You know the old saying about not putting all your eggs in one
Gerry Korten, owner of East West Travel in Natick, Mass., takes
that advice more literally than most.
Korten, owner of her agency for 18 years, is a renaissance woman
extraordinaire with enough eggs to fill a hen house.
In addition to being a travel agent who specializes in upscale
travel, cruises, tours and FITs, Korten is a chef, author, painter,
educator and importer.
More to the point, Korten has found a way to tie her varied
pursuits into her business, helping to add to her enjoyment of
life, and to her bottom line.
A graduate of Paris' famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu,
Korten is now working on her second book, a cookbook entitled
"Sagana," which means bounty in the language of the
Recognizing the increasing popularity of gourmet tours, Korten
has parlayed her knowledge of cooking into a series of customized
cooking tours of France and Italy for her clients.
Unable to find good travel school graduates to replace "the old
guard who are retiring," Korten is focusing on training would-be
Drawing from an adult learning education package she created
during a masters program years ago and refined in 1990 while
obtaining her CTC designation, Korten is offering a computer
self-study program to adults.
"My theory is that adults learn because they want to, and they
prefer to do so on their own at their own pace," she said.
A frequent traveler to exotic destinations, Korten created an
import-export company called Rare Wonders of the World to sell her
finds, which range from antiques to clothing and jewelry.
"I was wearing a cape I bought in the Dolomites in Italy, and a
woman loved it so much she was following me around asking where I
got it," Korten said, describing the inspiration for the company.
Korten said she promptly ordered a dozen capes, displayed them at
the agency and "sold out by Christmas."
She said she had to learn the ins and outs of import and export
taxes before beginning her venture, which is now doing so well that
she devotes half of her office space to displaying her wares. She
now encourages fellow travel agents to shop overseas and sell their
finds through her store on concession.
-- Felicity Long
Kicking up her heels
How does Gerri Korten, owner of East West Travel, Natick, Mass.,
find the time for her many pursuits? Recently, in a move that
surprised everyone who knew her, Korten sold her company to Tzell
Travel in Boston, essentially becoming an independent consultant
for the larger agency.
Korten maintains her Natick office space and her company name,
however, creating and selling tours and running tickets through
"Before I was doing more administrative work, but now it's as if
I'd outsourced my corporate clients," Korten said.
"This frees me up to do what is interesting to me in the travel
industry," with a particular focus on special-interest and
customized travel, she said.
"Now when somebody comes to me and says, 'I want to do an FIT
for 15 days,' I have time to bring them out to lunch to discuss
it," she said. "It's more convenient for them, and they feel like
it's a social occasion."
Korten said the move to Tzell was one of economic
"I had five or six agents on salary, and I couldn't support that
overhead on 5% [air] commissions," she said.
"I believe that eventually everything will go net, so I cut down
everything that was low or no profit," she said.
Several of her agents continue to work with her on contract, she
said, adding: "They can work from home or in the office, and they
Agents can check out Korten's Web site at www.geocities.com/paris/4485/.
Reading the rich
The rich aren't like you and me." How often have we heard that
In many ways it is, indeed, true. After all, these are people
who might spend more on a trip than you or I make in a year.
But that adage can be highly misleading.
In some ways, the rich are like everyone else, more so than you
would ever expect.
example, do some penny-pinch? You bet. How else do you think they
Don't assume they'll look rich, either. That little old lady
dressed in polyester could have $1 million in her credit union
(earning 2.5% interest, of course).
Here are several thoughts on selling to some of your wealthiest
clients:Do search out value for your upscale customers but don't be
afraid to up-sell them to the best. To them a $300 per day weekend
special at the Ritz-Carlton is better than a great $220 room at a
mass-market property.Stress learning and adventure. Most upscale travelers are
attracted to enrichment, educational and adventure
opportunities.Underscore exclusivity. Unusual destinations, access to
hard-to-see attractions, isolated, intimate resorts -- wealthy
clients respond to these points.Offer FIT service. Most of the time, luxury seekers want
customized vacations. Here is the good news: Most of them are
willing to pay a fee for an FIT. (Here is more good news: They use
travel agents more than most.)Suggest luxury/mass-market blends. Often, upscale clients want
a few mainstream experiences to go along with their luxury vacation
experience. Remember: For every wealthy traveler who insists on a
Seabourn cruise, there is another who will take the best suite on a
Marc Mancini is a professor of travel at West Los Angeles