Despite being the only advisor at Royal Travel & Tours (based in Winnetka, IL, just outside of Chicago) who’s located in Kansas City, MO, Tara Koehler was named her agency’s Trendsetter. She has been an advisor for two years (both with Royal) and already has an impressive group travel business.
“One of my very first bookings was a large group cruise,” Koehler tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “I know that group business is some of the most difficult to create but also the most rewarding, so I feel that booking groups from the beginning put me ahead of the game.”
When working with groups, Koehler says it’s easiest to work with one person who’s “in charge” but “making sure everyone is happy” is something she excels at. Despite a strong grip on group travel, Koehler says she’s still looking to grow this portion of her business. She’s also looking to earn more certifications and increase her social media presence by posting bi-monthly trip deals and hot areas to travel.
In addition to groups, Koehler also works with couples and families. Some of the destinations she sells the most are Europe, Hawaii and the Caribbean. She’s particularly fond of Europe, having worked on projects across the continent in a previous career (including France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Belgium and Latvia).
“I love to draw on my own personal experiences in a city to help plan a trip for a client,” she says.
Koehler also says she isn’t shy about offering her opinions when it comes to travel. “I find that most people aren’t sure what they want when it comes to a location or an entire region, so providing a solid direction can establish my expertise as well as build my client’s confidence in our relationship.”
Going the extra mile on each booking is a must — regardless of the size of the trip. Koehler says she always reaches out to hotel managers or reservations managers to leave a note in her clients’ room and add something special to their stay.
“I realized right away that referrals are the key to success in this business — and you only get those with happy clients,” Koehler says. “I do everything I can to make my clients happy, whether it’s my own sister or a colleague of a friend whom I’ve never met.”
Even though she’s far from the headquarters of Royal Travel & Tours, Koehler says, “I know I have a network of agents I can e-mail or call who will get back to me within the hour and provide needed advice and support.”
Koehler has racked up some impressive trips recently, with even more on the way. This past year included visits to San Francisco, Newport Beach, The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico, Los Cabos to stay at Grand Velas Los Cabos and Montage Los Cabos (with a FAM group) and then Paradisus Los Cabos (with her husband, sans children). She also took her kids on their first cruise, the Norwegian Bliss, which she highly recommends.
Next year, Koehler will head to Puerto Vallarta with her four kids and seven other families, booked through Classic Vacations (“one of my favorite suppliers,” she says), and take a trip to Switzerland with the family to visit Montreux, where she spent several summers in her younger days.