Wings Travel Group follows the mantra that “modern luxury” is all about knowing that one size does not fit all, rather, it’s about what fits the client specifically and tailoring each trip to the individual, then adding that special luxury touch. It’s that philosophy that’s kept the Blue Bell, PA agency at the top of its game for the past 30 years, led by President and CEO Kate Murphy.
Since we profiled Murphy for our April 2012 issue, Wings has closed two locations, which has freed up management to focus on those more productive offices. “There are times you just need to step back and examine your business with a very cold hard eye,” says Murphy. “It turned out to be a great move that we are very pleased with.” Along the way, revenue has grown, from $30 million-plus three years ago to $33 million today. Business continues to prosper, with new clients coming via referrals, which Murphy calls “a wonderful testament to Wings’ fabulous staff.”
“I believe everyone’s strategy is a lot more focused on social media. We are not selling differently, we still make every effort to add a touch of luxury to every client’s vacation or at the very least offer it to our clients,” she says.
The agency remains “a very loyal and highly satisfied member of Vacation.com. I have a fiduciary responsibility to our staff to investigate other consortia/franchises every couple of years but have not yet found a compelling reason to leave my consortia,” she adds.
Murphy’s most recent fun booking was a trip she crafted for a couple getting engaged in Ireland. Lavish elements included a chauffeur, overnights in castles, and several stops to listen to live Irish music, which the girlfriend was a big fan of. Wings arranged for the couple to stop at well-known spots like O’Donoghues in Dublin and The Crane Bar in Galway, and even arranged for the Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs to lead the couple on a private tour of Ireland’s parliament. It all ended with the boyfriend proposing on a jaunting car in Killarney, which is how his fiancee’s parents had gotten engaged.
Murphy first joined the travel industry back in 1986 when her brother acquired the agency with Murphy’s future husband. Fast-forward, Murphy eventually bought her brother’s share of the business and became president (her husband, Doug, became the CFO). Doug was recently chosen to sit on the advisory board of the Family Bonds Foundation, a new charity that John Lovell started at Vacation.com.
As for personal travel, Murphy’s new favorite place to visit is Budapest. “My husband and I ended a river cruise there and stayed for a couple of days,” she explains. “We walked over Chain Bridge, took the funicular to the top of Buda Castle, found some great little restaurants and shopped a little.” Her tip: Sip a drink of Elderberry schnapps, sparkling white wine, honey, lemon and mint while people- watching in the city.
We have no doubt Murphy will continue to find new favorites, as she’s quite happily ensconced in an industry that delights her.
“I still believe the travel business is the best profession in the world to work in,” she tells us. “I have met some of the nicest, most interesting people while working in this ever-changing, exhilarating business.”