Celebrating 25 Years In 2024: Adventure Tours Continues Growth With New Locations, Great Employees

By Harrell Kerkhoff, Busline Magazine Editor

Adventure Tours specializes in luxury motorcoach travel, shuttle transportation, and line run operations. Shown is company President Adnan Khan. (Photo courtesy of Adventure Tours)

A relentless pursuit of perfection, driven by an unyielding commitment to excellence, supported by a talented and dedicated team, has propelled Adventure Tours (Adventures) to its triumphant celebration of 25 years in 2024. Headquartered in a suburb of Washington, D.C., Adventure Tours specializes in luxury motorcoach travel, shuttle transportation, and line run operations. In 2021, they opened a second location in Charlotte, NC, and recent expansions have added additional locations in Philadelphia, PA, and Long Island, NY. Plans are in place to open a fifth location this summer in Richmond, VA.

“Our core values and our mission of a commitment to excellence begin with our people, especially our operators. As they are the day-to-day face of our company, they embody the essence of our values and culture,” Adventure Tours President Adnan Khan said. “We all believe and live by the philosophy, ‘If you want to do something, be GREAT at it or don’t do it at all.’”

The core values at Adventure Tours were reviewed and refocused in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic to highlight the importance of helping the company’s employees succeed.

“We ensured our company values and culture were built around the premise that the needs of our employees come first, believing if we take care of our employees and enable them to be successful, in turn, they will make sure our clients are successful,” Khan said. “We’ve built this company to be process-oriented, leveraging technology for automation, productivity, and efficiency. However, it’s our people who lead the implementation of our systems and created the management policies to be followed. We are focused on being agile and modifying processes and policies based on challenges encountered. We must constantly evolve as a company, mirroring the environment we live in, knowing if we don’t continue to improve, our ability to grow will be limited.

“We have 175-plus full- and part-time employees. I’m extremely proud of the diversity we have in our team, from an age, sex, and ethnicity standpoint. Adventure Tours is a microcosm of the world we live in and the clients we serve. Due to our diversity, we are able to solicit phenomenal feedback from a multitude of viewpoints, leading to continual improvements in every aspect of the organization. It’s also important that we continue to hire high-energy and positive team members who have strong moral and ethical values. Positivity is extremely important and is so infectious. Positivity quickly spreads throughout the organization, improving productivity, creativity, and overall well-being. It brings a smile to everybody’s face and helps people remain happy, which in turn keeps our customers happy.

“Our commitment to exceptional customer service begins with our responsive sales team and extends through our entire operation, encompassing our skilled dispatchers, meticulous maintenance technicians, detail-oriented detailers, and proficient administrative staff. Our operators, known for their excellent rapport with passengers, epitomize the high standards we uphold in every aspect of our service. Collectively, having a solid team of people in place has enabled us to meet our mission statement and ultimately allowed us to celebrate 25 years as a premier transportation provider.

“Along with quality personnel, quality equipment is also vital. We want to be known for having the best equipment to go along with our top-notch staff. Today, Adventure Tours’ fleet comprises over 85 vehicles, the majority being 56-passenger deluxe motorcoaches.

“I’m biased toward my company, but I feel that we do have the most modern and best equipment in the various metro areas that we operate. Every unit we purchase, we meticulously work with our vendors to design and upgrade as many options as possible. Even our most basic shuttle buses or ‘people movers’ have upgraded flooring, higher level seating, Wi-Fi/outlets, and AV systems. At times, we have considered going the ‘standard’ route for cost-effective purposes, but Terrance Dyson, my VP, quickly reminds me, ‘That’s not who we are!’ That ends that thought pretty quickly.

“Safety is paramount and is becoming even more of a focus in today’s world of social media, where an incident of any type is immediately known. Safety is the highest responsibility we owe to our passengers and employees, and we are proud to have an outstanding safety record. We transport over 500K passengers on an annual basis, and having the right compliance program and management controls in place allows us to maintain our focus on safety, day in and day out.”

Continual growth at Adventure Tours has allowed the company to diversify its fleet, which now ranges from SUVs, Sprinters, mini-buses, mini-coaches to full-size coaches. An important partner over the years continues to be ABC Companies, which is the North American distributor of Van Hool motorcoaches. Recently, Adventure Tours purchased several more Van Hool coaches through ABC Companies.

