Fischer Travel and Fortis Global Offer Unique Access

The Fischer Travel and Fortis Global teams have come together to offer unique access for their clients. (Photo by Hechler Photographers)

Two powerhouse travel businesses, Fischer Travel and Fortis Global, have launched an exclusive alliance to offer truly impressive levels of personalization and security services for their ultra-luxury clients. The former — led by president Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal and founder Bill Fischer and known for accomplishing such feats as having hotels knock down walls to create larger penthouse suites for its clients — might be a household name in the industry, but the latter you might be less familiar with.

Fortis Global — founded by Ashley Tate-Gilmore, the former director of the White House Travel Office for the Obama Administration — is an emergency preparedness travel concierge company based out of Chicago; it offers travelers a suite of medical, legal and security services. And much like Fischer Travel, it’s a family business. After conceiving the company in 2018, Tate-Gilmore brought aboard two cousins, first J.T. Stinnette as COO and general counsel, and then Jennifer Keeney as chief experience officer.

At the White House, Tate-Gilmore was in charge of complex travel logistics, doing trial runs of trips and handling hundreds of passports at a time, for V-VIPs. It was constant work, but the experience opened Tate-Gilmore to a whole new world of cultures and destinations — and to the realization that there is a way to travel like a president, even if you’re not one. “The inception of [Fortis Global] was that I would love to help people see the things that I’ve been able to see, travel safely and do all these amazing things,” Tate-Gilmore tells Luxury Travel Advisor. 

While security details are not new to Fischer Travel, Tate-Gilmore’s experience and resources were unmatched. Forming an alliance “made a lot of sense,” said Fischer-Rosenthal, who added, “the value proposition that Fortis brings to Fischer is incredible.”

Each business has a yearly membership model. Through the alliance, clients can use the services of the other business à la carte, or the companies can craft custom solutions for specific clients when a long-term, or recurring, use of the other’s services might be required.  

And while the alliance seems like such a natural fit for the companies, it didn’t form overnight. Fischer-Rosenthal and Tate-Gilmore were first introduced in July 2020 by a mutual client and spent the following year getting to know each other to ensure the relationship made sense and would be a benefit for their clients.

“The alliance is really going to be dynamic, not only for us but for our clients and for the travel industry. We are forces individually, but together, we’re disruptive. And, so, we’re very excited,” said Stinnette.

Here’s an example: This past summer, a Fischer client was filming in Jamaica. Once Fischer-Rosenthal had the base details about the trip, she reached out to Tate-Gilmore to get her take on what services were required. 

“We were able to speak to the client about how we would facilitate the trip and when we felt they needed armored guards,” Fischer-Rosenthal says. “There wasn’t great cell service in one particular area, so we needed to make sure that we had people with radios and contact. We were able to utilize the people on the ground [through Tate-Gilmore] to make those decisions because they knew exactly what they would recommend.”

Tate-Gilmore says she considered everything from the hotel location and what the road conditions were, to cell service and what type of clothing the clients should wear in public. Fortis Global’s head director of security, a former Secret Service agent, reached out to the regional security office to get recommendations for the type of security details required and what company they should use (which Fortis Global then did a background check on). They hired drivers for each armored vehicle, as well as one security agent per car. They also used Fords to be less conspicuous than, say, a Mercedes. 

Everything, of course, was tested out beforehand. The client even “added a couple days because they were so comfortable with the detail and with the logistics of it … and it worked very, very well,” Tate-Gilmore recalls. 

“It was brilliant,” says Fischer-Rosenthal. 

The whole Fischer Travel team together as one.

Traveling Like a President

While Bill Fischer was literally knocking down walls, Tate-Gilmore was knocking down their figurative counterparts, becoming the first Black person to hold the title of White House Travel Office Director. She got her “in” with former President Barack Obama when he was running his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2003; she interned as an office executive while still in college. Tate-Gilmore continued to work for Obama in various roles and in 2008, she assisted with his inauguration. She was then hired to his Travel Office when he assumed the presidency. 

Back when she first started working with Obama, “it was just a tiny operation,” Tate-Gilmore says. When he became a senator, it was suddenly a big operation, “and then even bigger when we went into the White House.” As she explains, “It went from us driving him around, literally, in my car, to 26 motorcade vehicles and a huge military capacity and Secret Service agents.”

The pre-trip briefing that Tate-Gilmore would lead for the president and his team became a staple for Fortis Global. She calls it “our best offering.” The goal is to provide all the details the client will need in the briefing so that they won’t need any other assistance on the trip. “It was what kept me safe and sound during all of my travels over the course to the eight years while I was the director of the Travel Office at the White House,” she says.

