Joanne Kruger was born in Philadelphia and grew up in the northern suburbs. She met her husband early in life, and after two children and 12 years of marriage, her husband was offered a job in the Chicago area. “With growing children I wanted to work outside the home,” says Kruger. “I always loved travel but knowing nothing about the industry I decided to search where and how to begin. I found a local travel school that was starting a new course the following week. No time to contemplate; I signed up.”
Eventually, her teacher Janet Hyman offered Kruger a part-time job at her agency. “I helped out and observed all the agents. I listened to them converse with their clients. Everyone had a different style. I learned how to handwrite international tickets, becoming the ‘go-to girl’ with complicated itineraries,” she says. Kruger also began designing corporate travel, learning the “ins-and-outs” as she booked tickets for her husband who traveled for work.
Now, 34 years later, she is an expert travel advisor at Travel Duet, part of Frosch, which acquired the agency in 2004.
Frosch specializes in leisure and corporate travel to individuals and companies and is ranked as one of the top 10 travel management companies in the United States. “It was a good match,” says Kruger. “We all shared the same high quality and mindfulness of the business. For me, nothing changed. From the start I had a great deal of respect for the Leibman family.” By 2009, Frosch had acquired several other North Shore agencies, eventually moving them all in together under one roof.
Even at such a large company, Kruger’s talent for selling travel has allowed her to be recognized as a trendsetter in the field by her manager Joanne Esplin. Working as a “generalist,” Kruger provides services for corporate and leisure clients, and she says being part of the ever-changing industry has allowed her the opportunity to spread her wings and see the world firsthand.
“From Africa to Australia and lots in between I found all destinations exciting,” says Kruger. “I have a motto — ‘It is not fair to compare.’ When someone asks, ‘what is your favorite destination or hotel or tour operator,’ I believe all have their own personality.”
Kruger makes it a point to be attentive to clients’ wants and needs, noting that some want group travel, while others only a specialized tailored itinerary; some like only cities, and others prefer countryside. Making sure she asks the right questions during the planning process, and a special attention to detail, is what Kruger believes has brought her success in her career. “Sometimes [clients] just ask for a destination not knowing any particulars. My job is to put all the puzzle pieces together to find the right fit for each and every trip,” says Kruger.
She’s also keen to keep the conversation going with a client. For her, the end of a trip signifies the beginning of the next.
“Everyone knows that on the plane returning home you are probably thinking where to go next. That’s always a question I will ask the client as part of our conversation when we rehash how the trip went.
“I’m also hopeful that every satisfied client leads to a referral,” says Kruger. “That’s how each year in business is better than the previous one. Trust and satisfaction speak volumes.”