Service means staying power for Glencoe’s Lake Shore Travel
Agents Debbie Elias (left) and Debbie Wilensky work togehter in the in Harris Bank Building office at Lake Shore Travel in Glencoe. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 11, 2012 8:20AM
Lake Shore Travel has been on the same block in downtown Glencoe for more than 50 years, with business thriving despite the onset more than a decade ago of online travel services like Orbitz and Travelocity.
In fact, says Larry D. Rednour, Lake Shore’s president and chief operating officer, “the trend is moving away from online bookings.”
Rednour explained that packaging the right elements for a luxury vacation is something that clients don’t want to trust to an online service. With so many different online services, the trove of information can be overwhelming.
“The details get lost on the Internet,” said Rosann Glantz, Lake Shore’s senior vice president.
Clients who bought travel products online in 2011 made about 50 percent of purchases through online travel agents, followed by search engines and websites of tour operators, according to travelmole.com, which watches the travel industry.
Although Internet services lack the personal touch, Rednour said it is still an invaluable tool in the travel business. Consumers today are more educated, he explained, and usually have been to several online sites prior to talking to a travel advisor.
“But it doesn’t necessarily mean they understand what they are seeing,” Rednour said. “We can make sense of it and talk about alternatives.”
Lake Shore, located at 337 Park Ave., assists clients, mostly from the North Shore, as they embark on destinations as far and wide as Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. Various cruises and domestic vacations are also popular.
“What we’re all about is creating a special experience,” said Karen Howland, manager of business development for Lake Shore.
Ken Lewis, former owner and president of Lake Shore who ran the business for 25 years, said that what drives business is the service aspect. Clients do not want a transaction, he said, they want input and help in making their decisions when it comes to an experience like world travel.
“Our business is everything but transactional,” he said. “The guiding principal of our business is service.”
Being on the luxury end of the travel service industry, Rednour said that peace of mind plays an important role in business because many of their clients are taking overseas luxury vacations or adventure trips, like African safaris, and there are certain expectations.
One year ago, Lake Shore merged with Suburban Travel in Glenview, bringing more staff and more experience to the Glencoe office.
“We decided last summer just to bring everyone here,” said Rednour. “It’s brought more talent into the organization.”
Lake Shore is an associate of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies. Suburban was also a Virtuoso associate. Rednour said because of the shared association, the transition was very smooth.
“They share knowledge and experience,” he said.
Lake Shore charges based on the complexity of the client’s trip.
“We work with the client’s budget,” said Howland, explaining that although Lake Shore has corporate clients, their main focus is on leisure and luxury travel.
Rednour said that cruises are very popular with their clients, as is international travel.
“Europe is always a high-demand destination for us,” he said.
Howland said that Asia is also a strong market, and South America is growing as a market due to expanded cruise ship routes.
Glantz said with the Olympics this year, London may open up as a possible high-demand destination. The biggest growth element for the business, she said, is referrals.
Rednour said he thinks one reason the business thrives is because the advisors at Lake Shore travel extensively, so they are experiencing what they sell.
“We know the product,” he said. “We know the service.”