Updated March 2 at 7:41pm

Reservations made easy in Newport

'Local knowledge of City by the Sea gives firm edge in serving clients'

During the early 1990s when Karen TaylorHowell was working the desk of the Newport Harbor Hotel, each afternoon seemed to bring a steady stream of visitors desperately trying to find a room. More

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Reservations made easy in Newport

'Local knowledge of City by the Sea gives firm edge in serving clients'

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During the early 1990s when Karen TaylorHowell was working the desk of the Newport Harbor Hotel, each afternoon seemed to bring a steady stream of visitors desperately trying to find a room.

The hotel was almost always booked, so TaylorHowell and staff found themselves calling around to try to find them somewhere to stay. The shortage of rooms became so severe one year during the Newport Boat show that the nearest vacancies were in Brockton, Mass.

“I realized that if this was happening in my lobby, it was probably happening everywhere, especially once the visitor center closed each night at 5 o’clock,” TaylorHowell said. “So I opened my own business and it took off.”

Reprising the functions of the hotel desk in her own independent agency, TaylorHowell founded Taylor-Made Destinations, a reservation service built around her knowledge of the city and its establishments.

Initially, Taylor-Made also included concierge service, but the demand for rooms was so intense that TaylorHowell decided to focus just on lodgings.

“We got so busy, so fast, there wasn’t time to ask ‘would you like fries with that,’ ” TaylorHowell said. “So we stuck to what we did best: accommodations.”

From its founding in 1993 with one employee, Taylor-Made Destinations quickly grew to 13 as visitors to Newport appreciated a one-call solution to their hotel-booking needs.

Then the Internet took hold.

Like travel agents and so many other industries, the Web pulled the rug out from under Taylor-Made Destinations as tourists learned they could find a hotel and book it online without picking up the phone.

And then in 2001, the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., slowed vacation spending across the country and permanently altered the way Americans thought about travel.

“People stopped booking in advance, everything is more last minute” now, TaylorHowell said.

From 13, Taylor-Made has dropped all the way down to two employees.

With the Internet becoming popular for its convenience, Taylor-Made needed to offer something the computer couldn’t: local knowledge capable of cutting through all the noise online and finding the right place for the right visitor.

Now, entering its 19th year in Newport, Taylor-Made is an Expedia.com affiliate with about one-quarter of its bookings made online.

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