It’s no secret that the popularity of the internet in recent decades has led travelers to research, plan and book their own travel online. As consumer use of the internet continues to change the nature of the travel industry, Mike Kohleffel, CEO of Rockport Tours, credits his company’s survival to its willingness to rethink the role of the travel planner and advisor in the digital age.
The Corpus Christi, Texas-based company has been in the group-planning business since 1992. Kohleffel attests that Rockport Tours’ continued success is based on acknowledging the advantages that come with planning travel online, while highlighting the advantages that come with working with a travel professional. His company has developed an approach that allows clients to benefit from both.
Q. What sets Rockport Tours apart from other tour planners?
A. We spend a great deal of time getting to know our client and hopefully understand their motivations. If you ask people to imagine a Hawaiian vacation, everyone will have a different picture in their mind. Some might imagine a hammock on a beach, someone else might envision a cruise ship, while a third person may see a luau on a remote beach. We want to understand exactly what that picture looks like before we begin planning or making suggestions. Offering unique experiences, unbiased recommendations, and keeping the entire process as transparent as possible is key. At the end of the day, our clients value that personal touch they get with us.
Q. What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a travel advisor specializing in group tours?
A. Be very careful in the budgeting process. Remember, you are dealing with one person — the group leader — but she/he is dealing with everyone in their group. It is not unusual for participants to drop out or suddenly need a meal included. Unfortunately, increasing the rate is very difficult. Leaving some space in the budget allows you to make your group leader’s life easier, and at the end of the day, that is why they pay us!
Q. What is the “next big thing” for Rockport Tours?
A. I think we would like to begin offering a receptive tour option to groups that want to visit Texas. I think the lessons we have learned from being an outbound provider make us uniquely qualified to offer the best tours of Texas! Plus, our state is so large, that the only way to offer the truly unique experiences is through someone that is local.
Q. Tell me about your favorite tour you have planned. What made it special?
A. I love them all! Really, it is true! My favorite trips are the ones that people enjoy. Nothing makes me happier that hearing back from a group that loved their trip!
Q. On a long flight, what is your go-to distraction?
A. A good, old-fashioned book! I can read for hours.