A 'superstar' of the travel industry: Spofford's Fitzgerald recognized for 'going the extra mile'
Lisa Fitzgerald, whose husband retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1999 and is now the chief of the Brattleboro Police Department, was recently recognized with the Extra Mile Award by the American Society of Travel Agents. The Extra Mile Award is given each year to a "travel agent member who has made the greatest contribution to the travel industry and whose outstanding influence and professional activity have advanced the status of the travel agency industry."
And though the award means she is ASTA's travel agent of the year, Fitzgerald said the award was a chance for her to share her knowledge and experience with other travel professionals.
"This was a teachable moment for other professionals in the industry and for them to recognize they can raise the bar of service," she said. "There is always a solution to a problem. Don't give up. The next time you come across an impossible situation, raise the bar, stay on course."
Last year, Fitzgerald booked a client on a European river cruise — her specialty, by the way — with a sail date in June of 2017. But before the client and her husband could set sail on their fifth anniversary celebration, Fitzgerald learned their pet was badly injured and needed extensive and quite expensive surgery and the recovery time was very lengthy and required constant supervision. As a result, the couple needed to cancel their reservation.
Even though many people consider a pet a family member, the cruise line did not; the cancellation penalty was hefty and Fitzgerald knew that a sick pet was not a covered reason under the travel insurance policy. However, Fitzgerald refused to take no for an answer.
"In discussion with the client, I asked her if she was open to any other travel date from now until the end of the year," said Fitzgerald. "She said yes but now how was I going to convince a river cruise company with a very black and white terms and conditions to listen to our story?"
Fitzgerald collected the diagnosis statement and bills from the veterinarian, composed a compelling letter — complete with pictures of her clients with their pet — and submitted the letter to her contact at the river cruise company
"I didn't need to make up an elaborate story or fabricate anything. I just told the truth and asked, with the backup documentation, if my clients could please change their cruise dates to any cruise on said cruise line. They would take anything and they would be very grateful."
Within 24 hours, Fitzgerald heard back from the cruise line. And though the situation was unprecedented, the cruise line agreed to reschedule the trip with no additional costs.
"The happily-ever-after is that my clients are sailing and their pet is healing nicely," said Fitzgerald. "I will be forever grateful for two things — always using a reputable and amazing river cruise supplier and to my father, Frank, who always taught us that honestly is the best policy. Only good things can come from honesty. If you ever have an odd situation that you feel up front is going to be challenging or you feel the outcome will not be in favor of the client, raise the bar, apply your entire heart and just go the extra mile."
According to her letter of recognition, "Lisa's love and passion for Europe are reflected in her clients' personalized itineraries and is a well sought out travel consultant. She is detail orientated with special attention to the unique experiences her clients remember for a lifetime." Fitzgerald has 24 years of full-service travel experience and earned her Certified Travel Associate and Certified Travel Industry Executive designations from The Travel Institute. While she is knowledgeable in all forms of travel, she specializes in custom European itineraries and river cruise vacations and is a preferred cruise specialist with Viking River Cruises, Avalon, AmaWaterways and Emerald Waterways.
Fitzgerald's love of Europe and its waterways began in the late 1990s, when she had the opportunity to live in Holland. "I didn't realize right away that the waterways of Europe were calling me, but my love for selling European travel was tugging at my heart."
After her husband, Michael Fitzgerald, retired from the United States Marine Corps, they moved to Vermont in 2000 and Fitzgerald worked his way up through the ranks of the Brattleboro Police Department before becoming chief.
In 2009, Lisa Fitzgerald left the travel agency she was working at and started her own business in her home in Spofford. It wasn't always easy, but she found it to be always rewarding.
"I had to develop a way to build a business while raising four children and supporting my husband," she said.
But what might have been the most difficult about transitioning from a "brick-and-mortar" business to a home-based business was dealing with the access the public has to the travel industry via the internet. And though it might have been daunting, Fitzgerald knows something very important about booking a vacation. "People who just want the best deal and want to shop for the best price are not getting value and they are not getting the amenities they might expect," she said. "Doing it on the cheap means you are not looking for the experience of a lifetime, you are just looking for a way to get out of town for a while."
Fitzgerald Travel recently expanded, adding a second travel professional, Lisa Collins, to the Fitzgerald Team
"There's two of us now," said Fitzgerald. "She's oceans and I'm rivers."
For more information, visit www.fitzgeraldtravel.com.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.
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