“We have built an amazing relationship with ABC Companies that has only improved year over year. We value their feedback and appreciate the support they have provided us in every way.  It’s invaluable to have a vendor that feels more like a partner, especially one that is so instrumental in our success. We purchased 12 new Van Hools this past year, which is the biggest single bus purchase from one vendor in the history of our company. That speaks volumes about the trust and confidence we have in their products and services. Building such a strong relationship is a testament to the mutual respect and collaboration between our companies.

“Technology and innovation are key factors that we continually focus on. That is a strength for us as my professional career began in IT with implementation, operational support, and business transformations. I spent over a dozen years at IBM working with Fortune 500 companies on such initiatives.”

According to Khan, the continual evolution of Adventure Tours is critical for future success. Just as the transportation needs of people and groups change, so must a transportation provider.

“Benefiting from technology is based on how well you use it. The key is integration — making sure your different systems ‘talk’ to each other, such as systems involving dispatch, maintenance, human resources, payroll, etc.,” he said. “Technology should be used to gain productivity and efficiencies, allowing you to work smarter, not harder. Our management philosophy is centered around determining actions needed based on the analysis of data. We have begun to incorporate AI into the systems we have in place to help us automate that analysis and subsequent actions.

“With that said, we at Adventure Tours are putting an even bigger emphasis and reliance on education. Technology is evolving very rapidly, and we need to understand how things work to ensure we leverage its benefits. This year, we started a mandatory initiative for every team member at the company, no matter their position, to partake in 40 hours of company sponsored continuing education. The objective is to help grow the abilities of our team members for future success.”

A Quarter Century In Business

Adventure Tours was founded in 1999 by Mohammed Khan (father of Adnan Khan) and Mohammed’s business partner, the late Bernie Adona. Mohammed Khan was a chauffeur at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C. for 40-plus years. He then went into business with Adona using his one minibus and one limousine, along with Adona’s two older coaches. Those were traded in for three motorcoaches to launch Adventure Tours.

Bernie Adona passed away in 2010, leaving a void that was eventually filled by Adnan Khan, who at the time was working at IBM. With the encouragement of his father and the late David Buckingham, former vice president of the company, Khan negotiated the purchase of the business in 2011 into the family and came aboard on a part-time basis while keeping his day job at IBM.

“At the time, David was a ‘one-man shop’ at the company. He handled everything: sales, dispatch, maintenance, accounting, and compliance,” Khan said. “Between Bernie, David, and my father — they were the hardest working men I had ever known, and greatly influenced my own work ethic.

“I’m rooted in humble beginnings, having grown up with my siblings in Arlington, VA, in an apartment complex. My dad used to drive a taxicab in the evenings and on weekends to help make ends meet. He would routinely work 80+ hours a week. He did everything he could to make the American dream a reality for our family.”

Adventure Tours also started with a humble beginning. For the first 15 years of its existence, the company’s headquarters was a trailer — absent running water and a restroom.

“I remember vividly in August 2011, David called me and said, ‘We are in trouble. This is the lowest-grossing month we have ever had.’ He and I started meeting every evening to determine how to turn the business around. The company historically used its AMEX card in the winter months to put money in the bank to cover our bills and then pay that balance thereafter, with the associated fees. Financially, it didn’t make sense, but the bills had to be paid. I began drilling into our financing to find ways to reduce costs and save for the winter months. I credit my mother, Shahida N. Khan, for the fiscal education I learned growing up. She would always look for ways to save, use coupons at every opportunity, never spent on herself and was always looking to save for the future.

“After months of meetings and business development initiatives, we finally landed our first government contract in 2012. At the time, I was still working at IBM. I was fortunate that I had the ability to work remotely. I would spend the day on IBM items, and then the weekend and evenings until 2 or 3 a.m. working on Adventure Tours,” Khan said. “What I thought would be a ‘fun business’ turned into a passion with a deep desire to make successful. The long hours and weekends turned into a routine for over a dozen years. I sacrificed my growing career at IBM to help grow the family business. It was at that time I also met my wife and future business partner, Linda Khan. We started taking our vacation days to go to industry trade shows, trying to find ways to further grow the business. My wife, who has a sales background, also put her own career on hold to help us at those trade shows, often coming back with more customers than either David or me. It’s true what they say, ‘Behind every good man is a great woman.’ It’s no coincidence Adventure Tours’ growth trajectory changed with her coming into my life.

“As we started to grow, additional investment was needed. Both of us emptied our personal accounts and cashed out our 401(k) plans to spur the growth. She did all of that without asking for anything in return,” Khan said. “My parents also had some savings that I borrowed, eventually to pay back, but they too provided that without hesitation. Linda and I sacrificed taking a paycheck for a dozen years, deferring to put that money back in the business.

