Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, Katrina Roberts is one of the top performing travel agents for Cook Travel, a boutique travel consultancy that specializes in Business and First Class travel. Having spent the last 16 years in New York City, Katrina handles business and first class travel for large scale corporations, law firms and advertising agencies, both in New York and in New Zealand, and even the travel of various celebrities; from Nick Cannon to Paula Abdul. She got her start as a travel agent fresh out of tourism school, which led to her spending the last 14 years specializing in travel to the South Pacific as an International Tour Leader with Cook Travel.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Coming from New Zealand to New York must have been quite a change, despite the similarities in name! How was the adjustment for you? Had you been to New York City before you moved there?
Katrina Roberts (KR): I had never been to New York. I had visited the west coast of America a lot prior to moving here. On the first day I got to Jersey City, I saw the skyline of Manhattan and said to my partner, “That’s enough for today.” I was so overwhelmed with the size. I then started work two days later in the city, and was again very overwhelmed with the amount of people and the city. Needless to say I got lost, and was one hour late on my first day.
TRO: Can you give us a little more insight into Tourism School? How was it achieving an education based around the travel industry?
KR: Tourism school was a programme with the New Zealand Institute of Poly Tech. Air New Zealand was the one that wrote the exams and you had to be 100% competent in order to complete the certificate. This was a year course and only a few dozen people are selected for the program. I MADE SURE I GOT IN!
TRO: Handling Business and First Class Travel for large companies, like Coca-Cola, in both New York and New Zealand must be challenging due to the sheer size of these types of companies. How do you manage to such a process? Do you have any tips and tricks?
KR: Work smart, stay focused, and never leave anything unfinished. Team work and long hours.
TRO: Arranging travel for celebrities such as Paula Abdul and Nick Cannon must be very exciting. What is the most exciting trip you have arranged for a celebrity? Who was it?
KR: I used to do Kim Cattrall’s travel back in the day, and I was a huge Sex in the City fan. Today I did a ticket for Sienna Miller.
TRO: You specialize in travel to the South Pacific, as an International Tour Leader for Cook Travel. Was there anything specifically about this region that really stuck out to you other than your New Zealand roots? Is there an area in the South Pacific region you would consider the most popular for travel?
KR: Americans like the fact they are dealing with a Kiwi when traveling to the South Pacific. Most do cruises for example into Sydney or Brisbane and return from Auckland or Christ Church or vice versa. Most popular destinations in Australia are Sydney / Brisbane / Melbourne and in New Zealand Queenstown / Christchurch and Auckland. The feedback I get from my clients is that they love New Zealand and the people, and can’t understand why I would live in NYC.
TRO: Can you tell us more about your role as an International Tour Leader?
KR: I mainly handle all the international air travel. As I mentioned, I enjoy giving customers discounts on business class and premium economy seats. Customer service is important to me. I am also a Tourism New Zealand specialist. Most of my clients cruise, so I really only need to help with one or two nights at the beginning and end of the cruise. For hotels, I can assist and help with e-Cruises and any land packages they may require such as tours and transfers.
TRO: Out of all the places you have had the opportunity to travel, which has been your favorite? Why?
KR: Other than my home country New Zealand: Dubrovnik, Croatia is by far my favorite place. It’s magical! The people I found very welcoming and made my trip just incredible.
TRO: Is there anywhere you haven’t been yet that you are wanting to knock off of your travel bucket list? If so, where?
KR: Italy / Spain and I have never been to the US Virgin Islands!
TRO: What can we expect to see from Cook Travel this year?
KR: We are working on a hotel booking engine tool.