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Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
For Fernando Gonzalez, Chief Executive Officer at First in Service, family is at the center—both in business and in life. First in Service, which began as a venture between he and his sister, Erika Reategui, is now a successful travel company with a team of 150.
“I had no plans of being in travel, really,” he says, “I had a whole different career path in mind.” But when he was 19, at the urging of his mother—who also had a background in travel—he and Erika opened their own agency. “We were fortunate that we had very good clients in a niche circle and so we became the brother-and-sister team,” says Gonzalez, who was still in college when they started out.
While the focus in the early days was on corporate travel, after 9/11, the company evolved to include the fashion and then entertainment industries. The company continues to expand, and today also counts a prominent leisure division among its offerings. Gonzalez’s role has also changed and now his day to day involves talking to members of the team, helping solve problems, and strategizing on how to continue to grow the company.
But even with the tremendous growth over the years—in the beginning, everyone on the team ate all their meals together, says Gonzalez—that personal touch is still key. “We’re a family business. We want to maintain the same relationship with each and every one of our team members—whether they’re employees or independent consultants.”
To that end, the company is hosting a retreat at the Mayakoba resort in Mexico. About 70 team members will be gathered together—and the focus will be on bonding, not business.
The importance of family is evident in his personal life, too. Gonzalez and his wife, Awilda, are parents to 13-year-old Sofia. When Gonzalez isn’t traveling, he takes Sofia to school and, since she’s an avid dancer, singer and actress, attends her performances. “We make it a point to always be there,” he says.
And, as can be expected, travel is a huge part of their lives. “That passion for the world and for culture to me is probably one of the most important things for Sofia,” he says, “Travel is part of Sofia’s education.”
When Sofia was 11, the pair went on a father-daughter trip to Iceland, where they spent a week doing everything from horseback riding, hiking glaciers and snowmobiling to seeing geysers and waterfalls. And —even though it wasn’t the season—were able to see the Northern Lights, a special bonding moment that they won’t soon forget. “For both of us, it was one of our best trips,” he says.
As a family, places like Iceland, and also Israel and Peru, have been especially memorable. “They’re destinations where we come together and appreciate more than just the museums, but the spirituality and the energy of the place as a family,” he says.
Some of his favorite family travel destinations: Israel (“Everyone in the world should go to Israel at least once with their family,” he says) —as well as Spain, Paris, and the Grand Canyon.
What’s next on the family’s travel list? Australia, the Galapagos, and Egypt. “Travel is key to getting out of your comfort zone and is so important as a family,” he says, “It creates a deeper bond and allows for different conversations. It opens up a child’s curiosity and allows them to see the world in a whole new way.”