“I was fortunate to have such funds in place to help put our company in a better financial position. That’s when things started to come together. The growth allowed us to add more equipment and better diversify our client base.”

Khan credits Buckingham for helping him not only better understand Adventure Tours’ business practices but the transportation industry as well.

“David, who recently passed away, was the company’s first vice president and moved into a semi-retired/consultant role a few years ago. He was a mentor, friend, and father figure. I really didn’t know anything about the industry when I started and was like a little kid, asking all kinds of questions,” Khan said. “At IBM, my technology career was centered around operations, and I eventually became a global senior leader, directing over 450 employees throughout the world. We were helping Fortune 500 companies transform their business operations by leveraging our systems and technology, basically doing more with less while still getting better. That was a business philosophy I wanted to implement at Adventure Tours.”

Eventually, the company moved out of its trailer to another location. After further growth, the business purchased property for the construction of a new facility, which was completed in 2015. A security fence, additional lighting, gate, cameras, conference room and break room were added in the subsequent years.

“Then, just when things were going so well, the 2020 pandemic struck,” Khan said.

The Art Of Diversification

The sheer scope of the global pandemic during the first part of 2020 took people and companies by surprise. It was unprecedented in many respects. The transportation industry was particularly hard hit. For Adventure Tours, it was fortunate that the company had begun to diversify its services several years prior to the pandemic.

“We became more involved with government contracting work around 2018. Until then, we were primarily a charter bus operation,” Khan said. “The major challenge with the charter bus industry is that it is very seasonal by nature. We are always absolutely slammed with business in the spring, with a typical slowdown in the summer, followed by an uptick in the fall when schools open back up, and then an awfully slow winter season. Thus, it became critical for us to search for ways to keep a steady paycheck for operators all year long. The solution at Adventure Tours was — and is — charters, shuttles/contract work, and line run operations.”

Adventure Tours also became a local partner with intercity mobility provider FlixBus in 2019.

“That partnership originally started with three line runs between major East Coast cities and quickly grew to six runs. While it’s not the most profitable line of business, it allows for consistent work for our operators and has enabled us to add to our maintenance, detailing, and office staffs,” Khan added.

With the addition of the line run business and growth in charters, Adventure Tours signed off on purchasing 10 new motorcoaches in the summer of 2019, with delivery set for early 2020.

“Our first set of five coaches was due to be delivered during the initial stages of the growing pandemic. Despite the economic uncertainty, I decided to accept delivery of those vehicles even though trip cancellations were starting to pile up by March 2020. The second set of five coaches were delivered in the midst of ALL trips cancelling for the spring,” Khan said.

“As with many in the industry, our initial thought was that the pandemic would be short-lived and that demand would soon pick up,” he added. “I also felt that since we made a commitment to purchase those 10 buses, we should honor that commitment. Keeping our word and honoring commitments we made are instilled in my core and will always be met. It turned out those 10 buses did not have a single mile of revenue service throughout 2020 due to the pandemic.

“My role at Adventure Tours in 2020 changed from managing and growing our business to becoming a grant writer. I didn’t know how, or if, we would survive. I personally wrote every type of grant I could find to help our business survive. We were fortunate that our industry partners/lenders allowed us to defer payments during the height of the pandemic. We also worked with our OEM equipment suppliers to keep our equipment in good running condition while not being used. Thankfully, we had diversified our business enough in that two active government contracts remained in service to help keep the lights on.”

The pandemic also provided Khan and his staff valuable time to focus on how, as a transportation provider, to become more efficient and productive in the future. As with most businesses involved in transportation, the pandemic greatly slowed work for Adventure Tours in 2020. However, things started to pick up as early as January 2021 when the company became involved in transporting National Guard troops in Washington, D.C.

“We were also fortunate to perform different types of work during the latter part of the pandemic,” Khan said. “It was at this time that we started to invest more in our people and to look for good candidates to hire. That included Ali Brewer, who is now our Senior Director of Global Sales & Marketing. Ali brought extensive industry experience from her tenure at ABA. She has excelled in leading and expanding our business initiatives. Ali has restructured our sales and marketing team, developed a comprehensive marketing plan, and strategically aligned the right staff to execute it, driving our continued growth and success.

