Luxury Travel Agent Has Never Seen Such Chaos

  • Stacy Fischer Rosenthal is President and Owner of luxury travel agency Fischer Travel
  • We have never seen delays and cancellations on the scale we are seeing post Covid. Lost bags are a fact of life
  • This is the story of Stacy Fischer Rosenthal as told to writer Amber Gibson.

This essay is based on a conversation with Stacy Fischer Rosenthal, the President and owner of luxury travel agency Fischer Travel, who has been in business for 40 years. Their clients pay a $100,000 joining fee to become a member of Fischer Travel, which has already added seven new clients this year and is considering increasing the joining fee. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I’ve never seen anything quite like it in terms of chaos.

Covid has left a long-term negative impact on all aspects of travel: airlines are struggling with staffing issues, hence the cancellations, and the hospitality industry in general is in dire straits – hotels, restaurants, tour guides, drivers and greeters. The demand for travel is there – there is only a lack of supply.

We’re used to delays and cancellations, but never to the extent we’re experiencing. People come to us because they want to feel cared for, be flexible and have options.

Recently, my team planned an independent trip for a new client.

We arranged for her French lessons in Provence, walking and cycling guides, and people to have dinner with her and chat casually in French. Then, after two days, the hiking and biking trails were closed due to the heat, so she decided to just head to Paris instead.

I felt sorry for the vendors we found but understood that she would rather be in a city and be indoors and have a museum experience. And so we are now putting together this completely different itinerary for you to Paris; We arranged chocolate and croissant baking classes and professional buyers to invite them over for a fashion day and we were able to curate this with just two days in advance.

Before Covid, people traveled maybe a week to 10 days. What we see now are families and people of different generations traveling for four to eight weeks this summer.

The planning intensity of a trip of this magnitude is enormous. Sometimes when they leave we haven’t even completed the back end of the journey because we are still waiting for replies from the customer and waiting for confirmations from suppliers because everyone is so late. Even in the best hotels in the world, concierges are understaffed.

Lost bags are also a big problem that is more common than ever.

On another recent trip, a client’s daughter, who is a horse rider, traveled from London City Airport to Nice and checked her medication and riding gear. Her bag didn’t make it to Nice and it was the week of the Queen’s Jubilee.

She offered a £5,000 reward for the bag. We sent people to both airports and nobody could find it. That was on Monday. On Tuesday when they didn’t find the bag I thought what if we pack another bag in New York and fly it to Nice with someone.

I couldn’t spare one member of staff, so I called a friend to see if she had her vaccination card and passport. She was on a 7 p.m. United flight from Newark. Customer’s assistant packed a bag in New York, had a driver pick up my girlfriend from New Jersey with €500 and $500 and a driver picked her up in Nice and they took two bags to Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc. My friend stayed in Nice for two nights and then flew back on Friday.

She literally dropped everything to get on that plane and our client’s daughter got her riding gear and meds on Wednesday.

Covid is also still a ubiquitous topic.

At least three times a week there’s a 411 because someone has to get off a yacht or offboard staff or hire new staff because someone has got Covid.

We had a new client who was at a bachelorette party on Exuma in the Bahamas in May when she tested positive for Covid. Her parents called and wanted to take her home, otherwise she had to go to a quarantine hotel in Exuma for a week. I remembered reading about the Rosewood Baha Mar flying people home if they were positive, so I called the general manager and within three hours we were bringing them on a private plane via Trinity Air Ambulance for $15,000 to Miami.

Having a human travel agency is now more important than ever.

We have amazing relationships to get things right. We monitor our customers’ every movement, check them in, assist the greeter, the car and the driver and constantly monitor all airport closures, flight cancellations and entry and exit regulations. It’s an ongoing process of reconfirming 2 or 3 times to make sure everything is going smoothly.

We are the only point of contact for the entire trip and do not pass this on to anyone else. If there was one thing I would like to change, it would be that the service levels would be back and the response time would be much faster.

We currently see the greatest interest in Europe. Not that people haven’t been going in recent years, but it’s so popular at the moment and people miss it. Large families travel to one or more destinations for weeks. It’s not just about getting the villa, it’s about occupying the villa and providing attractions, activities, restaurants, etc. There are so many different facets to every trip.

Creating magical, unforgettable moments is the best part of what we do. Travel is not one size fits all. Trying to stay in the moment, I embrace the new business and embrace the challenges and opportunities. We work so hard and if people appreciate what we do for them, there’s nothing quite like it.

We are hiring by demand and we know it will take time for people to understand our business.

I just hired five students from great colleges like Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

I’m looking for passion, listening skills and openness to be creative. Of course you also have to be very detail-oriented and very open-minded to work in a team, because that’s how you will be successful here. We all bring our skills and travel knowledge into the equation to help our customers.

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