Trendsetter Karen Berger’s career in travel has spanned 37 years, during which she has founded two travel agencies and served as both a front-line advisor and manager in other agencies. A lifelong Florida resident, she caught the travel bug early — her dream as a teenager was to become a flight attendant.
“My best friend’s father owned a few travel agencies in the area, and when I saw firsthand how much they traveled, I switched gears,” Berger says. “I studied travel and tourism in college, and then came back to work for them. My first FAM trip was at the age of 20 to Alaska. I was hooked.”
Berger worked at that first travel agency for five years, after which she decided to start her own. She operated this agency for four years before selling it to spend more time with her children.
“I found out that I wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mother, so I went back to work, first in accounting and part-time travel, and then as a manager full-time,” she says. Berger also started and managed another agency until 9/11, after which she took a brief sabbatical to work for The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, FL. After that, she returned to work as a full-time travel advisor.
Berger totals $2 million in sales per year for an agency whose yearly revenue is over $30 million. She has a wide range of clients, but what most of them have in common is a desire to go beyond the ordinary.
“It’s a challenge to find things for those who have been almost everywhere and experienced a myriad of travel types,” Berger says. “I think the difference for my clients is that they like to be part of the major planning and are active.”
Listening to her clients is most important, according to Berger. “A lot of other travel advisors don’t,” she says. “They have preconceived ideas of what the client wants. My clients tend to be like my family, and I know their likes and dislikes, what makes them happy…and build upon that.”
That approach has paid off; most of Berger’s business is built on referrals, she says. She is also known in her agency as a problem-solver, exploring multiple options to deal with a situation before presenting solutions to her manager, so they can select the best course of action.
Berger’s next project is getting more adjusted to social media.
“My clients like to be on Facebook, and they share with their friends,” Berger says. “I am taking advantage of the travel content and opportunities to share with my clients. Once again — referrals are a big part of my new clientele.”
Agency support helps, too. “I’m also very blessed with a great agency that really understands sales and marketing,” Berger says. “We have presentations, advertising, direct mailing, etc., and that is another building block for new clients and business.”