This pre-trip briefing covers such topics as “all of the medical details that we could share — you don’t eat this; take this shot, take these meds.” The same goes for the security and legal side: “Don’t do this, don’t go there; don’t do X, Y and Z.”

“We say if you stay safe and you are careful and you follow these rules, ideally, you don’t need any additional services from us,” Tate-Gilmore says.

Following her time in the White House, Tate-Gilmore saw the opportunity to help others travel as a president would. Soon after, she launched Fortis Global and brought her family aboard. With a tagline of “Travel well, be safe,” the company currently employs five people and offers clients three membership options. The first level is for an individual; the second for a family with one principal member and five additional set members; and the third is designed for a corporate solution or small business, with one principal member and five interchangeable members. All include yearly membership fees. Fortis will also design a custom solution for a client if needed.

How the Teams Met

Several years back, a close friend of the Obama family had a sick father in Hawaii. He was having trouble accessing the proper care and through a conversation with Tate-Gilmore, she told him, “I can help you.” The man said he’d tried MedEvac. Doctors had told him his father wouldn’t live much longer. A few phone calls later, Tate-Gilmore had his father flown from the Big Island to Honolulu, where he received the care he needed. He went on to live three more years. 

That man happened to be a client of Fischer Travel and later introduced Tate-Gilmore to Bill Fischer and Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, who tells us, “I received a call from a client who is Chicago-based, and he said, ‘I want to talk to you about this incredible woman that I’ve met. She has a startup, which I think you can align well with your travel services because I do believe you’re the best in travel and I do believe that they have some resources that can really help your members and clientele.’” 

There was an immediate connection between the two companies’ leading women. And it didn’t hurt that both Fischer Travel and Fortis Global were family businesses. “You have to stay true to yourselves and what your core values are as a company,” Fischer-Rosenthal says, adding that she’s “all about female leadership, mentorship.”

Being able to collaborate with someone that’s like-minded to her and also family-rooted made this an easy decision for both.

“It was just perfectly synergistic,” Tate-Gilmore says.

Of Fischer-Rosenthal, Tate-Gilmore says, “She’s such a kind-hearted person and she comes off with the most wonderfully inspirational spirit.” The team at Fortis Global affectionately calls her “Mama Bear.”

“Stacy is nurturing, wonderfully genuine and a breath of fresh air,” Stinnette adds. “When we say, ‘Mama Bear,’ I don’t want you to take it as a negative context at all, because we mean it very endearingly. Being a serial entrepreneur and having been in these spaces, longing for a more senior company to show us the ropes and take you under their wing, this is beyond for me and for us.”

Tate-Gilmore, Stinnette and Keeney all come from a family of entrepreneurs. And while their parents never got into business together, it was always a dream of theirs. “My mom found this letter written by my dad to J.T. and Ashley’s parents, of them wanting to work together,” Keeney says. “It meant so much that we could fulfill this legacy that they had hoped to do.”

Working with your family can be a tricky business, but Tate-Gilmore tells us she wouldn’t have it any other way. “There are no secrets; everything’s on the table,” she says. “It’s all a safe space because I couldn’t be confident, honestly, in this unless I had these two behind me.”

And the cousins’ work ethic and chemistry have taken Fortis Global to impressive heights in a relatively short time. “The three of us are so important to making this business thrive and work,” Keeney says.

“[Fischer Travel has] never done an alliance like this before, which to us is really very special,” Tate-Gilmore says. “Sometimes as a Black-woman-led business, there are some doors that are just automatically not open to you. The Fischer team very much wanted to give us the opportunity to be introduced widely, to as much of their network as possible, because it is important that we bring a new and fresh diverse space to the table.”

And for his part, Bill Fischer has also played the role of mentor to Tate-Gilmore and her team. In speaking with them, he said, “Don’t give up. You have something here,” according to Keeney. “He’s given us confidence; to be in his presence and share all his experiences was really amazing and empowering for us,” she says. 

Funny enough, however, the teams only met in person for the first time for the photoshoot for Luxury Travel Advisor’s cover. “I think we all felt like we had known them for years when we walked in the door,” Keeney says.

Three Generations of the Fischer Family at Short Hills Aviation. From left, Bill Fischer, Max Rosenthal and Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal.

A Significant Alliance

Throughout the pandemic, Fischer Travel stayed in front of its clients, reaching out by phone or online surveys to gauge their readiness to travel and to check in on them. 

When a client wanted to get away but didn’t feel safe traveling, Fischer Travel would try to be creative and set up outdoor movie nights or have counselors come by and recreate camp activities for the kids. Everyone who visited with a client was vetted to be vaccinated, signed waivers and took a COVID test. She adds that other clients were looking for new in-house chefs and, knowing the number of people looking for jobs within the food industry, Fischer Travel took it upon itself to start matchmaking.

