"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
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
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
So how does Knipp stay educated and keep up with an ever-changing industry?
"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.
Affiliation: Jurni Network