Kris Hoff, Director of Product, Badger Bus Tours, loves live theater, the arts, and knowing random obscure facts about cities, places, people and buildings.
She's a diehard Chicago sports fan living in Wisconsin. Hoff started working the front office for a tour operator during a phase when she was trying to figure out what she wanted to do for a career.
Turns out, she absolutely loved the tourism industry—her true passion—and never looked back.
She began planning day trips, which ended up being the "Kris' Korner" newsletter section. She went on to planning and operations for extended tours, leading tours, and doing travel shows and sales. When an opportunity arose to work for family-owned Badger Bus Tours, Hoff accepted.
Hoff, involved in tourism for almost 20 years, considers industry changes she's experienced. There was the post-9/11 travel slump, as people were afraid to travel; the many questions about security measures intended to make travel safe; the economic slump a few years back, when people were careful about their spending.
There were age changes. "Every generation seems to have different expectations. Figuring out how to please all age groups is a challenge at times, but I'm up to and have accepted the challenge." And technology. "Twenty years ago, there was not the social media presence there is today; most clients didn't use the web. That has rapidly changed. Learning to use social media as a tool has been a key component."
Hoff enjoys providing unique experiences, such as parade-route seating at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—a once-in-a-lifetime event for all who went, including her. Or staying on the grounds of a beautiful Louisiana plantation in 80-degree weather—when it was below zero back home. Badger Bus Tours, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020, has even created distinctive programs exclusive to groups, such as Laverne & Shirley's Milwaukee.
"I play the character of Laverne on our Laverne & Shirley tours and I really have fun with the passengers and Donna, who plays the character of Shirley. She's someone I have known for 20 years. We really are pretty much the real-life version of Laverne & Shirley, as far as personalities go."
Badger works with groups from all over. It provides receptive tours of Wisconsin, the Midwest, the United States and Canada. It can provide motorcoach transportation and casino gaming-focused packages. "We love bringing groups into the area and showing off our beautiful region. I like to say we have the best of everything."
Hoff is proud to be a part of the Badger team, filled with passionate individuals who work together to keep customers happy. This team has helped create lessons she follows and advice she gives.
Teamwork is important. "I've learned that getting to know other vendors and travel partners on a personal level has really helped me to grow—personally and professionally—and has assisted in growing our diverse product that we offer. I've learned to be open-minded, to try new things and find out what truly interests our clients."
Listen to and learn from travel industry professionals. "It's important to pick up the phone and talk to customers and other industry partners. It keeps everything on a personal-touch level."
Hoff notes she's learned every aspect of the industry, from customer service, to airline ticketing, to tour planning, to sales, to operations, to being on tours. "I have done it all and love doing every aspect of it. I still get very excited to plan tours and talk to people about travel."
Written by Amy L Charles, Editorial Director for Groups Today.