“I am a hunter, not a gatherer. I don’t give out my secrets. I find my own groups. It works for me. I love sales,” said Robin Brengle, a St. Charles, Mo.-based travel advisor franchisee with Cruise Planners.
Brengle connected with me after she sent me an email about an error in an item about an entry regulation for a Caribbean destination.
I asked her to describe her day-in-the-life routine as a travel advisor two years into the pandemic.
“Nothing is routine these days,” she said. “My husband, a retired architect, is my partner handling the business and marketing side of things while I concentrate on sales. Our clients are our top priority.”
She cited a recent example. Two of their clients were to be married at a resort in Barbados and then board a Windstar cruise for their honeymoon. The Brengles planned to attend the wedding ceremony and join the cruise.
“The group canceled when the cruise canceled entire Fortunately, it’s rescheduled, so now we’ll join the couple in Barbados, serve as their witnesses at the wedding ceremony and sail with them on the rescheduled Windstar cruise,” she said, adding, “It’s been interesting to say the least to try and sell travel during a pandemic.”
Bringle’s career includes 20 years with Holland America Line as a business development manager, a brief stint in advertising followed by a brick-and-mortar travel agency, then several years as a regional sales director for American Queen Steamboat Company and now six years with Cruise planners.
“Cruises are my first love, but I do it all, from selling all-inclusives in the Caribbean and Mexico to river cruises in Europe, wine tours, groups, FITs, destination weddings,” Brengle said. She described herself as a “luxury travel designer and Alaska expert.”
She works with her local chamber of commerce and hosts frequent meet-up groups with vineyard owners, culinary groups and school groups to pitch the business of small-ship cruising and travel.
“We started out with zero clients, but we’ve built that up and we continue to grow our client list,” she said.
The agency was doing well until Covid hit and all bookings canceled. “No one wanted to travel or could travel,” she said. “The industry was affected so badly across the board, from our customers to resort staff, hospitality workers, vendors on the cruise piers, businesses that fell to nothing and restaurants that closed.”
Caribbean bookings make up a quarter of her business. Brengle has visited many of the islands, especially on the smaller ships that have access to ports not normally visited by the bigger lines. Bequia in the Grenadines is one of her favorite islands.
Bringle has never charged a fee for her services but admitted that she has “fired a client or two. If something doesn’t make good business sense, I don’t do it.”
Cruise Planners offers “invaluable online training, support, boot camps, conferences, Zoom calls; and the company is always there for me.”
As for her day-to-day routine, Brengle said, “I’ve taught my clients that I am always here for them. They can reach me, call me, contact me. Every day is different, especially in a pandemic. Nothing has been as devastating as Covid, and we’ve been through it all from SARS to hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and 9/11.”
“I love what I do. Travel is everything to me, and so are my clients,” she said.