“It’s our job to network, to listen and to act upon it,” Fischer-Rosenthal says. In the end, she says, “I think the relationships we have with our clients have gotten so much stronger over COVID because even if they weren’t traveling, we were still reaching out.”

The alliance with Fortis Travel gave Fischer-Rosenthal and her clients the comfort in knowing they would be taken care of; it also gave the team something to get excited about. “There are so many layers that make this happy story during a time where there was not a lot going on,” she tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “It gave us something to think about and say, ‘Wow, how lucky are we to be able to be in a position to offer this type of service to our clientele?’ Who wouldn’t want that?”

Tate-Gilmore says it’s been “a year and a half worth of keeping everyone in their space safe.” As she explains, she isn’t a doctor so she couldn’t tell her clients whether it was OK to travel or not — she could only best accommodate them should they decide to travel. “We really spent that time leaning into trying to figure out what our best suggestions were and how to keep folks safe and how to find doctors who are eagerly traveling.”

The pivot required taking “a lot of steps back to just be safe,” but Tate-Gilmore says the Fortis team was very conscious about the guidance it shared with its clients; it found out all it could about where to get tested, then vaccinated, and more. “It was about learning how to be as safe as possible — and then sharing that.”

The alliance has also come with its fair share of serendipity. Fischer-Rosenthal told a story about how she was tasked with replicating a bracelet that Prince Harry was gifted by a village in South Africa; he was photographed wearing it shortly after Princess Diana died. She reached out to a vendor with a photo and they tried to figure out which village it was made in, what stones were used. No such luck. Then, one night while Fischer-Rosenthal was on the phone with Tate-Gilmore, the latter said she might know someone who had been on the trip. Through the contact, they tracked down the exact village and which materials the bracelet was likely made of. Fischer Travel’s South Africa contacts then sourced a craftswoman in Cape Town to recreate the bracelet from scratch. 

Although intended to be a Christmas gift for her client’s son-in-law, the bracelet would not be arriving in time. Fischer-Rosenthal created a calligraphy book about the meaning of the bracelet and the stones used, along with the story of how it was made and documentation of the process in pictures from the craftswoman. 

“It was the perfect example of the alliance just blossoming,” Tate-Gilmore says. She adds she was “blown away” by the lengths to which Fischer-Rosenthal went to recreate the bracelet, calling it a “learning experience.”  

Tate-Gilmore continues, “She did something phenomenal and then personally hand-delivered it, which is just the Fischer touch. So, I’m super grateful to have the opportunity to help with that type of thing.”

Fischer Travel… Still Up to the Usual

In the years since Fischer Travel last graced our cover, the luxury travel agency-turned-full-time lifestyle concierge has been up to its usual over-the-top achievements for its ultra-lux clients. The agency is always looking for talent, people who are detailed-oriented, innovative and passionate about creating experiences. All advisors are full-time employees and “everybody works for the Fischer client,” Fischer-Rosenthal says. “We are one strong and dynamic team. In my close to 40 years at the company I have never been prouder and more confident in the team we have now. We’re able to pull resources; we’re able to share knowledge.” 

One such new employee is Fischer-Rosenthal’s son, Max Rosenthal, who serves as the business operations manager and joined the family business in May 2020. He was previously a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration (class of ‘16) and then worked in the hotel world doing corporate strategy and development across many hotel brands. He began assisting with Fischer Travel and Fischer-Rosenthal tells us, “We saw great value and promise.”

She adds, “He’s coming to us with a new, young perspective, which is fantastic because I have a young team and he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. He’s able to effect change in a way my team will really appreciate.”

Fischer-Rosenthal says it was her dream to have Max join the business, but she did not force it on him. She tells us he was also a big advocate for the Fortis Global alliance. “This alliance introduces Fischer Travel to a diverse set of new clients while also enabling us to provide the best possible service to our existing clients. As the world and client needs change, this alliance keeps Fischer as the premier agency,” says Max Rosenthal. 

Fischer Travel is now a three-generation enterprise and Max feels “excited for the future of the family business.”

Becoming a client of Fischer Travel comes with a $100,000 initiation fee, followed by a $25,000 annual renewal and additional service fees. During the pandemic, however, Fischer Travel allowed its clients to pause their participation if they weren’t traveling or utilizing the agency’s lifestyle services. “Let us know when you’re ready,” they told their clients. “And they came back,” says Fischer-Rosenthal.

That said, overall, Fischer Travel had more clients pay participation fees in 2020 and 2021 than in years past. The membership model also allowed Fischer Travel to bring in revenue at a time when travel came to a near standstill. As for whether she would recommend an annual membership model to other agencies, Fischer-Rosenthal tells us, “It’s easy to say that you can charge, but you have to be available 24/7, you have to deliver. But when you can do that, I think it shows a sense of loyalty on both sides.” She adds, “We’re pretty good about making sure that we communicate who we are, what we do and how we do it.”

