Laura Wilson had no intention of becoming a travel specialist. She was an executive secretary / administrative assistant for 14 years, yet this experience taught her the ins and outs of a business — information vital to her when she did become a travel advisor 30 years ago.
Wilson has spent nearly all her life in the San Francisco Bay Area. After running a cookware store with her friend, one who shares her love of cooking and travel, Wilson began a new chapter in her life. She started working for Moraga Travel in 1988 and bought it in 1989. She sold it in 2007, continued to work for the new owners until 2015, and now she is with Fugazi Travel in San Francisco.
At first, her work focused on both corporate and leisure travel (the latter varied from value trips to some luxury travel), but Wilson says it evolved over time. “As years progressed and I became more comfortable with selling travel, I pretty much found my niche with doing upscale itineraries for my clients.”
Wilson is very people-focused. She believes all relationships — including those with clients, co-workers, managers and supervisors — are critical to her success. Her annual revenue is over $1.5 million; Fugazi Travel’s revenue is over $10 million.
Her clients come from all walks of life. “I treat every client as if they are the most important person, part of my travel family, and bend over backwards to make the perfect trip for them — whether they spend $1,000 or $50,000,” she adds. And many of them achieved the American dream. “Many of my clients started out on the lower end, raising families and graduated to those trips of a lifetime on the higher end,” she notes.
Two client trips in the last few years stand out. One was to South Africa. “My clients were educators and wanted to bring books, clothes and money for local schools in the area and African Travel made that happen. They even arranged for the grandson to play on a soccer team at one of the local schools. They sent me windchimes that said ‘You make memories’ as a thank you,” she says.
The second one was a private trip to Ireland and England with Dream Escapes. The luxury travel design company, with Wilson on board, stayed true to its name. She says, “It was a dream from beginning to end — staying in a four-bedroom villa at the Crescent in Bath [a surprise upgrade!] to ending their trip in London with three Mini-Coopers and walkie-talkies around town.”
Wilson’s passion, attention to detail and hard work are exemplified in her future travel plans, which includes concentrating more on promoting groups. She may lead the group or one of her clients may do it. “I am finding that my clients love to travel with me and they know I will take care of them from beginning to end, so [it is] fun all the way around.”
When she is not selling travel, Wilson is either cooking, reading or playing bridge.