he universe of travel suppliers is
inherently immeasurable, but we know there are more than 100,000
hotels that have at least 50 rooms, that tour operators spring up
to serve every interest, lifestyle and financial demographic, and
thousands of cities have tourism promotion boards.
On top of that, there are hundreds of companies involved in the
cruise, air transport, car rental and theme park segments. Of this
multitude of suppliers, Travel Weekly readers voted to select just
99 companies as finalists in our first Readers Choice Awards
Our readership includes agents, industry marketing executives
and the CEOs of the world's largest travel companies. It's a group
uniquely qualified to evaluate the crowded field. An individual
traveler, even one unrestrained by monetary considerations, can
etch only a tiny line around the globe in a year. But industry
professionals -- agents, in particular -- not only travel
extensively, but get feedback from hundreds of consumers whose
combined experiences give a more credible ring to any judgment.
In putting together the awards, publisher Bob Sullivan and I
studied a number of other travel publications that have contests.
After our finalists list was tabulated, I looked back at some of
the other "Best of" lists, and it seemed clear that ours was, in
fact, the definitive list. The results from consumer travel
publications will naturally skew to the demographics of that
magazine's target readership -- upscale publications will end up
with luxury suppliers as winners, value-oriented publications will
have a lot of mass-market suppliers on their lists. Ours is the
only one that truly measures excellence across the industry as a
We asked voters to focus on strict criteria that cut across all
categories: quality of facilities and services, staff proficiency
and quantity and quality of amenities. As a result, the finalists
included value-oriented suppliers such as Carnival Cruise Lines and
Apple Vacations, as well as names synonymous with luxury, like
Crystal Cruises and The Ritz Hotel in Paris.
The voting was for companies, but companies are created and
nurtured by individuals. Some individuals not only guide their
corporations to new heights, but in the process have a significant
impact on how the industry functions. And there are rare
individuals whose influence extends beyond their firm and the
industry to the world at large.
On the night of the Readers Choice Awards banquet, Travel Weekly
honored two such individuals, Gordon "Butch" Stewart and Arthur
Tauck. Stewart exerts a regional impact that has all but redrawn
the map of the Caribbean. Tauck not only created a leadership
bridge between his father and his children, but built bridges
between travelers on his company's tours and the lands and cultures
they visited. Both men were given Travel Weekly Lifetime
It seems a fitting way to begin the new year to take a close
look at the accomplishments of Butch, Arthur and the 99 finalists.
When it comes to keeping your New Year's resolutions, it won't hurt
to review the practices of the winners of Travel Weekly's Readers
Choice Awards for a bit of inspiration.
Look for additional details on this article in the April 22
issue of Travel Weekly.