Sue Sinclair-Rutledge and her koalas call it a career
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
In Sue Sinclair-Rutledge’s 60 years in the travel industry, she has been on more than 190 cruises. She helped thousands schedule their dream vacations.
But she and her husband, Frank, agree: It’s about time for her to retire. CEO Sheri Slaybaugh will take over Sue Sinclair Travel Center.
“I’ve traveled almost all over the world,” Sinclair-Rutledge said. “I’ve sailed on more than 190 cruises and met many interesting people in my travels.”
One notable meeting was with fitness instructor Jack LaLanne, who drank two Bloody Marys at noon each day.
Sinclair-Rutledge weathered the changes in her industry. When a move appeared to bring her business down, she just went in a new direction. For example, in the early 1990s, US Airlines decided to stop paying commissions to travel agencies. She spun it into a new segment of her business: a motorcoach tour division trekking clients through Arizona, California and New Mexico.
Air travel has changed for the worse,” she said. “Back in the ’50s, people dressed up to travel. Now, people wear just about anything when traveling. You now pay for services that were once free.
“There are charges for luggage and hand carries. Curbside check-in is now at an additional cost. The airlines are now talking about charging for soft drinks, pillows, blankets and can you believe you will someday have to pay to visit the toilet? We all know about big changes to airline security.”
On the other end, cruise lines have changed for the better. In the beginning of her career, cruise ship cabins were small—the tiniest being 90 square feet for two people. Now, ships are built for comfort.
“They have improved amenities, services, on-board activities,” she said. “Because of lower prices, cruises are available for just about everyone. In the past, only the more affluent people took cruises. In 1972, less than 1% of the population took cruises. Now it is over 25%.”
Walking into her office, it’s clear which country is her favorite—Australia. Koalas are peppered throughout the desks, ledges and walls.
“I have a collection of more than 1,300 koalas in my office,” said Sinclair-Rutledge, who lives in Leisure World with her husband, Frank. “Some clients think it’s a toy store.”
During her career, Sinclair-Rutledge has been a member of Beta Signa Phi Sorority, the Soroptimists, Kiwanis, American Businesswomen’s Association and the Mesa and Apache Junction chambers of commerce.
Sinclair Travel injects fun into its events. “Mystery Trips” are planned for Thursday, January 23, and Tuesday, February 18, for $99. It’s also offering trips to Laughlin, Tubac Festival of the Arts, Turf Paradise, Heard Museum, Cerreta Fine Chocolates, Kartchner Caverns, casinos, Rock Springs Café, Phoenix Art Museum, Copper Canyon and lunch at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen.
The business offers trips outside of the continental United States as well, including Ireland from March 14 to March 23 for $4,439, single.