Delivering the right product at the right value is the number one priority for Fischer Travel. “The one thing about the clients that we serve is there’s no budgets, really. They want what they want, and it doesn’t matter what it costs as long as it’s the right fit,” Fischer-Rosenthal says.

One Fischer client is traveling to the Davos World Economic Forum in January 2022. For the trip, they sourced him a $325,000 per night villa — but it’s unaffiliated with any hotel properties and no one on the Fischer team had been to the property. So, they called up a former employee who lives in Berlin and flew them in to check out the villa to ensure it was up to their standard. “We have an extensive vetting list, getting it down to matching wine glasses,” Fischer-Rosenthal says. 

“It’s not as much as the price being off-putting, it’s more about us making sure that we’re delivering the right product for the value and making sure that we understand what the staff and security is,” she says.

Another impressive feat Fischer Travel pulled off was a multi-country trip with a focus on Jordan; the highlights being a dinner for two in Little Petra with musicians and a private chef and a glamping experience in the Wadi Rum Desert. One challenge was sourcing female butlers for the client’s wife; the agency ended up hiring staff from the nearby Four Seasons and Movenpick hotels. Fischer Travel also hired 10 employees from the Kempinski Hotel in Aqaba to raise the level of service at “the very best desert camp in Wadi Rum, [which] was still not up to Fischer Travel standards.” Fischer-Rosenthal tells us, “They brought with them, mattresses, bedding, linen, furniture, a flat-screen TV and amenities from the Kempinski Hotel and transformed the camp into a more luxurious setup.”

And then there were the entry challenges due to COVID. “My advisor was working around the clock because she had to be on it with everybody in the middle of the night while things are happening real-time,” Fischer-Rosenthal says.

She adds, “We pride ourselves on our service and ability to make things happen, make the impossible possible when it’s any kind of challenge around travel and lifestyle.” Although it doesn’t always have to be in the travel and lifestyle world; Fischer-Rosenthal says she wants the agency to be their clients’ first point of contact, regardless of what they need. For instance, when a client’s daughter was being treated in Philadelphia and the family was looking for a house on the Main Line, Fischer-Rosenthal helped to source the right house for them. She says the agency didn’t charge the clients for these services, adding, “It’s not always about the dollars and cents; it is really about the relationship and being human.”

As for what clients are asking about on the travel side, villas and private homes, jets and islands top the list. Fischer-Rosenthal says that celebration trips for all the missed events are very common, and clients are staying longer and more often in one destination. Wellness is trending as well. She also expects domestic travel to be popular among clients who are still not ready to travel internationally; that said, Fischer-Rosenthal notes the agency had “a huge uptick” in travel to Europe when countries began to reopen.

“We are booking multiple trips at a time for clients for now through 2023. People want something to look forward to and we’re here to help,” says Fischer-Rosenthal. “It’s such an exciting time for us in travel.”

The Fortis Global family at The Mark Hotel. From left, Jennifer Keeney, Ashley Tate-Gilmore and J.T. Stinnette.

The Future of Travel

Bill Fischer tells us, “I always had in the back of my mind, the luxury travel business.” 

Bill’s friend opened an agency in Brooklyn where Bill worked selling packages for $199 to Las Vegas and $299 to the Caribbean. Then a client came to him, asking for two tickets to the World Series. At the time, he says you had to buy a box of six tickets for four games, which came out to over 100 times more than the clients wanted to spend. Fischer got them the tickets, they paid and he realized, if he could do that with tickets, he could do it with travel. Soon after, he began charging his clients a $5,000 membership and 80 percent of his clients left. He then unlisted his phone number and began working only by referral. 

“It wasn’t an overnight success, but it definitely is a success,” Fischer tells Luxury Travel Advisor. He adds, “Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that it could be so good.”

Nowadays, Fischer has taken a backseat when it comes to running the business, but he remains involved. “Bill’s still our go-to; he’s still the relationship man,” Fischer-Rosenthal says. During COVID, he continued to visit all the new restaurants to make sure they’re up to par for Fischer clients and create environments that ensure their clients are treated properly.

When looking forward, Fischer-Rosenthal says, “I think it’s unbelievably very bright, the future.” She adds, “Luxury travel is here to stay. I am an optimistic person, so the hard work, the persistence, the teamwork, the collaboration, staying true to your core values [is paying off]. I think you can’t be everything to everyone; that’s what, sometimes, travel advisors try to do. We just try to stay in our lane, and I feel like we’re back and we are certainly stronger than we’ve ever been before.”

