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A Fugazi Partner, Robert Romano Is Fulfilling Childhood DreamsApril 30, 2007 By: David Eisen Travel Agent
Listening to clients is this agent's key to success
The business of wine turned Robert Romano on to the travel
industry. The 46-year-old, now a partner with San Francisco-based Fugazi Travel
Agency Inc., grew up in
wine marketing and importing. As his father became busier and busier with work,
Romano took it upon himself to plan both family vacations and business trips
for the company. "My father appreciated it that I was interested in that
facet, so he let it fall to me," Romano recalls. "My father was so
busy, he'd say, 'I forgot to book a vacation, do you have any ideas?' So I'd be
like, 'Hey dad, guess what, I happened to make reservations for
ago.'" Even at a tender age, Romano knew the benefits of booking early.
In the early 1980s, Romano was working for his father when
his father sold the business, retired and left his son jobless.
Fugazi Travel had always been his family's personal travel
agency, and, one day back in 1986, Romano walked into the agency with only his
hankering for travel. "So I went there," he says, "and the owner
knew me growing up. I told him I didn't have a job anymore, and I wanted to
learn travel. So he said to me, 'Well, you can hang around here for a few days
and see if you like it or hate it.'"
Right Place, Right Time
Fugazi is not the type of place that has a high level of
turnover, but Romano was in the proverbial right place at the right time.
"I was fortunate, someone got married and moved away; another was having
surgery that would require a long length of recuperation." The rest is
history: Romano has been with Fugazi 21 years now, and has subsequently been
made a partner by owner George Lippi.
The 18-employee company caters primarily to travelers
seeking luxury experiences. "We attract a lot of high-end cruise market
and high-end resort business, especially for
Romano says. "We sell a good amount of Silversea, hardly any
Carnival," says Romano.
Perks of Ensemble Membership
One way that Fugazi has become a better cruise seller is
through its affiliation with Ensemble. Romano mentions the value and benefits
of Ensemble's On Location program, which allows member agents to create
specialized services for their clients, such as customized shore excursions,
through destination specialists stationed in virtually every area of the world.
"You can contact them for anything—from obtaining an airport transfer to
renting out an entire island," which Romano once did for a client who
wanted to use it as a base for a fireworks show. "It's a good way to
compete against discounting companies."
Romano counts Abercrombie & Kent, Classic Vacations,
Auto Europe, Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas as
Fugazi's best suppliers. "They all have outstanding sales and marketing
reps," says Romano. "They take the time to know our business and give
us a window into theirs; together we work to please the customer so they come
back, which makes money for the supplier and us."
Like any good salespeople, agents need to be good listeners.
"That is key," says Romano. He adds that it is important to ask
clients as many questions as possible to understand their likes and dislikes.
It also helps to experience the products you sell. "If you want to sell
luxury, you have an obligation to not sit at your desk for 365 days. Work with
suppliers to get invites."
Fugazi's been around since 1869, its early years spent
operating as a bank for immigrants. At some point, it was sold to the founder
of Bank of America so it could concentrate on travel. "Who knew?,"
Romano says with a chuckle. "We should have kept the bank and got rid of
the travel agency, but here we still are and making a living."