Adding a new route to his Chicago business
September 14th, 2017
A Chicago businessman with a passion for travel is redirecting his public-relations firm.
Meet David Zapata, the founder of Zapwater public relations firm, which for years has represented hotels, restaurants and business in hospitality. More recently, Zapwater has added destination marketing to its repertoire. It enlists writers and “influencers” (folks with a lot of social media followers) to promote the far-away destinations on their various social media sites.
For the country of Serbia, for example, Zapwater sent bloggers and Instagram celebrities to write about what they saw. “They’re helping change the dialogue about a fascinating country” and the economies, says Zapata, who graduated from college dreaming he’d one day work for an NGO in a faraway country. Instead, he started a public-relations firm.
“I feel I’ve finally found an entrance into that field and combined it with my passion for the agency and what we do,” says Zapata, whose office is decorated with his collection of airline memorabilia.
The centrally located O’Hare International Airport allows for easy-ish travel around the world. Along with Serbia, Zapwater represents Finland, Coco Prive (a private island in the Maldives) and La Paz (the capital of Baja, Mexico). Casa Kimberly (in Puerto Vallarta) is also a client. It’s the former love nest of the late Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and was featured in Burton’s “The Night of the Iguana.”
Zapata says the travel clients are the fastest growing part of his business. He declined to offer numbers.
It’s no accident that the company’s travel practice has grown. Zapata is a self-proclaimed airline brat.
His father had a 40-plus career in the airline industry, working for Pan Am and then as director of maintenance for Delta in New York. “I love the history of the airlines. I love the history of Boeing. It’s a different world than when I was a kid,” he said. “I could sit in the cockpit of Pan Am 747s. That can’t happen anymore.”
Zapata says he’s passing on his passion for travel to his 6-year-old daughter, Rosie, “just like my dad did to me and my siblings.”
“Unfortunately,” he adds, “She’ll probably never get the chance to sit in a 747 cockpit like I did.”