Stronger even, thanks to Fischer Travel’s alliance with Fortis Global, a relationship that’s just beginning to blossom. 

“I couldn’t ask for more in a mentor to be a woman who’s walked these same paths and sees some resemblance, but also something so different from herself,” Tate-Gilmore says of Fischer-Rosenthal, who added, “I love changing people’s lives. And that’s what we do. We have the ability. It’s not just a job.” 

Luxury Travel Advisor

Bill Fischer, Fischer Travel

Who better to feature on the first cover of Luxury Travel Advisor than the unflappable, impeccable Bill Fischer of Fischer Travel Enterprises, to project the pinnacle of absolute affluent travel? He was, 10 years ago, and remains today, the icon on the luxury travel industry, setting incredibly high standards for his extremely discerning clients and charging enviable fees in the process.

In 2005, Fischer generously gave this start-up magazine his insights on the business … on how nearly 40 years ago he evolved from selling $199 packages to Las Vegas and the Caribbean to becoming a purveyor solely of luxury travel, quite an unusual strategy for the times. When success kicked in, he boldly unlisted his phone number, which added to the mystique and allure of his business. Then he added on an admission fee for clients to sign up for access to his services, as well as an annual retainer. (When we spoke back in 2005, those were $20,000 and $5,000, respectively.) For the money, his very-VIP customers (think of the ultimate A-listers, celebrities and financiers around the world), got 24/7 access to their appointed advisor, whose tasks typically include such feats as preparing around-the-world itineraries with private jet service for each leg of the journey or finding elephants the client and his entourage could ride through the streets of India in full traditional, local regalia.

“You have to be dedicated to the clients, you have to be well traveled and you have to listen and understand. It’s all in the details; mistakes you can’t make with these people,” Fischer told us at the time.

We’ve just caught up with the icon for our 10th anniversary issue, and he remains as unflappable and impeccable as ever. What’s changed? His daughter, Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, who has worked along his side for 32 years, is now the president of the company, a fact that makes him swell with pride (For Stacy’s profile, see here.)

Another change is that client requests have become even more personal and demanding. “We now plan more ‘milestone’ events, such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and even bar/bat mitzvahs,” says Fischer, who doesn’t court new clients, rather, they find him. “Our reputation precedes us. We work very hard to stay on top, to listen and really understand our clients, so we can consistently anticipate and exceed their needs,” he tells us.

Fischer Travel Enterprises now has 28 full-time, salaried employees (no one works on commission), says Fischer, who adds that the company’s strategy is to simply hire great people. “Some employees have been with us over 22 years. That loyalty, experience and passion is priceless.”

Fischer still travels the world to ensure a hotel is correct for his clients (In 2005, we reported that it was perhaps his relentless pursuit to visit every hotel he does business with before he’ll send a single client there that was the key to his success).

When he’s home, he’s at Fischer Travel’s Manhattan headquarters advising staff, meeting with vendors, entertaining at industry lunches and dinners, and delivering speeches about the luxury travel business. And that brings the greatest joy to Fischer Travel’s team of trusted advisors; that they’ve got their dear founder at hand to help handle the toughest requests (and tough they are), all with his legendary sense of humor.

We raise our hat to this industry leader and thank him for his support and guidance over the past decade.

Bill Fischer:
Living & Breathing Luxury

It’s no secret that Bill Fischer charges his clients a sizeable fee to enter his world of luxury services, and a healthy retainer simply to maintain their elite status with him. His phone and fax numbers are unlisted, and he has a list of VIPs around the world who are anxiously waiting to become a client of Fischer Travel.

What’s not so obvious is how Fischer, who handles travel fur some of the most celebrated film stars and wealthy business executives worldwide (nearly half of his clients are international), has created a unique travel business that many would call legendary.

Some would say it’s his relentless pursuit to visit every hotel he does business with before he’ll send a single client there. Then there’s his devotion to staying abreast of an industry he knows well; he is seen fre­quently at trade events and always makes time to visit with representatives of luxury travel businesses when they pass through his hometown of Manhattan.

Others would say his success spawns from a confidence developed from years of selling only lux­ury travel, and only to those with whom he wants to do business.
Case in point. Just 10 days before Christmas, Fis­cher’s staff of 20 agents is working furiously to accom­modate last-minute requests from clients who have just decided they’d like to get away for the holiday. They want access to the most elite resorts in the world, most of which have been booked solid for months. In many cases, they’re traveling with family or entourages of seven to 10 people…

At Fischer Travel, The Sky’s The Limit

When Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, the newly named president of Fischer Travel Enterprises, looks back over the 28 years she has worked in the family business, she recognizes a major shift in the company’s M.O.

“We’ve become a lifestyle company; we help manage our clients’ lives, including their travel requests,” she tells Luxury Travel Advisor during our visit to Fischer’s midtown Manhattan office.

