First in Service
Creativity has always been in John Rios’ blood. He is a prolific painter and the published author of two (soon to be three) books. “My studio is my refuge — no phones or Internet,” Rios says. “Just me and my creativity.”
When he isn’t moonlighting as a painter, Rios is creating masterpieces of another kind — luxury vacations to the tune of $2 million in sales this year. He has been designing travel for 23 years but joined First in Service fewer than two years ago; Rios calls it one of the best business decisions he’s ever made. Owners Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez are very interested in the human aspect of the job, which Rios greatly admires. “Success is truly all about the personal connection,” he says.
As for his clients, they are all over the map — figuratively and literally, as they are public figures, CEOs of energy and technology corporations and fashion designers, all hailing from destinations such as Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Paris, London, Argentina, the U.S. and Rios’ native Colombia. Originally, most of Rios’ clients were corporate but about five years ago his leisure business began growing organically. Now, he tells us, business and leisure sales are split nearly evenly.
His eclectic group of clients is continually seeking unique destinations. “It is very interesting to see that these young adults being exposed to travel at an early age, [they] continue to see the world but are totally looking at travel differently,” Rios says. “They want a place where they can feel part of this new world…and, more than ever before, they want to explore, feel, touch, smell and merge with the places they are visiting.”
“My clients consider me their human travel app,” Rios tells us. “I handle everything — their VIP services at airports, ground transportation, hotels, tours, etc.” Rios says that being available for his clients is among his top priorities but working with so many international clients makes that tricky at times; however, he’s found a way to make it work.
Rios prides himself on being “completely globalized,” just like many of his clients are. This year, he visited Japan, Portugal, Peru, Colombia and Thailand; he still has London, Cannes, Slovenia and Paris left on the calendar. What’s he looking forward to most? “The Christmas markets in Ljubljana, discovering Slovenia’s landscape and tasting the local gourmet delights,” says Rios. When he’s traveling, Rios is always sure to have his journal with him. He takes notes, which he then posts on his blog, livingtheadventures.com.
Being a student of the industry is another pride of Rios’. When he decided travel was his future, he moved to Atlanta — after closing his antique retail stores in Miami and Colombia — to enroll in travel school. After time with CNN and The Weather Channel, Rios registered for Lufthansa’s rate desk school. “Being proficient in this became very beneficial, allowing me to personally manage the travel for my busy clients,” rather than outsource the task.
Going forward, Rios says that maintaining the quality of his service is a higher priority than increasing his business. With the level of service he provides, the referrals will come naturally, he tells us.