Business & Oilsands(Archives)
Ujeer Ahmed: Making a life. Making a living.
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Ujeer Ahmed is a living testimony to this. Ahmed is the successful business owner of the travel agency, International Travel Services. He is also the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman at the Wood Buffalo RCMP detachment and the President of the Somali-Canadian Association of Fort McMurray.
Not satisfied with success that is measured only by profit and financial gain, he does as much as he can to be involved in the community by supporting local non-profit organizations and devoting his time to volunteerism.
“My background is Business Administration [and when] I graduated from college, my aim was always to own a business. Also, the travel industry is one thing that I really liked. It’s rewarding; it’s exciting; and I love doing it.” says Ujeer Ahmed as he recounts how he started his business. “First I volunteered at a travelling agency, to [know more about] what they do. When I eventually got hired by the travel agency I tried to learn as much as I could about what the industry. Within a year or two, I knew I wanted to start my own business.”
In 1997, Mr. Ahmed started International Travel Services in Ontario, where he lived with his family. “The first couple of years, like most businesses, [was] not profitable. You build relationships with clients [and] the difficulty is in getting enough customers in the business. But I was fortunate because it worked out for me fairly quick.”
A few years ago, he made the decision to uproot his business and move with his wife to Fort McMurray. “If you haven’t been to Fort McMurray, you will hear different things from different people. We often hear about the bad things that happen in Fort McMurray [but I have also] heard of great opportunities. For me, I don’t want to just believe in what I hear. I wanted to see it for myself.” Ahmed says of his decision to move to Fort McMurray, “Everyone wants the opportunity to do good in life. Once I came over, I realized that this is a good place to be. Ever since, I’ve been really blessed.”
Not Just Business As Usual
In the advent of internet travel websites, Mr. Ahmed remains very optimistic about International Travel Services’—currently the only full-time international travel agency in Fort McMurray—place in the market. He puts emphasis on great customer service and genuine human interaction and trusts that this goes a long way in establishing a loyal clientele.
“With people having access to the Internet and agencies from around the world, there is a lot of competition. A lot of people go online to book cheap flights, but there are things that an agency can do that you just can’t get online. Mainly, people go online to get good prices, but we can always try to match that price or find them a better deal.
“When they come to our office, from the moment they come to us until they come back [from their trip], we take care of them. If they book online, they’re only relying on pictures that they see. When they come to us, we have three full-time staff that can help them decide where to go. We can give them first hand experience and we are always happy to answer any of their questions,” he says of International Travel Services’ commitment to customer service. “If the experience was good, [clients] will come back again tomorrow and they may even refer you to their family and friends.”
Life Beyond Business
With a successful business, and his involvement in two other organizations, Ujeer Ahmed seems to have his hands full. However, he still manages to be fully engaged in the community. He proudly sponsors events and nonprofits through his business, International Travel Services, and finds time to volunteer.
“Business is one thing. It’s [about] profit. When you make more money, you’re happy for a moment, then you move on and you forget. But when you volunteer, when you change somebody’s life, it’s not just for that moment. It is something you can have with you. When I help someone, and they come to me one day to thank me, that’s priceless,” he shares. “I have been so blessed to be in Fort McMurray and Fort McMurray is home now for me. I’m very fortunate to be successful [and] I’m grateful that I am able to give back.
“One thing I have always wanted in life is to be successful, whether it’s in business or in helping the community—that is how I define success.”
High Hopes for the Future
Ujeer Ahmed remains optimistic of his and International Travel Services’ future in Fort McMurray. He shares his excitement of the new developments around town especially the new airport terminal, which is expected to open in June of this year.
Musing at the future, he says, “Fort McMurray is always changing, and it’s for the better. There are new constructions all the time. Also, with the new developments for the Fort McMurray Airport, there will only be more non-stop flights to different destinations. Nothing happens overnight, but who knows, maybe a couple of years down the road, we won’t be a small town anymore.”