That means on a day-to-day basis, the staff at Fischer Travel could be on the prowl to obtain a much sought-after pro golf instructor for a client who needs to repair his swing or to find that coveted Birkin bag for a VIP when the wait-list is 1,000 long. One recent task involved purchasing not only a Bentley convertible for a client but a BMW X5 as well.

Then there’s the travel—and oh, such travel. The legendary Fischer Travel Enterprises concept is all about crafting over-the-top luxury experiences for the millionaires and billionaires of the world, the movers and shakers, bankers and fund managers; those celebrities seeking to travel under the radar and some enormously wealthy families who travel frequently and in grand style with their entourage of nannies, physicians, IT technicians and pets.

“Fischer Travel is similar to Hermès or  Louis Vuitton, where it’s really about being a lifestyle brand. We provide the highest level of service; it’s about being able to obtain the unobtainable for these privileged people no matter what their request is, as long as it’s legal. We are not here to judge,” says Fischer-Rosenthal with a smile.

The company was founded by CEO Bill Fischer (Stacy’s father), that dapper gentleman who will forever be known as the elite travel advisor with the unlisted phone number and who years ago—and years ahead of his time—moved away from selling packaged travel to selling only luxury travel. Along the way he adopted a very unconventional strategy of charging for his services to make magic happen.

What kind of magic, you ask? How about obtaining that unattainable villa during the height of the Christmas holidays? Or having lights installed at a remote island airport so his client could land his private jet at night? Or, perhaps, a VIP needed a suite, but it didn’t exist at a particular hotel—that is until Bill got involved and walls started coming down to create roomier accommodations.

In many ways, the basic Fischer Travel business model hasn’t changed since Bill began charging for his services. But it does cost a bit more these days. While just a few years ago the firm was generating a buzz because it charged an annual $5,000 service fee, paired with a one-time $20,000 initiation charge, in 2010, it costs $100,000 to become a client of Fischer Travel and another $25,000 annually to stay on (it remains $5,000 for existing clients).

The tradition of providing extreme travel services continues with daughter Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, who has made her own imprint on Fischer Travel since joining the company right out of college. She picked up Bill’s savvy business tenets and adapted well to his best practices of selling travel, the most notable being that no hotel is offered to a Fischer Travel client until someone on the staff has visited and fully vetted it.

However, through the years, she began bringing to the business a younger clientele, those of a generation that, in the age of online travel booking, might not typically even consider using the services of a travel consultant. For this ultra-affluent crowd, she has crafted some of the most creative, over-the-top travel experiences one could imagine.

The move in that direction came about 15 years ago when her husband, Richard (then her fiancé), started playing basketball with a group that included a guy who drove a fancy car. When he found out that Richard’s girlfriend did high-end travel, he was intrigued. After all, he was about to fly via private jet to the south of France where he wanted to charter a yacht. Fischer-Rosenthal got the job done and the new client was quite pleased.

“That opened up a whole new market of clients who were in their thirties and who had never realized there was someone out there who handled travel like that,” says Fischer-Rosenthal.

Word of such luxury service spread to a hedge fund manager in London who came to her with the sad tale that his plans to travel two weeks before Christmas with two children and a nanny had fallen through. If Fischer-Rosenthal could fix the problem, she would earn his loyalty. She secured an amazing vacation for him. He became (and remains) a loyal supporter and recommended her to colleagues in Japan, Turkey and France.

It didn’t take the Fischers long to realize that this strata of clientele likes to celebrate landmark birthdays. No matter if they’re turning 35 or 37, 40 or 50—they like to do it up big. Such celebrations have become Fischer-Rosenthal’s trademark specialty—thinking out of the box to create special memories for them.

In one case, Fischer Travel took over a SeaDream vessel for a birthday bash. To evoke a private yacht vibe, they replaced all of the ship’s artwork with personal photos of the client as well as his friends and family who were flying in from all over the world to celebrate. It gets better. Fischer Travel arranged for celebratory fireworks and when the ship sailed to Ibiza, the team took over entire nightclubs for the group. In St. Tropez, they secured a villa, had more than 100,000 roses flown in and arranged for synchronized swimmers to perform.

For such a spectacular event, Fischer-Rosenthal flew in with her father to ensure details were taken care of. It was well worth it; entry into such a world of wealth garnered many more ultra-deluxe clients who saw what the Fischers could do.

Over the past five years, Fischer-Rosenthal has been choreographing several such celebrations annually and each time they’ve grown larger and more spectacular. Even in 2009, during the recession, she took over the Villa San Michele, and the Conventina building at the Four Seasons in Florence for 150 people. Andrea Bocelli serenaded and a ballet company was flown in from France to perform. Fischer Travel staff worked with a professional party-planner to provide special welcome gifts for each attendee, as well as a series of creatively thought-out gifts each night at turndown.

