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    Women’s History Month:

    How Travel Trains You

    to Be a Leader 






    Culture Club

    Women’s History Month: How Travel Trains You to Be a Leader 

    F1S President and Co-Founder Erika Reategui talks about women in travel, the importance of perseverance and tenacity—and why she calls herself an explorer at heart.








    Welcome to our Women’s History Month series, where we are spotlighting incredible women across various industries who are breaking barriers and working to create a more equitable world. 

    A travel industry powerhouse, Erika Reategui co-founded First in Service back in 1991, and now serves as president. Overseeing all operations for the company, her entrepreneurial spirit and bold mindset has helped guide F1S since its earliest days—and that continues today. 

    Here, Erika talks about the importance of support and mentorship for women in the travel industry, some of her favorite destinations and the vital ways travel trains you to be a leader. 

    F1S: You are the Co-Founder and President of F1S. Why is it so critical to have women represented at the highest level in travel?

    Erika Reategui: Having women in executive positions within the travel industry is critical for gender equality and balance. Plus, it’s been proven many times over that when women are in leadership positions, it truly helps elevate a company and its performance.  

    But there is still work to be done. I was reading an article recently that said that even though a large percentage of women are working as travel advisors, or even opening up their own agencies, as they continue to move up the ranks, they are not given adequate guidance or mentorship to move into executive or c-suite roles, especially within large organizations. We have to work together to consciously change this, whether by creating support networks, mentorship programs, or other avenues. Here at F1S, I’m proud to say that women make up 67% of our company, and 40% of our executive team—and we work hard to foster a sense of camaraderie, value, and openness for women at all levels.

    "I also believe travel trains you to be a leader. When you travel, you face many challenges, from acclimating to a new environment to thinking on your feet. And these are all skills that are incredibly important as you step into a leadership role. Travel trains you to be strong but also nimble, to be determined and flexible at the same time. It takes away the fear of the unknown."
    Erika Reategui

    F1S: What has travel given you? And why is travel so important—especially for women?

    Erika Reategui: I think travel is rewarding because it opens up your horizons. I believe it forms you; it shapes you as a human being, helping you grow and learn, to become more independent and more open to the world around you.  

    Women in travel

    F1S: Speaking of travel, you have visited over 100 countries. Do you have any favorite destinations—and what have you learned along the way?

    Erika Reategui: In recent years, there were five destinations I really wanted to visit—and I’m lucky to say that, right before the pandemic hit, I was able to see all of them: Mongolia, Madagascar, Nepal, Borneo and Papua New Guinea. And they were each truly incredible.

    I’m based in the U.S., and love traveling to far-off destinations and experiencing and discovering what other cultures can offer and teach us. I’m an explorer at heart. When I set my mind on a destination, I just go for it. I believe you can—and should—learn from any destination you visit. I’ve learned that when you’re on the road, it’s best to be open, adaptable, and willing to welcome new cultures, new ideas, and new ways of doing things.


    F1S: What advice do you have for other women in the travel industry—and beyond?

    Erika Reategui: I think women should set and focus on a goal, and work hard to achieve it. When you get a job, don’t just see it as a job, but as a career—one in which you could eventually become a leader. This is particularly true in travel. There are many different avenues you can take in this industry. My advice would be to meet and talk with people who are in roles that interest you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and then forge your own path. Perseverance, tenacity, and determination are key across the board.

    And, most importantly, never stop learning and educating yourself. Just because you have a degree, for example, doesn’t mean that’s the end of it. You have to continue to increase your knowledge in your chosen field to both meet the goals you set for yourself and grow as a person and leader. And you hear it so often, but, never give up—work every day to give the best you have to give. There’s no doubt in my mind you’ll be rewarded for that.

    This story is part of our March series spotlighting incredible women across various industries in honor of Women’s History Month. Read our additional features, including an interview with Malsa Maaz, who serves as the Barefoot Bookseller at F1S partner Soneva Jani in the Maldives, and Dr. Charlotte Jones-Burton, an F1S client who launched the groundbreaking nonprofit Women of Color in Pharma. To learn more about any of the initiatives and organizations highlighted in this series, reach out to us at

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