With a career that has taken her to Bangkok, Toronto and Sydney before settling into her current role as Managing Director of Elegant Resorts, it’s safe to say that Lisa Fitzell knows travel.
We sat down with her to talk all things work and pleasure including what drew her to travel, how she starts her day, who her inspirations are, dream destinations, and much more.
Have you always wanted to work in travel?
I walked into a travel agency with my mum and we booked our first ever holiday, the travel agent was talking all about her recent trips and clearly loved her job so that’s when I decided what I wanted to do. I started on a Youth Training Scheme aged 16 years old and loved it. My mum was a landlady of a pub and I worked there most nights, so I used to sell the holidays behind the bar. By the time I was 18 I was one of the top sellers in the northwest and started managing staff at 20 years old.
What drew you to working within the travel industry?
My father lived in Australia and I visited when I was just 9 years old, I wanted to travel from that moment.
Your favourite destination visited?
That is such a tricky question to answer as I love so many of the countries I have spent time in, but if I had to choose it would be the Kimberly in Western Australia which is where I spent my honeymoon.
Your still-to-visit dream destination?
Japan is number one on my bucket list. I love the culture, food and diversity of the destination, there are so many different experiences to discover.
Which countries tend to be favourites with your customers?
Beach holidays are the most popular, especially since the pandemic: Barbados, Dubai, Maldives, Italy, and Greece.
How do you start your days?
I am up at 7am and start with ten minutes of meditation before taking my dog, Tilly, for a walk in the forest. Then it’s back to see the kids off to school (I have two teenage girls) and check my messages, before heading to work for around 9.30am.
What’s your go-to uniform?
Usually a dress with boots in winter or sandals in the summer, and a jacket.
Describe your workspace.
Our office is like a community – we have our own bar, gym and quiet room, I like to think it feels homely and welcoming to everyone that visits us. We take wellness in the workplace seriously and have weekly HIIT classes alongside other activities to encourage wellbeing. We now have completely flexible hybrid working, so sometimes I work at home. I’m often travelling but love to be in the office as much as I can.
What are your workplace essentials?
My moleskin notebook and my Chilli water bottle.
What time of day are you at your most productive?
I tend to be most focussed first thing in the morning and in the evening.
What’s your go-to lunch order?
I love a salad in the summer and soup in the winter.
What did you do before your current role?
I was living in Bangkok before I joined Elegant Resorts as group MD for Diethelm Travel. Previous to this I was a Global Product Director at STA Travel for 6 years based in London. I’ve also lived in Toronto for 3 years and Sydney for 4, travelled for a year around Australia and South East Asia and a year in Central and South America.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
Meeting our customers, we run many events throughout the year which is an invaluable opportunity to hear their thoughts and get to know them. We also love receiving amazing reviews and thank you letters from our clients.
And the most challenging?
Dealing with the operational challenges of the pandemic over the last few years has been the biggest hurdle I’ve faced, but things are stabilising now. Keeping strong and resilient is essential, I need to ensure I put my health first.
If you were to write a two-line job spec for yourself, it would read as follows:
Operates at a fast pace with the customer and the staff at the heart of every decision and thrives in a creative environment.
What did you study in school or university?
I didn’t enjoy school and left at 16. But I would say my two, 12 months gap years, have been my university. I learnt so much about the world, cultures, and myself.
Work takes you most frequently to…
It varies every year as our product develops, but I visit Barbados at least once a year as it is our biggest destination and we have a team out there.
Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure that has guided or influenced you?
Yes I have several, mainly my previous bosses who still mentor me: John Constable, Paul Maine and Peter Liney. Also my closest friend, Victoria Usher, who runs her own PR Company is an inspiration to me.
What were some hurdles you had to overcome in the early days?
I was very conscious I didn’t have a great education and got paralysed by attacks of self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
What’s the most important work-related lesson you’ve learned?
The best results come from teams that fully understand the vision and journey, and we celebrate successes along the way. Also to trust your instinct, it is usually right.
The best advice you’ve ever received:
Never say no to an opportunity.
Any exciting new destinations on Elegant Resort’s plans for 2023?
Yes lots of exciting new plans. The Red Sea in Saudi and Zimbabwe are two. We also plan to launch Finland for Lapland next year, as well as a new wellness range with amazing properties focussing on wellness; this ranges from medical clinics like Sha Wellness in Spain, to holistic-wellness programs such as Kamalaya in Thailand.
What are you working on right now?
We are getting ready to launch our wellness product range and preparing for peak season; finalising all our special offers and marketing. January and February still remain our busiest months of the year.
What’s next for you?
We have some ambitious plans to grow over the next few years. We’re working hard to expand our product and marketing to target a younger audience, as well as maintain the very best service levels and continue to improve what we do: leading the luxury travel space.