In another instance, a prospective client wanted to plan a surprise party for her husband’s 50th birthday. She was considering doing something in Napa but had no specific ideas. Fischer-Rosenthal and her team stepped in to create an elaborate program for them, arranging for Thomas Keller from the famed French Laundry to prepare dinner for them at a winery in a vineyard that’s not open to the public. Other wow moments of the trip? An interactive wine-blending soiree where the guests also created their own wine labels—the bottles of their custom-crafted wine were then shipped home.

The following evening, Fischer-Rosenthal arranged a bash at a private club, Napa Valley Reserve, where the music was played by a band flown in from Los Angeles.

“The evening was a winner,” says Fischer-Rosenthal, who admits such over-the-top, multi-evening events can take a toll. “When their plane left to take them home, we looked at each other and cried and hugged each other from exhaustion and happiness because we knew they were so happy.”

An interesting dynamic arises when you work so closely with an individual, not just doing travel but handling celebration parties, anniversaries and gifts, says Fischer-Rosenthal. “You become very personal and very familiar with them,” she says. “I have several clients that I really work closely with and manage their lives.”

Such intimate service requires the staff to become marriage counselors to their clients, personal assistants, psychiatrists, sometimes private investigators and definitely babysitters, she adds.

In some cases, a client has more than one significant other, she says, “so it’s managing which hotel and car company you use because they could be going to the same city with a different friend and they don’t want to be seen walking into a hotel with a general manager who has met them several times before. So it’s about establishing a comfort level; they are leaving all this in your hands and making sure that you get it right.”

It gets more complex: “Sometimes there are three or four people in the mix who are coming and going and being met at the airport so you are using different greeter services. It’s a challenge, but it’s actually fun and it’s wonderful that people are entrusting their lives to us.”

Sometimes more mundane, but equally important, services are requested by clients. Just days prior to our visit with her, Fischer-Rosenthal had received a call from a senior travel manager whose Manhattan client needed to have a manicure and pedicure done at her home by 8:30 that evening. It was 4 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday.

For Fischer-Rosenthal, finding the solution is like solving a puzzle. “We had to find out if the manicurist is available, is it a regular manicure or a glue manicure and what kind of polish is needed so we know what type of supplies the person is responsible for bringing.”

In the end, it was Fischer-Rosenthal who ran out on that Sunday to secure the proper color nail polish to save time.

“It’s all a collaboration. At the end of the day the client is happy and gets what they want. That’s all we care about.”

This type of request, especially those that come in after-hours and on weekends, commands a fee which is determined by what the person who is delivering the service charges, transportation costs, and additional service charge for Fischer Travel. The fee is presented to the client; once approved, they are billed for that amount.

Such requests are not considered an aberration. In fact, Fischer-Rosenthal wants the agency to be the first place where her clients seek this type a lifestyle service. “There are very few times that I think we can’t do something,” she says.

Lifestyle service requests often require a true learning curve when new consultants come to Fischer Travel. “There are e-mail exchanges all through the day with consultants coming in and saying, ‘Okay I just got this request, how do I handle it?’ There is always a solution. There is always somebody Bill and I or the senior travel staff will know. We all work together,” says Fischer-Rosenthal.

And then there are the challenges on the travel side that VIP clients bring to the table. Recent efforts included finding seven first class seats on an alternate airline at 6 a.m. on New Year’s morning for a family of seven, a feat that also included rearranging all of the greeters and drivers involved in each city.

Another centered on rescuing a client who took the wrong passport when he left on a trip to Brazil. Fischer-Rosenthal arranged for the mother of one of her travel consultants who lived in the same Ohio city to go to his house, get the proper passport and personally fly it to New York where the client was waiting. Another constant test is getting the uber-affluent family that always travels in jeans and flip flops no matter where they go into restaurants that require jackets and ties.

In many cases, the paparazzi is in constant pursuit of some of her celebrity clients so she has to have back up hotels lined up for them in case their location is leaked.

With such an intense dynamic always in play, the question begs to be asked, how does Fischer-Rosenthal stay so calm?

“We have a yoga instructor who comes into our office; I am a big fan of breathing,” she says. “I think that really helps. When you walk around the office it can be so insane but we really do keep calm. It’s the challenge that drives me and it’s what makes everyday different. It’s like being on a stage where you’re always performing. It’s about problem-solving and being creative and having the passion.”

That Fischer-Rosenthal is a breast cancer survivor, having undergone multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and hair loss nine years ago, also puts things in perspective.

