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Meet Pegy Buthorn-KnippJanuary 1, 2007 By: Dan Butcher Travel Agent
Brooklyn-born agent found success specializing in the honeymoon market
Buthorn-Knipp caught the travel bug at a young age, taking advantage of the
free flights afforded to her stepfather, who worked at TWA for 30 years.
"I called myself an airline brat," jokes Knipp,
"because we would go out to the airport and get on whatever flight we
could get on." The thrill she felt when globetrotting has never left her.
While she admits that school was not exactly her passion,
travel was. She enrolled in
travel and tourism program and impressed one of her professors enough to get
hired at his family-run Brooklyn-based agency, Bove Travel, which served an
exclusively local leisure clientele out of a small storefront.
In 1991, after a maternity leave and a brief stint with
Greek wholesaler Cloud Tours, she made the leap to the Manhattan-based Nicmac
Travel, and she has never looked back. While she continued to thrive on the
leisure side of the industry, she began to take on corporate clientele as well.
"It was a whole different world for me," she says.
"One of my corporate clients began recommending me to other companies, and
it opened a lot of doors for me." A few years later, she moved into
entertainment, although now corporate and entertainment make up a small percentage
of her clientele.
That's because two niches she was developing raised her
profile unexpectedly—and suddenly. The first was, of all things, adventures in
the Wild West that included everything from dude ranches and white-water
rafting to golfing and spas. "I had a client who wanted something out of
the ordinary, and said 'My kids have never been out west, what can you do for
me?'" Knipp explains. "I love horses, and one of the reps had come in
with some options for dude ranches, so I said, 'How about this?' I booked her
and her five kids, and they went out there and fell in love."
Western vacations became a great seller for her; she says
many urban families who had never left the city were stunned by their
experiences in the great outdoors. Her success led to a write up in
Family Guide, and, almost overnight, business was booming.
Her ballooning sales in the wake of that publicity convinced
Nicmac's higher-ups to entrust Knipp with her own division focusing on her
preferred niche, honeymoons and destination weddings. Honeymoons Galore (which
she refers to as "my baby") was born, leading to another listing in New
York magazine—this time an interview feature in their Wedding Guide.
After the article appeared, she says, "My phone was
ringing off the hook."
Honeymoons have been her main focus ever since, and it has
been a lucrative specialization. One bride would refer another, people would
find her online, and Knipp experienced a snowball effect. Last year alone, she
arranged about 30 honeymoons.
After she booked and organized a deluxe 70-person
destination wedding in
working directly with the on-property wedding coordinator, she began regularly
attending bridal shows nationwide. This has raised her profile even further and
led her to even more business and referrals.
So how does Knipp stay educated and keep up with an
"I do a lot of fams, I read the publications and I'm
constantly on the Internet," she says. Knipp travels often, averaging
about 10 trips per year. She also has a strong online presence and advertises
on various wedding web sites.
While she does work with suppliers and books package tours
on occasion, she prefers to do FITs to provide her clients with a personalized,
unique travel experience. "My clients know that I'm 100 percent dedicated
to them and their trip," she says.
Her advice to agents just starting out in the industry?
"Treat your clients as if they're your only ones. Know your destinations;
don't try to sell something you're not familiar with. You've got to know your
product. If you do your research, you can sell anything."
Knipp also recommends working closely with colleagues and
forming bonds. Of her co-workers, she says, "They're not just friends,
they're family. I can never repay them for what I've learned." Tracing a
path from airline brat to honeymoon queen, Knipp has proven that she's an agent
with a wealth of expertise to share.
Galore, Nicmac Travel
Affiliation: Jurni Network