30 Years of Connection
A few key takeaways from our 30th-anniversary celebration
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Fernando Gonzalez and Erika Reategui started First in Service in New York City. Since then, the company has grown to include team members, advisors, and partners from all around the world. And while the original plan to mark this milestone in person didn’t go exactly as, well, planned (has anything this year?), the way we did celebrate turned out even better.
In mid-March, we held a three-day virtual celebration, complete with special guests (Tina Knowles Lawson! Pedrito Martinez!), interactive sessions, and of course, lots of Zoom-based team bonding. The best part? So much of what we discovered is not only applicable for us at F1S, but for the travel industry and travelers, too. And we wanted to share some of that great info with you. Read on for six key lessons we learned or watch our anniversary recap here.
3 days of celebration
Showcase Your Authentic Voice on Social Media
Social media is an integral part of business these days, and in one of our first sessions, we were lucky enough to learn from some of the best: Mike Karns, the social media manager for Hamilton and other Broadway shows, Nathaniel Hill, founder of Broadway Plus, and Broadway actor Syndee Winters. One of the biggest takeaways (aside from Syndee’s epic live performance), particularly for travel advisors: Generate content on social media as a way of showcasing your specific voice and point of view to your clients, whether it’s a place you’re visiting, a travel experience, or, as Syndee says, if on vacation you prefer a margarita with salt or no salt. And this is helpful for travelers too, since it offers an insider look at the world and how an advisor can help you get there.
Make Time for Self-Care
We know it’s important to take care of ourselves, but actually doing so is often a different matter. That’s why it was so wonderful to do a virtual EFT Tapping session with Valerie Oula, director of vibrational energy healing at The Well. This mind-body technique brings together acupressure and psychology to help open up the body’s energy channels—and highlighted how essential it is to care for our mental and emotional health. It also underscored how spending a few days (weeks?) at places like Connecticut’s Mayflower Inn & Spa, which now features The Well at Mayflower Inn—an integrated holistic experience with a suite of medical and health coaching services and custom spa treatments—can make self-care that much easier.
Incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is Key
We held a panel on incorporating the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion—key values at F1S—hosted by the Managing Director at the Los Angeles Office, George Carrancho. Panel guest Elio Lopez, Account Director, LGBTQ & Entertainment – North America for Belmond, painted a perfectly clear picture when he had this to say: Let’s say we’re throwing a big party, “and you’re invited to the party, so that’s diversity. Inclusion is when somebody asks you to dance—they feel included. Celebration is when you are dancing with everybody else. And that’s what we have to do no matter who you are and what you are.”
Looking into the future with F1S
Find the Power in Giving Back
In 2013, we launched F1S Helps, an initiative that focuses on giving back through travel. And we were reminded of how important it is to support those in need during our F1RST Talk: HERstory with Tina Knowles Lawson. She shared her own experience giving back during the Covid-19 pandemic, including helping families from their organization, Tina’s Angels and Richard’s Warriors. Even though she had her own doubts about how she could make a difference, she discovered she was able to do just that—as well as, become an activist, a role, she said, she had shied away from in the past. And she explained that while the pandemic has been devastating in so many ways, the upside is that we have had, “the time to really focus on growing as people and growing as humanitarians and to do the things that we’ve never had time, or energy, or the confidence to do before.” Other organizations also worked to help, such as The Rosewood Raise Relief Fund, which was initially launched as a way to support their associates, with the company matching all cash donations, as SiuYin Ko, VP Global Sales with Rosewood explained during our Fireside Chat panel with senior hotel leaders.
Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that it’s important to think outside the box and welcome new ideas and ways of doing things. Case in point: Nicole Smith, founder of Flytographer, a service that connects travelers with local photographers, talked to us about some of the changes she made to her business when travel came to a halt, including setting up an online store and offering digital courses. And she wasn’t the only one: Many hotel groups, like One&Only talked about switching up their social media strategy in the early days of the pandemic to focus on at-home content (home office design advice from their interior designer, for instance), before moving back to showcasing their properties as they reopened.
Use a Travel Advisor
This advice bears repeating: Using a travel advisor—especially these days, when there are so many moving pieces to traveling—is essential right now. And in a Fireside Chat featuring Ko from Rosewood, along with Anne Mansfield, VP Sales & Marketing – Americas with Four Seasons and Daniel Pasquali, Divisional Director of Leisure Sales, North America with Belmond, Pasquali offered one example of why it’s so important: In 2019, booking a villa at Cap Juluca in Anguilla, for instance, meant a few emails back and forth between the property and an advisor. These days, it may be upwards of 20 emails, discussing everything from how to arrive on the island to when and how many COVID-19 tests are needed. “This is another reason why the service, personal service, aspect is crucial, and has become so much more important than ever,” he said.
View Celebration Recap
Our celebration concluded with an amazing virtual party, featuring Broadway’s Freestyle Love Supreme and Grammy-nominated artist Pedrito Martinez. We want to again thank them, our sponsors, clients, and team members who have made the past 30 years such a joy. We can’t wait to see what the next 30—and beyond!—have in store.