Fast Facts About Carolyn Cobb
Carolyn Cobb is the Program Director for Planters Bank Passport 50 at Planters Bank in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Planters Bank is a community bank founded in 1996. Its assets total $1.2 billion, with 12 branches in western Kentucky and Tennessee. The Planters Bank Passport 50 Club offers travel opportunities for customers ages 50 and over who have an active checking account. The club has 675 members.
Born: Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Education: Cobb has an associate’s degree in secretarial skills from Murray State University and graduated from the School of Bank Marketing in Boulder, Colorado
Employment: Cobb started her banking career in 1965 as a loan secretary. In 1994, she started a senior loyalty program that included travel. In 2008, she switched to Planters Bank.
Family: Her husband of 54 years owns a real estate firm.
Hobbies: Cobb enjoys cooking, entertaining, reading and flower gardening.
Putting Retirement on Hold
In 2007, Carolyn Cobb thought she knew what the future held. She planned to retire, since her current bank was ending its travel program.
Instead, she got a phone call that changed everything.
“The president of the Planters Bank contacted me the last few months I was working, saying she would love to have me start a travel program at Planters,” said Cobb, program director for the Planters Bank Passport 50. “I told her I needed some time off.”
After a year of taking it easy, Cobb took up the offer to resurrect her travel career at Planters Bank. Luckily, she had 13 years of successful group travel planning experience from which to pull.
This year, Cobb celebrates 25 years of organizing bank travel, including 12 years full of travel adventures and friends made at Planters Bank.
Dairy Farm Dreaming
Cobb grew up on a dairy farm with few opportunities to leave town, let alone explore the world.
“Because the cows had to be milked twice a day, I never traveled,” said Cobb. “The highlight of my summer was going to 4-H Camp and showing cattle at the state fair. I always said I wanted to travel.”
After college, Cobb took a job at the local bank. She started traveling domestically with her husband on vacations. Even then, Cobb arranged everything.
“I would plan the trip, and my husband would just say, ‘Tell me where we’re going and hand me the map.’ He is a stay-at-home hubby,” said Cobb. “He is happy for me to be able to travel and is always happy when I return. It has worked out perfectly for our marriage of 54 years. He gets to stay home, sell real estate and golf while I travel all over the world. He is very happy he doesn’t have to take me on vacations anymore.”
In 1993, Cobb was asked to start a bank senior loyalty program that included travel. By then, she had been promoted to vice president of marketing but felt unsure about planning group travel. She attended The School of Bank Marketing in Boulder to learn more about bank travel programs.
In 1994, Cobb ventured out with a group for the first time to Nashville, Tennessee. Larger trips followed, and soon Cobb was leading a thriving travel program.
She attended the first Select Traveler Conference — then called Bank Travel Conference — in 1995 to gain more insight.
“The networking with my peers is one of the most helpful parts about the conference,” said Cobb. “I also get a lot of new travel ideas. I like to find out what the other travel directors are doing and how they are handling issues that come up.”
Once the bank was bought by a corporation that didn’t support loyalty travel programs, Cobb thought her group travel days were done. But joining Planters Bank part time in 2008 brought new opportunities for fun.
The Passport 50 Club also hosts events in town, such as a Halloween dinner and card party where participants dress up and play cards games. Cobb plans two big trips a year, one domestic and one international, as well as several day trips, for her more than 650 members.
“We do quite a few daytrips,” said Cobb. “The members are about 70 years old, with a lot of ladies. We’ve formed so many friendships. They wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without this program. They don’t like to travel overnight. We are fortunate we have a lot of interesting places in Kentucky and Tennessee we can visit in a day and come back.”
Cobb uses feedback from her customers to plan a variety of tours that will work for her members. For example, her baby boomer customers want more free time, so Cobb has learned to build in more time to relax.
Like everyone else in travel, Cobb is trying to figure out her strategy for dealing with recent COVID-19 travel restrictions. She plans to try some motorcoach trips this year with some safety procedures in place.
“We are going to be taking temperatures when they get on the motorcoach,” said Cobb. “There is no way to do social distancing, but I think we will have to require masks. I’m not sure how that’s all going to work.”
Her group’s first trip after the pandemic will be a daytrip to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, in mid-July. The itinerary is simple: a meal and a play.
“The restaurant is opened with a third of the seating capacity. The theater is trying to figure out if they will be open. But no one has canceled. There are so many unknowns.”
A September trip to Canyon Country in Utah is also still planned.
“I’ve had to cancel so many things this year,” she said. “But I’m learning that my customers are ready to get out. They are going to do whatever. We’re working on details like having hand sanitizer around and ensuring that the tour managers and drivers wear masks and gloves.”
Even with the pandemic setback, Cobb finds joy in her job and doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon.
“I’ve been very fortunate that both my bank presidents have been very supportive of the program,” said Cobb. “I’ve met some wonderful people on these tours. At some point I’ll have to retire, but I’m not ready quite yet. There are too many places I still need to go.”
• Always use a reputable tour company for your extended trips. Encourage your travelers to always purchase the offered cancellation waiver insurance.
• Offer a variety of trips for your customers, such as domestic, international and daytrips. Use feedback from your travelers for new destination ideas.
• Always try to roll with the punches.