TravelStore is a full-service travel agency founded in 1975 that designs personalized, seamless experiences and itineraries for clients. Before Florence Brethome began working as a travel consultant in 2000, she studied art history at the Louvre Museum and worked for the Opera National de Paris. A native of France, she has been the general manager of TravelStore’s South Bay office since 2021.
What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?
My passion for travel and helping travelers enrich their lives, one trip at a time. I also mentor and train new travel advisors and am always looking for individuals with the desire and potential to succeed in the travel industry.
What are the benefits of having women in leadership?
A woman’s point of view adds balance and empathy to how a company operates, bringing more focus on sensitivity in our workforce. Women tend to have a more nurturing style, which results in more mentoring and coaching between female managers and frontline staff at companies like ours.
In the hospitality industry, most employees are women, but the executive leadership of travel agencies, hotels, cruise lines and tour operators has historically been male. We are starting to see a trend now toward more women in executive leadership positions overall in travel, which is such a welcome change!
Previously TravelStore’s leadership was represented by men only. I am happy to say that today four women are on our board of directors, which is huge progress.
What are some key qualities for women working in leadership roles?
Empathy, compassion, flexibility. Supporting my team and helping them thrive is my #1 goal. Confidence in oneself is also essential!
Share a significant accomplishment in your career.
I started working at TravelStore as an administrative assistant and became one of its top leisure travel advisors before becoming the general manager of our South Bay office. The main lesson learned is that everything is possible! One must have dreams, believe they can come true and not give up.
What advice would you give your younger self just starting out in business?
Be patient and stick with it. Listen and learn from peers. In our field, expertise is acquired with experience. In my office, years of experience vary from two months to 50 years! We learn so much from each other.
Have you had mentors who influenced your career?
Yes. Wido Schaefer, the founder and chairman of TravelStore, is one of them. He took me on as a French intern 23 years ago. Katie Cadar, our director of leisure sales, is another. She showed me the way to success in our field and continues to do so today. Those who have inspired me to become who I am today know who they are and how grateful I am. Mentorship is essential, and I have been giving back for the past 10 years, becoming a mentor myself to several newbies.
How do you rally your team to take on a big goal?
By laying it out clearly and with enthusiasm. It is important to show the benefits not only of the results but of the process as well, and to celebrate the achievements along the way.
How do you foster a positive work environment?
Positive reinforcement is key. Listening is also essential. I try to preserve peace in the workplace and eliminate all unnecessary sources of stress. My team knows I have their backs.
Tell us about the app you’re loving right now.
I must say, our Pocket Travel App is my favorite tool these days! Our travelers have access to their itineraries on the app. It is a fun and useful tool. You can share travel plans with loved ones, access various destination guides, and it sends you alerts on flight departures, possible changes, gate assignments and more. Considering how flights and airports have been the most stressful part of traveling lately, the app allows our clients to travel more peacefully knowing that we are just a click away from them. I have been using it for years and love accessing my personal travel library at any time.
What motivates you to go to work every day?
I love my job, and I love my team. Every day I look forward to creating new travel adventures surrounded by the best travel advisors in the business.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I am enjoying the present very much! I have a lot more to contribute to our Palos Verdes office and community, leading my amazing team and helping our South Bay travelers make their travel dreams come true. I also want to continue developing new talents by mentoring and training new advisors. My future will always include travel, and luckily my husband is up for it. I am taking him to Africa in December. It will be his first time on the continent!
Photographed by Fabien & Laura Castro