armchair traveler diaries Armchair Traveler Diaries: Deborah Yager Fleming’s Dispatch from Florida

Armchair Traveler Diaries: Deborah Yager Fleming’s Dispatch from Florida

The CEO and partner of South Florida’s Acqualina Resort and Residences on the Beach is checking in on her team, harnessing the power of laughter, and reminiscing on an epic trip to Peru.

What is life like for you right now?
I’m based in South Florida, and although we temporarily closed our resort on March 21, we’re still running two luxury residential communities. My team and I have also been busy working on a new resort experience that will involve an enhanced guest app and even more personalized service. Our plans also include measures to increase safety through the use of innovative sanitization technology.

Where are you working these days?
I have an office at Acqualina and a home office in Weston, Florida. I’ve been working at Acqualina these past few weeks, collaborating with my team on new service sequencing and curated experiences.
What’s your typical day like now?
It starts with a two-mile walk followed by wellness check calls and text messages to team members, customers, travel partners, and friends and family. I post on Acqualina’s Employee Engagement App, and we recently created an online resource center for our employees, which I review and update. Then, I check in with my executive colleagues and our taskforces on Microsoft Teams. Mid-mornings and early afternoons are for webinars and Zoom meetings, and afternoons are for completing critical assignments and collaborating with travel industry professionals and other partners.
What do you do to stay sane?
I have a close group that I can count on to always make me laugh – by text or phone call. Laughter is so important – it helps open the subconscious to get the creative juices flowing!
What are you watching, reading, listening to?
In the evening, I toggle between CNN and Fox. I can’t help myself! I normally read business books, but recently downloaded The Birth Mother by Seymour Ubell, who is a valued Acqualina guest. It’s a story filled with love, pathos, tragedy, and triumph – and it’s part of our hotel’s Bedside Reading Program!
What travel plans have you put on hold for the pandemic?
It started with Virtuoso Symposium in Vienna. I love Vienna and staying at the Hotel Sacher Wien – the best hotel in the city! It was a very sad day when the conference was postponed, but certainly understandable and definitely the right move. Usually I book my airline tickets a few weeks before traveling, but this year, oddly enough, I purchased several tickets well in advance. That meant that, in addition to Vienna, I also had to cancel trips to New York, California, Las Vegas, and Costa Rica. I have a trip planned to Paris this fall, so hopefully travel will resume before then.

On Deborah Yager Fleming’s list: Saint Petersburg, Russia.
On Deborah Yager Fleming’s list: Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Photo by Getty Images 
Where do you want to go when travel is possible again?
In addition to the places where my trips were cancelled, I’d like to go back to Saint Petersburg. I went there for just under two days last year, and it wasn’t enough time to enjoy the city’s culture and history. I plan to combine a weekend there with a trip to another European city. My family and I have also talked about a multigenerational vacation to Tuscany – that would be really wonderful.
The part of your hotel you most like to show travelers.
Definitely our Costa Grill restaurant – only steps from the sand. Guests are surrounded by red lounge seating on Seashore Paspalum grass, and they have front row seats to the Atlantic. It’s truly beautiful.

A favorite travel memory that’s top of mind right now?
A trip to Peru – we started in Lima before traveling to Urubamba and the town of Chinchero. We saw the Salt Mines of Maras, which have been exploited since the time of the Incas, and explored the Moray ruins, made up of a system of concentric agricultural terraces. Afterwards, we trekked to the Lost City of the Incas: Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most important archaeological jewels. From there, we took the Belmond Hiram Bingham train to Cusco, our final stop before returning home. It was a magical trip!

Your best feel-good moment since all this started?
Celebrating my son’s 20th birthday in April, and surprising him with a weightlifting set. He was home for spring break when Covid-19 hit, and due to travel restrictions, wasn’t able to return to college in Pennsylvania to collect his personal belongings, including his car. He told me that the only thing he wanted was a weight set since he missed the gym so much. At the time, [finding a set] seemed like an impossible task, but we didn’t give up! 

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