Biz Travel Agency Finds Big Success In Leisure

by Richard D'Ambrosio

Photo: First in Service Travel/Facebook

New York-based First in Service Travel (F1S) knows that for its corporate customers, all work and no play isn’t good for anyone. That’s why the travel management company this month is adding a cruise desk to its growing multimillion dollar leisure travel business, broadening its mix of services to meet the needs of a successful corporate trade.

For 25 years, First in Service has been managing business travel for a high-profile international clientele in finance, luxury goods, entertainment, media and technology. About four years ago, the company realized that although it was regularly booking vacations for its clients, it didn’t really have the expertise or dedicated staff to target leisure sales to that base.

“Our luxury leisure division was an organic extension of our corporate and entertainment offerings,” said F1S CEO and co-founder Fernando Gonzalez. “We work with so many high-profile executives, entertainers and models, who didn’t realize we could handle all of their travel needs—regardless of whether it was a world tour or a private island getaway. Once we made the division official, it took off.”

Today, the leisure division has 15 dedicated full-time agents. It has grown from $5 million, or 5% of total annual gross sales, to about $25 million in gross annual sales, or 20% of the agency’s total, and is “steadily growing” today, Gonzalez said.

Focusing on cruise
The more F1S sold vacations to its clientele, the more it became apparent to Gonzalez that his company needed to specialize in cruises. “It’s the fastest-growing segment in the leisure industry, and our clients are telling us they want to cruise,” he said.

So now F1S Cruises is working with 31 ocean and river cruise lines. F1S Cruises is being run by industry veteran and former Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines sales manager Stephen Scott. Scott will help market the cruise desk to clients and train 90 to 100 independent contractors on how to sell cruises.

“We’re here to guide [our agents] through what can seem like an overwhelming amount of options for all lifestyles,” Gonzalez said.

F1S already was one of the top three cruise producers in the New York region before launching the division, Gonzalez said. He hopes to “move the needle to the top with Stephen on board.”

“Stephen was an award-winning sales executive at one of the leading cruise lines in the world. His knowledge and contacts are outstanding,” Gonzalez said. “He’s convinced us all that our next trip will be a cruise.”

More growth opportunities
Gonzalez sees F1S growing its business in a number of other areas as well.

“We will continue to further specialize and really shine in areas like travel to South America. In our opinion, that’s an underdeveloped market that will be rising fast with more and more luxury hotels launching, strong value for the U.S. dollar, and lack of terrorism fears,” he said.

“Many of our specialists are Latin American and fluent Spanish and Portuguese speakers. Furthermore, our team is growing; we’re opening more international offices. It has all snowballed into a very exciting future in an industry that is poised for tremendous change.”

Gonzalez founded F1S with his sister Erika Reategui in 1991. The company, a branch of Tzell Travel Group and a Virtuoso member, has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Madrid, London and Bogota. It has dedicated corporate, luxury leisure, cruise, entertainment and events divisions.

F1S is advertising its new cruise division with a fall campaign in BELLA magazine, an upscale women’s monthly distributed in New York and Los Angeles. The campaign also included event sponsorship during New York Fashion Week with Paris Hilton and the celebrity launch of the magazine in Los Angeles.

  3
  2
TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=64b3c7ec-38ec-e911-9b23-782bcb667b27)

Top 5 Conversation Starters About Travel Insurance

Most travelers understand the need to have travel insurance, and most will agree to purchase it, if the option is presented in a clear way by their trusted travel advisor.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
What Travel Agents Need to Know About California Consumer Privacy Act Regulations

Learn what all travel agencies need to know about how the proposed new laws may affect the collection and use of personal information, and how to comply with the regulations.

Online Hotel Booking Scams Cost Consumers $5.7 Billion Annually

Nearly one in four consumers are deceived by online booking scams and dishonest marketing practices by fraudulent and misleading travel websites.

AIG Travel Guard Insurance Plan Changes Upset Advisors

The major travel insurance provider has altered its core offerings and eliminated commission protection, causing many agents to reconsider selling their plans.

First Travel Agency In-House Video Production Studio Opens in Toronto

The studio helps luxury travel advisors connect with their clients through high-end, professionally produced video content.

Travel Advisors Say They’re Unafraid of Biometrics

Despite heightened privacy concerns, travel agents are enjoying the benefits of current facial recognition technology used for security purposes, and they look forward to more.

Advisors Have to Work Harder to Deliver Authentic Culinary Travel Experiences

With more companies offering more standardized experiences, satisfying high-end culinary travelers has become more difficult.

News Briefs
Tip of the Day

"Reputation, experience and professionalism certainly come into play. But then you have to count on the X-factor, which really comes down to chemistry."

Matthew Upchurch

Virtuoso

Daily Top List

Best Airports for Layovers

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson International
  2. Los Angeles International
  3. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
  4. Singapore Changi Airport
  5. Munich Airport Centre, Germany

Source: Travel Channel

TMR Outlooks