expand ACCESS, yet keep a strong local foothold. When the financial crisis devastated destination management, Lee repurposed extravagant corporate parties to community service events and established ACCESS as the leader in corporate social responsibility programs, which continues to this day.
ACCESS is the only large destination management company (DMC) which is not owned by a larger global conglomerate. Lee created an industry first: a nationwide DMC made up of independently owned offices operating under the ACCESS brand. This unique licensing model allows ACCESS member-offices to strategize, market and train together. To reach a global market, Lee has allied ACCESS with two international partners: Pacific World and Amstar.
When the “AIG effect” left companies hesitant to travel for meetings, let alone plan lavish events for fear of media scrutiny, Lee shifted the focus of ACCESS’ services from meetings and events to community giveback and corporate social responsibility. For example, one client built a children’s park, another refurbished a center for troubled adolescents. Instead of being chastised by the media, clients were celebrated by them.
People are the true asset of his company, so Lee has a lengthy hiring process. This has led to below-industry turnover.
ACCESS is socially responsible itself through ACCESS Operation Give initiatives. They have “adopted” a local Head Start program, and they regularly organize events with Ronald McDonald House Charities. Lee sits on number of boards and has been honored with a variety of awards.
What a trip! After outgrowing their San Diego office, ACCESS has just signed a lease for a larger facility. As their journey continues, they are bound to provide more “ACCESS” to destinations in the future.