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Fitzell has travelled around the world, including south-east Asia

Operating Diethelm Travel was the biggest challenge of my life. I was asked to become managing director of STA’s sister company Diethelm Travel in Bangkok and the lure of living in Asia with my family was too much to resist. We operated as a DMC across 12 countries and I was responsible for 600 staff. Now, after 22 years away, I’m back up north as managing director of Elegant Resorts where I started in April. It’s great to be back in the luxury sector again.


Service, knowledge and technology are the most important things in the luxury sector now. We need to give our customers extra value – information they can’t find themselves, whether it’s a new restaurant or an amazing behind-the-scenes experience. We need to continue to invest in technology to give a faster, more competitive booking experience and instant access to concierge-style services as the customer travels.


I’ve recently introduced twice weekly yoga classes. Since starting at Elegant Resorts, I’ve focused on increased communication to our staff and creating a healthy and happy environment. We’ve also invested in learning and development, technology, and the commercial and product team to give our customers a wider product range.


Paul Maine, chief commercial officer at STA, is the best negotiator I have ever known. He was my direct boss and his leadership style gave me so much confidence in my abilities. Lots of people have inspired me, though, from my first boss Tracey White who quizzed me on brochures to Airline Ticket Network’s John Swindell who taught me how to get the most out of a trade show.


Constant communication is a must. I have been in so many different roles so I understand the challenges of managing people from first-hand experience during the past 20 years. The best teams operate when there is trust, honesty and a clear strategy.


Understand your product inside out. My advice to those entering the industry today is learn about all areas of the company you are working in. It may help you work out which direction you want to go in. Show a can-do attitude and embrace all the opportunities thrown your way, and travel as much as you can.


Never burn your bridges. It’s a good piece of advice I was once given. What comes around goes around – it’s a very small industry.

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