As many have done before her, Erika Chiostri fell head-over-heels in love when she lived in Florence, Italy, shortly after graduating college. But the difference between the Bay Area resident and most other visitors to Europe looking to find some romance is that she fell in love twice — once with her now spouse and the other with the industry she currently thrives in.
When she moved back from Italy, she got her foot in the travel industry by taking on the modest task of answering phones at Fugazi Travel Agency, Inc. in San Francisco. Now, 18 years later, Chiostri has become a vital part of the agency’s success.
“I find that the best way to great success is to find out as much as I can about the clients and give them exactly what they want,” she says. “I use our contacts and strong relationships with the hotels and tour operators and feel like they will be well taken care of as if I am there with them. I make myself available to my clients during travel to help with anything they should need.”
And it also seemed meant to be when she found out that the founders of Fugazi, like her mother, were Italian immigrants.
“I love the history of Fugazi,” she says. “It is like no other. They have been in business since 1869 and so we have worked with the hotels and suppliers since they opened or, in some cases, for almost 150 years. The founders were immigrants from Italy and began to help others come to the U.S. Many of the people I work with have been here for 30-plus years and the agency has somehow managed to be still connected with our history, and yet extremely forward-thinking.”
So what’s her inspiration for booking the perfect trip for someone?
“I know that what we do matters so much,” says Chiostri, whose business comes primarily from referrals. “These are memories that people carry with them for a lifetime. I have been reminded of that especially recently having had some clients pass away suddenly and the family telling me how much the trips meant to them. I really care that the trip is in perfect order and that there are some special surprises along the way for them that only a travel agent could provide for them.”
The mother of twin toddlers, Chiostri plans to reach out to other families since she’s familiar with kid-friendly hotels and how to enjoy luxury without the fear of feeling awkward at restaurants. “I’m also hoping to build my private jet business as I think passing the long security waits at the airport and other stresses of commercial flying is a smart move,” she tells us.