Business Profile: Monroe happy to help others vacation
By Robin Intemann
It’s a tossup as to what Kris Monroe, owner of Quality Cruises and Travel, enjoys more: travelling or planning trips for others.
Admittedly, the former happens less frequently than she likes, but that doesn’t cloud her enjoyment of running her travel business.
“Being in the travel industry has allowed us to travel and we used to do a lot more,” Monroe says. “I love what I do, I love serving people. I love planning trips for people.”
Organizing trips for individuals is something Monroe has done for 20 years as a full-service travel agency; she added the group tours about 10 years ago. She has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.
Monroe works from her Manitou Springs home, which also accommodates the Carriage House Vacation Rentals operated by her husband, Tim.
The first tour Monroe planned was a group tour to Branson, Mo. It proved to be a success; she now offers eight to 10 tours a year, in addition to cruises and individual travel planning. “I offer anywhere from day trips to Denver to two-week trips overseas,” she says.
Typically, Monroe spends up to seven months planning group tours for the following year. Her brochure for 2020 tours will be available in August. The tours reflect her creativity and ability to entice one’s wanderlust. For example, an upcoming day trip to Denver, “Lavender, Wine, and Chocolate,” combines numerous elements appealing to the senses.
The group will visit lavender fields at Chatfield Farms and Gardens before going to Balistreri Vineyards in north Denver for wine tasting and lunch. The final stop will be the Buell Theatre for a performance of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
The length of the trip usually depends on the final destination, as does the number of participants, Monroe explains. The range is between 15 and 30. Each group is accompanied by Chris Burger, who Monroe notes is “an exceptional tour leader who goes along to make sure everything is seamless. She’s there to make everyone feel special. This is different than booking with a large tour company.”
Meeting tour members before the trip also helps set Quality Cruises and Travel apart from the competition. “Before our trips we have an opportunity for everyone to meet each other beforehand. That way no one’s a stranger at the beginning of the trip.” This often leads to new friendships, Monroe adds. “Many remain traveling companions on other trips. “For a lot of people new to the area or new to traveling with a group, our tours become a friendship base. No one ever has to feel like an outsider even if traveling alone.”
Many of the group tourists are in the 75-plus age range, she says. She also lets prospective travelers know what to expect in terms of activity levels.
“I know some people aren’t as mobile as they once were and I gear most tours with that in mind,” she says.
Conversely, Monroe also plans trips for individuals or private groups interested in more physical exertion.
Costs also vary depending on tour length, activities and area. For example, the” Fall Colors Historic Trains of Colorado,” a five-day bus trip with train trips, breakfast each morning, one dinner and accommodations for four nights is less than $1,500 per person, based on double occupancy. Many day trips are under $200.
Monroe estimates 70 percent are repeat clients. She relies on word-of-mouth and limited advertising and expects to have a new website operational in the near future.
With internet access available to anyone planning a trip, Monroe says she is able to get better rates and provide individual service that might be missing if booking on one’s own. “I use the internet to my advantage. Travel agents are privy to special fares and benefits to pass on (to our clients). Working with a travel agent should always be at least cheaper if not more than if someone books on their own.”
In addition to saving travelers money, Monroe says she can help avoid some headaches. She mentions a couple recently en route to Belize who were stuck in Dallas due to inclement weather. The airline offered little assistance, but Monroe was able to rebook the pair to their final destination. “I am able to offer exceptional service,” she says. “Being home-based I am available 24 hours.”
Planning and organizing the trips is a labor of love for Monroe.
“The wheels are always turning and some tours are easier to plan than others, but I enjoy piecing together every detail. This isn’t about the income,” she says. “It almost feels like a calling. It’s my heart. What I do is create tools for people to meet each other, to continue to live and experience the world around us.”