“I went through a really challenging time and that experience has made me think about life differently,” she tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “Sometimes when I’m dealing with this clientele, if they don’t get their hair done the way they want, their day is ruined. I am not here to judge them, but sometimes I think, ‘Wow, these people have no idea what problems or what life experiences really are.’”


Life Balance

Fischer-Rosenthal has been married 18 years to her husband Richard. Together they have a son, Max, who is 16. “I am a working mother who tries to make the most of everything,” says Fischer-Rosenthal. “I have breakfast with Max every morning and I go to most of his basketball games at school.” She’ll also leave work to go home for a family dinner and then return to the office or work late from home.

“It’s a balance but I always try to be there,” she says, noting that her husband and son “are incredibly supportive. They understand my clients and they understand how I care about my clients.”

Because they live in Manhattan, the Rosenthals make it a point to enjoy the city as much as possible, eating out in fine-dining restaurants. While this is quality family time, it’s also research, since a “huge portion” of Fischer-Rosenthal’s business involves making dinner reservations for clients.

“Being able to understand when a restaurant opens if it’s all hype, or if the food and the service are good is extremely important, as is making those connections with the maitre d’s so that when we call they understand who is calling, and so that when we need a dinner reservation we can obtain it,” she says.

The family travels for two weeks every March during Max’s spring break and for a long trip during the summer. These sojourns are carefully mapped out since Fischer-Rosenthal works throughout the festive-season holidays, always on hand should her clients need her for anything.

And oh, do they need her. Fischer-Rosenthal’s clients have the wealth and the wherewithal to decide at any point during a vacation that they want to pick up and go somewhere else. “If the weather is not great they have the flexibility of saying, ‘Okay I am going to get on a plane…where else can I go?’” She received such a call recently while at her son’s basketball game from a client who said the weather where they were was too windy and that their children were looking for a bit more nightlife.

Fischer-Rosenthal began working her BlackBerry only to have the client call back just a half hour later to find out if they could book their plane for take off.

That’s where she had to draw the line. “I said, ‘You need to just give me a little time. I have calls in now, it’s Sunday, hopefully by the time I get home tonight I will have some answers for you.’” That evening she was able to present some options to the client and the next morning, she secured the top suites at a new destination for them.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is that the client actually belonged to another travel counselor in the office, who was on vacation. Fischer-Rosenthal is adamant that her agents have real time off during their breaks since the rest of the time they are on call 24×7. For that reason, she puts her name on the company’s voicemail; calls that come in on a weekend or after-hours are forwarded to her cell phone. “We have people traveling all over the world so we’re getting those calls all the time,” she says.

Fischer-Rosenthal insists that the agency is as good as it is because of the staff it employs. “To be in this line of work you have to be so driven and so committed, you really have to have that passion,” she says. For that reason, when she was recently named president of Fischer Travel, she made it a point to recognize three individuals who have those attributes. Dee Branciforte and Anne Ackerman have been promoted to vice president and will focus on agent management and office management. Jan Kelley has been promoted to vice president, business development, and will oversee the strategic growth of the company. Anne has been with Fischer Travel for 18 years, Dee for 17 years and Jan for 13 years.


Luxury Travel Trends

When asked how the luxury client has changed over the past few years, Fisher-Rosenthal says, “They are now much more interested in exploring the globe, traveling with family and learning through travel. And it’s not enough to just have a presidential suite in the hotel, now they want their own private villas or own private islands like Musha or Necker Island.” (Note: When Luxury Travel Advisor visited with them, the Fischers were excited to have just discovered a new private island: Calivigny Island in Grenada, whose presidential villa can accommodate up to 20.)

Larger accommodations have also become the trend as people travel with children, families, grandparents, security and technicians so that they can work remotely no matter where they are. “They always want to be in touch,” says Fischer-Rosenthal. “Our clients really like four to five bedrooms under one roof.”

While the clientele she services has an abundance of wealth, time is their most valuable commodity. “Every holiday is precious to them. Making the most of their time with their loved ones is paramount. That’s why you really want to create experiences for them that they are going to remember,” she says.

Today, the exclusive agency’s phone number is still unlisted and it purposely does not have a website. The practice of charging for services and to be a member of the Fischer Travel fold is still a thriving strategy.

Fischer-Rosenthal says she always had strong faith in her father’s way of conducting business, even when it was quite unconventional.

“He did it his way; he was always a visionary and always knew this was the path to take,” she says proudly. “He took such great steps way before people were charging for tickets and charging for their time. He always viewed himself as a professional—like a doctor or a lawyer.”

There’s no doubt she’ll carry on that mantra as she takes the company forward. “Today I am president of Fischer Travel and it’s an honor to be the ambassador of the company that my father built,” she says. “Looking back 28 years, I can say that when you work hard and have a passion for something you believe in, you can make it happen.”