In an age of home-based travel advisors, one could say that Willa Griffin and her agency, First In Service, are bucking the trend. They are taking their show on the road — and placing their bet on brick and mortar.
Since joining First In Service two years ago, Griffin has spent much of her time tirelessly working to open a new Toronto office for the family-owned global agency, which specializes in “the well-traveled” customer in fashion, corporate, leisure and entertainment.
“Nothing new has opened in Canada for a while, so as exciting as it was, it was also daunting,” Griffin says. “It was a bold move that shows they are committed to coverage throughout the Americas.”
First In Service Toronto officially opened its doors in October. It’s staffed by Griffin and six very seasoned agents, and will hire a few more in the first quarter of 2020.
But even as it grows, First In Service remains a family business, focused on its customers and its employees. Its owners, Fernando Gonzalez and his sister Erika Reategui, are involved in every aspect and always make themselves available to every employee.
It’s that family atmosphere that makes her feel she has found the right agency, Griffin says. With a background in marketing and public relations, she decided about 10 years ago that she was ready to get back to work, after being a stay-at-home mom with two young boys. Like many of the most successful luxury travel advisors, she chose to parlay her extensive travel background to unique destinations, and her passion for sharing those experiences with others, into a new career path.
As a child, Griffin and her family had lived overseas for a number of years, with parents who were “determined to expose us to as many unique and special travel experiences as possible.”
Having a career that allows her to travel again is a dream come true. In addition to opening the office, she serves 25 high-net-worth clients, a mix of families and individuals, and sells more than $2.5 million worth of travel a year.
Her clients are “for the most part all extremely well-traveled and are looking for a travel advisor who can put together itineraries that are thorough, unique, thought-provoking and interesting,” she says. They already have been to many places around the globe; often they now are looking to return with their children and grandchildren, to share those same experiences and to see those same places through a different lens. They are always looking for an itinerary that is outside the box and truly experiential.
Having traveled to far-flung places at a very young age lets Griffin think beyond the conventional and shapes the way she plans and executes her clients’ travel, she says. She’s currently in South Africa, for example, spending a few days in Cape Town, then on to Franschhoek (a wine lover’s dream) and a Singita Safari in Kruger and Zimbabwe. Next she will head for Cartagena, Baru and Bogota.
During her time off, she loves skiing and snowboarding with her boys, playing tennis, scuba diving and just spending time at the family cottage in the Canadian Shield, curled up with a good book such as “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” by John Boyne.