2020 has been a roller coaster of a year, to say the least, but we always try to focus on the positive. CIRE Travel turned 7-years-old this summer and who doesn’t love celebrating birthdays and anniversaries? We thought it fitting to sit down with the Big Cheese, CIRE founder and president, Eric Hrubant, for this month’s edition of 8 Questions. Happy Anniversary to us!
NOTE: The kayak photo was not Photoshopped.
CIRE: Hello boss! Happy CIRE-versary! Where are you celebrating Lucky #7?
ERIC: I’m in Kennebunkport, Maine! I’ve been here since March and I absolutely love the quality of life. I garden, grow my own vegetables, and I’m even cooking and baking. Who knew I was so domestic? I’m pretty close to the beach, too, which has been a Godsend during Covid! Normally, I split my time between Maine, New Jersey and Washington, DC, but I haven’t been to NJ/DC much during the last few months. Oh, and I try to get back to Jackson Heights, Queens (where I grew up) as often as possible to see my Mom.
CIRE: Ooh…Maine! Totally craving a lobster roll now. What about Queens? What’s the signature dish there?
ERIC: While I would not call myself a foodie, my life revolves around food. Jackson Heights is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the entire world and as you can imagine has some of the best Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Mexican, and Brazilian food anywhere. Even the hot dog carts are cooler in Queens! I love South Indian cuisine and dosas are my favorite! Look no further than Dosa Delight! And one of the best Italian restaurants in all of the five boroughs (IMHO) is the husband and wife owned, Armondo’s. It’s been there for decades and most of my milestone celebrations were there.
CIRE: Do you and Esther have debates over which borough is best, Brooklyn or Queens?
ERIC: Cyndi Lauper, 50 Cent, Tony Bennet and LL Cool J are all from Queens, so it has my vote over Brooklyn. What you got, Esther?! But seriously, Esther and my entire team at CIRE have become my family. When people ask what makes CIRE special, my immediate answer is, THE PEOPLE! Each agent at CIRE Travel is a true travel professional and we care deeply about each client. When the Covid shutdowns started to happen, our entire team worked 24/7 for our clients. Not one client was stranded, let alone left to wait on hold for a human! Being able to employ others is my greatest joy. Helping our clients with their business and vacation trips is also very rewarding. Every time we help a client make that deal or get home to their families by helping them with their travel plans, we’re doing good work.
CIRE: GREAT work, if we do say so ourselves! How did you get into the travel business to begin with?
ERIC: I was in college to become a social worker and took a job at a travel agency doing old-school administrative tasks. When I started in 1997, electronic tickets weren’t a thing, so my main job was stuffing tickets into envelopes and sending them via messenger or FedEx to our clients. Email wasn’t really a thing yet either, so our phones rang off the hook! Fast-forward to 2020 and I’m celebrating my 7th anniversary of CIRE Travel.
CIRE: So, after 20-plus years in the travel biz, where is your favorite vacation destination?
ERIC: Honestly, Kennebunkport, Maine. I love it up here and I’m so fortunate to live in a town that brings me such joy. With that said, I’m happy to get on a plane to England, Italy, India or Mexico at any moment! During Covid, we’ve been sending a lot of clients to Mexico. I think a trip to the Yucatan and Riviera Maya would be a great trip for the end of 2020.
CIRE: Sounds delightful! In addition to Mexico, what’s a big travel trend you’re seeing (or were seeing before Covid)?
ERIC: Dubai, The Maldives, Croatia and many Caribbean Islands are open and Americans are allowed as long as they have a negative PCR Covid test. I’m even thinking of doing a trip to Dubai later this year.
CIRE: Some people may already know this, but it’s such a cute story it’s worth repeating. Why the name CIRE?
ERIC: I was a latch-key kid growing up. My mom worked full-time so I came home after-school to an empty apartment. There were soap operas on at 3:00pm and then The Oprah Winfrey Show at 4:00. I watched Oprah every day. I often joke that Oprah was my babysitter! Well, at the end of every show, the credits rolled and up on the screen came Oprah’s production company, Harpo Productions. Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards. As a young boy from Queens in the 80s, I knew that someday I would run my own company and I knew exactly what the name would be: CIRE! Eric spelled backwards!
CIRE: I love that story! Oprah, we are here if you need help travel planning! And finally, when you’re not working or traveling, how do you spend your time?
ERIC: If you look at my personal Instagram page, I say “Maine, Madonna and my cats.” That pretty much sums up my life.
CIRE: This seems like an appropriate song to play you out… “It’s time to celebrate!” Happy anniversary!