Alex Fernandez started Affari Transportation as a true mom-and-pop shop, with him and his wife taking reservations and sitting behind the wheel of their vehicles. "When we first started I had to do everything, from washing the buses, to driving the buses, to answering the phone, to taking the reservations, to check in the email," he says. "Currently I enjoy managing my company which is more of a CEO position."
Where are you from?
I grew up in Miami. But as a government contractor I lived all over the country, including Washington, DC.
Who’s your hero and why?
My father was my hero. He emigrated from Cuba with six children and two grandparents and only $2,000, yet he found a way to put us all through private schools and was able to rise again as a very successful businessman.
What do you do for fun or hobby?
My favorite hobby is to watch my son play baseball and my daughter dance. I also love where I live. Tampa Bay offers me the opportunity to spend time on the water pleasure-boating and fishing.
Tell me about your job.
My job currently to provide award-winning transportation services to all of our guests visiting the destination, as well as our locals who live here.
What do you like about about your job?
I love meeting people and being able to make people smile. It’s very rewarding to have a big group of people come to town and to be able to show them around. It's also wonderful to help event planners make their meetings, conventions, and events a success.
How would your life be different without tourism?
Without tourism our company would have grown much more slowly. The ability to grow at the pace that it has betters not only my life but the lives of the people that work at the company -- the mechanic that fixes our buses, the sign person who does the graphics, the person who washes the buses. The impact of tourism helps stimulate the economy for many different companies.
What’s something people don’t know about your job?
It's 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It looks very glamorous from the outside, but many times it is extremely stressful.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you on the job?
We were taking care of a formal Hindi wedding, and I got a call from the wedding planner that the knives that were going to be used to cut the cake, which apparently is very important part of the tradition, where left in the bus. Unfortunately, the bus was already on his way to another job and we didn’t want to let the clients down on either end. I rushed over and got the knives. When I arrived at the venue there were hundreds of people and the event planner was not answering her phone. Not wanting to give up, I began to ask people about the wedding and they pointed me through a hallway to two doors. As I open the door everyone was dressed to the hilt and I was in a golf shirt and shorts. As I tried to go back out, the door shut behind me. People turned around and looked at me. At that point I walked over and handed the knives and left. Everybody applauded because the knives had arrived.
What do you recommend your visitors do for fun when they come to Tampa Bay?
That’s a very easy question with so many different fun things to do in Tampa. They can do all kinds of water sports -- boating, kayaking, dolphin watching, fishing. We also have great performing arts. They can see a show at the Straz or go catch a great sporting event, or check out some of our breweries or some of the great restaurants in town. It’s an easy place to make recommendations since there’s so much to do here.