Think you know Gerard J. Inzerillo, think again….
There’s more to Gerard J. Inzerillo, Chief Executive Officer of Forbes Travel Guide, than meets the eye, so we decided to ask him those comical, personal and telling questions to reveal the man behind the suit.
His resume speaks for itself. After four decades of serving in the hospitality and entertainment industries developing some of the world’s most well-known and successful lifestyle brands in tourism and entertainment, Gerard J. Inzerillo, or Jerry as he is known by most in the business, has earned the titles of visionary, president and CEO. Yet, if you ask Forbes Travel Guide’s “CEO-in-training” and “chief inspector” who Jerry collects souvenir Christmas tree ornaments for, what title she thinks he deserves, we’d venture to say it’s “World’s Greatest Dad.” We’ll let him explain in the Coffee Time With Industry Vets Q&A series.
Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
I came from a poor family, and we couldn’t afford a single vacation before I left home. On top of that, I started working full time when I was 13. So I didn’t travel until I was 16—I went to Miami. My first international trip was to London and Paris when I was 18.
What is your most vivid travel memory?
It would have to be the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower and stayed at the storied Ritz hotel in Paris. I was 18 and it was my first time in Paris. As you can imagine, it left a lasting impression on me.
What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?
It was receiving a paycheck at the age of 13. I worked as a banquet busboy in New York City, and the first time I was given a paycheck, I realized that I needed that paycheck.
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
My wife, Prudence and I took a trip around the world—we spent a couple of months traveling the globe.
What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
My favorite trip was the Forbes Travel Guide’s awards ceremony tour through Milan, Paris and London. It’s always good to get back to Italy, where my family is from, but it was particularly exciting to see our Five-Star Rating System grow in Europe.
Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
I’m very excited about the opening of our new office in Dubai because we are expanding rapidly into the Middle East. As part of this, I am looking forward to exploring new Middle East destinations I have yet to see, and one day I hope to return to Tehran, as the Iranian people are wonderful.
Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
Every time I visit a destination, I buy a souvenir for my daughter. I always pick up an ornament for the Christmas tree. I’ve done this for the full nine years of her life.
You can tell us – do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?
No, I do not collect magnets, but as I mentioned above, I do collect Christmas ornaments. As a family that celebrates the holiday, we have what we call in our house a Christmas tree of cultures, where every ornament is indicative of a particular city or country.
What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?
The stillness of a plane ride allows me to get caught up on memos and professional correspondence. I’m not the type who watches movies on the plane. If I have any spare time, I keep a journal for my daughter and write to her.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
My favorite travel companions are Forbes Travel Guide’s CEO-in-training and chief inspector, Helena Inzerillo, age 9, and my wife, Prudence.
If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
Knowing that I have to be diplomatic here, I’d say the best hotel room in the world for me is Sutton Place—my home is like a hotel.
If you were a destination, which would it be and why?
It would have to be Italy, where my family is from. I wholeheartedly believe in the country’s credo: Eat well, drink well, play well, love well, Italian style.
What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?
Considering I’ve spent 49 years in hospitality, I have been fortunate enough to have experienced hundreds of great meals. It’s difficult to single out one. Throughout America, I have had amazing meals, and of course, food in Italy, France, China and Japan are always fantastic.
I have had my share of unusual food experiences, too. Trust me, every city offers the opportunity to try exotic ingredients, like monkey brains, dog’s stew or snake blood.
What can’t you travel without?
I can’t travel without my iPhone for pictures and communication, a sketchpad for drawing and photos of my wife and daughter.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
I have had the privilege of traveling many times with Nelson Mandela as well as meeting three popes.
Tropical beach or snowy mountain?
Asking me this question is like saying, “Words or music?”—you need both to feed your soul.
City or countryside?
Are you kidding? Both.
Want to “hang out” with Jerry and the Travel Guide team on social media? Connect with them at @ForbesTravelGuide on Instagram, @ForbesInspector on Twitter, at Facebook.com/ForbesTravelGuide and at “forbestravel” on Snapchat.