One Agent’s Fam Experience, Beginning To End: Part Two

by Lila Fox with Richard D'Ambrosio
One Agent’s Fam Experience, Beginning To End: Part Two


We’re wrapping up our Travel Fam Trip series by following travel agent Lila Fox of SmartFlyer in Madisonville, LA, with a two-part diary (read part one). Having spent some time with her deciding and preparing to visit Milan, Florence and Tuscany in her first entry, we join her now on her trip to get a feel for her experience, and what it's like to return back home.

I use Instagram to post “editorial-style” photos of the destination and hotels. I use Facebook daily as well to share a highlight of the day with a photograph. I try not to post more than once a day on Facebook but I get a little carried away with Instagram though posting a few times a day while traveling. My audiences are different on Instagram and Facebook so I try to “speak” to the audience with the appropriate imagery and words. And I'm reaching out to some clients real time while I’m on property via email—“Hey, I’m here now, and thought of you guys…”

If we are all meeting up at 9 a.m., I set my alarm for 5 a.m. and pre-order a pot of coffee to be delivered to my room. The plan is to work until eight. If dinner is over at 10, I’m usually up until midnight/1 a.m. tending to emails, sometimes later. But I try to get at least four or five hours of sleep each night.

The Armani Milano was better than expected. Dark, sexy, quiet, great service, lovely spacious room product, killer bar, central location. All of the other hotels I saw in Milan were wonderful to see because websites can often be misleading. Lungarno in Florence is quintessential Florentine, traditional with an impressive innovative restaurant on property. Love when hotels get that right.

The Po River in Florence Photo: Lila Ermel Fox
The Arno River in Florence. Photo: Lila Ermel Fox

Monteverdi Tuscany is such a surprise as well. It’s basically a UNESCO village that has been converted into this hotel project. But it’s not kitschy, which is hard to accomplish.

Note: This portion of the stay was hosted by Michael Cioffi whose family owns the property. The agents got to meet with the general manager Massimo Romagnoli, enjoyed spa treatments on property featuring products from Santa Maria Novella, a centuries-old Florentine apothecary; enjoyed a private wine tour and meet and greet at Casanova de Neri, and lunched at Agriolca Icario. During our stay we also had a cooking class with chef Giancarla Bodoni, who taught us how to make Pici Pasta and a Tuscan Bean soup.

Everything feels very authentic and cool, understated luxury, and the fact that they mingle the arts into their property by bringing in artists for small concerts is icing on the cake. It is a very unique offering that I’m excited to talk to people about.

As I’m touring, I’m constantly thinking about certain clients, like “Ooh, Monteverdi will be perfect for Billee—she was looking for a cool concert in Tuscany next summer…”


A hotel room in Monteverdi, Tuscany. Photo: Lila Ermel Fox

I don’t do a ton of family travel but I do have a number of clients with children so I’m also looking for those little family-friendly amenities, like connecting rooms, and making sure the restaurants can handle food allergies. I’m also looking at access: Are there a lot of steps or railings? Is this good for folks with limited mobility or for small children?

I look outside the windows to determine street noise for light sleepers. (I’m one of them!) I look at décor to make sure it makes sense and is authentic to the destination and overall style of the hotel. I take note of smells—a number of clients are sticklers for disliking strong aromas. A hotel should have a very faint pleasant smell.

Dining in local restaurants that the local hoteliers themselves love is always super-valuable, because those are the ones that get added to my recommendation list to clients. Any sort of unique city tour that highlights the local food scene or sharing of sordid scandalous history is always memorable.

When it comes to hotel site inspections, I think it’s very agent-specific. I don’t need to see every square inch of a resort. If a hotel has soul or a good feel to it, I’m generally sold and know which type of traveler it would be right for. So site visits that last hours are probably the least valuable to me.

What’s invaluable is getting to meet the hotel manager and staff. It’s a huge part of why I fly across the world to do this. Being able to meet face to face, sit and have a drink or meal with the folks managing the hotel on the ground—from the concierge team to the reservations team to the General Manager—is gold because the next time I’m booking that hotel or reaching out to the concierge for help with impossible dining reservations for clients, the conversation is a bit different. Now there is familiarity, especially if you hit it off as friends. You both want to do well for each other, and the end result is typically a favorable one for the client.

  4
  0
Tip of the Day
The professional travel advisor’s job is to equip the traveler with the necessary information to enable a good decision that will reflect that person’s own risk tolerance.
 
Paul Ruden
Daily Top List

Most Powerful Passports in the World

1. United Arab Emirates

2. Singapore

3. Germany

4. Denmark

5. Sweden

Source: Passport Index

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=5aa4cac6-77fe-e811-b9b4-782bcb667b27

How Will You Give Back This Year?

Learn from travel advisors who are positively impacting tourism through their sustainable travel efforts and empowering their clients to do the same. 

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Agents Can Sell by Highlighting the Health Benefits of Getting Away
Agents Can Sell by Highlighting the Health Benefits of Getting Away

Research from two studies this year say travel advisors might want to motivate clients to travel as part of their self-care plans.

Boomers Are Still the Biggest Supporters of Travel Advisors
Boomers Are Still the Biggest Supporters of Travel Advisors

Most recent ASTA consumer survey shows that Baby Boomers more highly value the talents and services of professional advisors.

House Calls Are Trending, Travel Agents Say
House Calls Are Trending, Travel Agents Say

With more travel advisors working from home, going to the client’s home is a natural and successful next step, especially in the luxury and destination-wedding markets.

Headquarter Happenings: Cruise Planners Celebrates 25 Years of Success
Headquarter Happenings: Cruise Planners Celebrates 25 Years of Success

The travel agency franchise network bought in early to the home-based business model, and is now passing those benefits onto travel professionals.

‘Boundless Selling’: Seven Reasons to Return to the Same Destination
‘Boundless Selling’: Seven Reasons to Return to the Same Destination

This selling tactic helps travel advisors create unlimited opportunities for clients to have that new-destination feeling on return visits to familiar destinations.

Cruise Execs Share Their Best Sales Tips with Agents
Cruise Execs Share Their Best Sales Tips with Agents

Whether travel advisors use social media or participate in local community groups to find customers, it’s all about making a human connection that inspires trust.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Tauck