“Customer service is one thing but customer satisfaction is key,” says Denise Schaefer of Plaza Travel in Los Angeles.
This trendsetter’s talent is surprising her clients with special touches, such as arranging a private dinner on the beach for a couple on a Galapagos honeymoon, or having personalized gifts waiting at a restaurant where she’s booked her cruise clients for lunch for a special land excursion. It’s clear that Schaefer goes that extra step, which has earned her the honor of Plaza Travel’s trendsetter.
She’s been employed by Plaza Travel, a Signature Travel Network member, for seven years, and has been an advisor for 37 years in all. After a brief stint in airfare consolidation, she returned to the field she knew best. Schaefer’s current yearly revenue is $3 million, while Plaza Travel as a whole nets $80 million.
“I am blessed and fortunate to work for the most amazing company and family,” she says. “My boss, Steve Orens, empowers me to use my own roadmap of selling and experiencing travel. He encourages and supports me to attend conferences and educational trips to educate myself on new experiences, destinations and places to stay.”
Schaefer primarily works with upscale luxury clients all over the U.S. and Canada. Interest in family and multigenerational travel is increasing and her clients in this category have been growing, she says. In addition to luxury cruises, Schaefer books spa, adventure and experiential travel; in particular, she tries to create cultural experiences for her clients.
Looking to the future, Schaefer says she has been working with local tourism offices to create informational e-mails to send to her clients to peak their interest in new destinations.
Prior to becoming a travel advisor, Schaefer grew up on a small farm in Oregon. Her family owned horses, and she participated in her 4-H club as well as state fairs. After college she packed her bags, headed to Los Angeles, and got herself into the travel industry.
Schaefer has been very mobile in 2016, visiting Australia, South Africa, Dubai and France. She says she had an amazing time at each destination, but stresses that La Residence in the Winelands in South Africa topped them all.
“It was truly a magical and incredible experience,” Schaefer says. “The service stood out as one of the best. The rooms are extremely large and each one is decorated differently. To open up your door and have peacocks in your backyard overlooking the vineyards is truly spectacular. It was hard to leave!”
During her travels to Australia, she worked with Unparalleled Journeys. “They took such great care to make sure I experienced exactly what my clients do,” she says. “From the meet-and-greet at the airplane door to walking me through security to creating attention to detail throughout.”
Her next trip is to East Africa and Rwanda for a gorilla trek — something that’s long been on her bucket list.
When Schaefer isn’t selling travel or traveling, she’s volunteering at a local stable on the weekends, working with children who have Down syndrome and Autism conducting horse therapy with them.
“It gets me back around horses and it’s really fulfilling working with these wonderful and special kids,” she says.