“We furthered our investment in our sales staff team by having Lisa Valle join us as our Director of Sales. She brought great experience, leadership, and countless relationships within the Charlotte region. Soon thereafter, Sean Piersall was added as our Director of Maintenance. Sean and Lisa’s addition allowed us to open our second location in Charlotte in the summer of 2021. We had assets from our 2020 purchase that were sitting idle and two great leaders to help start that location. Their commitment to the company and dedication to our customers’ success meshed seamlessly with our values. They immediately took ownership of the location and took the initiative to help us grow organically to now have a dozen units in that location.

“Sean’s addition not only helped our Charlotte location but, under his leadership, led the revamping of our entire maintenance program. Sean has a keen understanding of the engineering behind the coaches. His knowledge of how things work, coupled with his technical and interpersonal skills, makes him the best fleet manager in the industry. His energy, focus, and attention to detail are a large reason for our continued growth.

“As we continued to grow, so did the need to add staff across all departments. Finding the right talent coming out of the pandemic was very challenging. I turned to my IBM experience and decided to look for offshore support. I knew the talent was there, and investing in that talent was key for us. In early 2022, we officially onboarded new team members from our Pakistan office.

“Looking back, that has been one of the best decisions we have made. Our employee base in Pakistan now involves 25 people, supporting every aspect of our operations,” Khan said. “The initial benefit was to enable the hiring of senior-level professionals in the United States, as those employees in Pakistan continue to take care of Level 1 and Level 2 items. That team has exceeded expectations and has grown to help lead our technology implementations and many operational components. They are an outstanding team who are integral to our future.”

Another major event took place in February 2022 when Khan decided to resign from his IBM position and focus all his work efforts on Adventure Tours.

“Working 80-90 hours a week for over a dozen years was certainly taking its toll. With the growth we were seeing, more time and investment were needed. A decision had to be made. That was on top of our growing family, as Linda and I now have five children. It was time to refocus on family and the work that needed to be done at our transportation operation,” Khan said. “I thought this would allow for more family time, but the work is never-ending, and the long hours and weekend days have yet to end.

“A major driver of our rapid expansion is Terrance Dyson, our Vice President. Terrance, a former operator, was brought into the office to lead our operations. His passion, energy, and commitment have been extraordinary. He swiftly enhanced operations across the board and earned the admiration of the entire company. His meticulous attention to detail and strong focus on hospitality perfectly align with our company values. Terrance continuously pushes us to expand and achieve our potential. Our philosophies and thoughts are strikingly similar—it’s like looking in the mirror at a younger version of myself.”

Khan added: “Our leadership team is leading and pushing us to new heights. I believe it’s the strongest management team in the industry. Collaborating alongside such talented and passionate individuals inspires both me and our team every day. Their unwavering dedication drives us to continually improve, and their support for my latest initiatives or crazy ideas with 2 a.m. emails is truly remarkable.”

A Good Way Of Life

Having been born to a father who was a chauffeur, Khan has spent his entire life connected to transportation in one way or another. Now leading a company his father helped start, Khan has plenty of good things to say about this way of life.

“Transportation is a staple, and moving people is what we do. However, we don’t just provide transportation; we provide memorable experiences. When somebody contacts us, it’s important we respond quickly. It’s all about how we follow up with the correct details and equipment, along with personable service,” he said. “The good thing about transportation is that a lot of different types of careers are involved within this industry, all working toward one goal — providing those memorable experiences and making customers happy. The world is growing, and it’s constantly going to need help with moving people as safely and efficiently as possible. Our industry (bus/coach operators) does that better than any other industry around. It’s also more recession-proof than many types of work. For example, even in tough times, who isn’t going to spend a few dollars to have their school-age child take a motorcoach trip to Washington, D.C. or elsewhere around the country?

“We will have growing pains ahead, but I’m super optimistic about the future of not only our company but the overall bus/coach industry as well. For the most part, our industry has rebounded tremendously from the pandemic. Many transportation providers have streamlined operations and increased prices to align with business costs, allowing more companies to thrive. It’s essential that we continue to drive progress and be responsible stewards of the industry, ensuring sustainable success and growth for us all.

“I am honored and so very grateful to have worked alongside so many exceptional employees, both past and present, who have contributed to our success. As we look toward the future, we will continue our relentless pursuit of perfection, fulfilling our commitment to excellence. Our leadership team will propel us forward, while our dedicated team members execute our vision, ensuring we not only meet but exceed all future goals. Together, as an Adventure Tours family, we are confident in achieving continued success for both our team members and our clients.”

Visit abdtours.com.

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