Thanks to a little bit of luck and a lot of personality, Michele Chubalashvili, owner of Vitas Travel Service, has made a fruitful career in the upper echelons of luxury travel.
Chubalashvili bought the company more than 30 years ago when she was 21 years old. She had only been working there as a travel advisor for about a year, but because of her connections to people in high places – her husband at the time was an air pilot for a billionaire real estate mogul – she sent Vitas Travel’s sales soaring.
“I fell into this business, but I didn’t just fall into it,” Chubalashvili said. “I am a person who is very approachable and bubbly. I love people. If you love people, the people will approach you.”
Being in the right places – with the right people
By surrounding herself with affluence, Chubalashvili attracted wealthy clients. Her biggest advice for those looking to sell travel is go to events where your desired clientele will be and always introduce yourself to get your name out there.
“I got to know very important people throughout the world,” she said. “Every time they put out an invitation, my name was below saying ‘reach out to this person at this number [for travel arrangements].’”
From there, the key was to keep her well-off clients happy with every trip she prepared. From a 600-person wedding in Paris, to group trips to places such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to parties in exclusive, secluded corners of the world, Chubalashvili has delivered on the most lavish of travel requests.
“To maintain those kinds of clients, it takes a lot of work,” Chubalashvili said, noting that her job is a round-the-clock effort. “Things have to be done right and in a certain amount of time, not the next day – today.”
Doing the homework
Chubalashvili travels about every two weeks for just a few days at a time, she says. On these trips, she scouts out new destinations, boutique hotels, and other attractions to recommend to clients.
“It’s very important that you know the properties you’re selling well,” she says. “You have to always be on top of business and what trends that year.”
Recently, vacations to Italy have been Chubalashvili’s best-seller. She visits the country often, as well as a variety of countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Though Chubalashvili mainly sticks to land trips in those areas, she has found that keeping an open mind about new business is also important.
The esteemed advisor recently started a cruise segment of Vitas Travel. While she personally does not book cruises, another advisor on her team has an interest in them and runs that department.
Chubalashvili also recently traveled to Mexico to scope out several different properties. Although she previously did not view the country as a luxurious destination, the trip managed to change her mind.
“I tried to see what value they would give to my clients,“ she said. “Out of the five properties, I walked 16-hour days for four days because I wanted to see every inch of the property. I already have a plan to sell [them] this winter to my clients.”
Aside from touring locations, Chubalashvili also travels to experience any roadblocks that may arise for her clients “to make sure they won't have the same problem.”
Having it all pay off
Not only does Chubalashvili find personal satisfaction in running Vitas Travel, but she is also proud of the quality of trips she makes happen for travelers.
She recently recommended a Sardinia hotel to a client who already had another hotel in mind – however, he took her recommendation, and he and his family ended up vacationing longer than he initially intended.
“The exciting part for me [are the trips] that people don’t anticipate you offering them, and you offer, and they accept it,” Chubalashvili says.
In August, Chubalashvili is taking some mutual friends and fellow advisors on a girls’ trip to Ibiza and Portugal – another exciting perk of her hard work.
“I’m not a 9-to-5, but in that 24/7 I can be on the beach, and I can be working. It's just enjoyment,” she said. “Who else gets to sit on the beach, while talking on the phone and arranging a $200,000 jet from one country to another?
“This industry makes us look younger,” she adds, laughing. “And happier for it.”