Travel Weekly Readers Choice 2015


Tour operators

Abercrombie & Kent

NOMINATED: ADVENTURE, AFRICA, LUXURY

Abercrombie & Kent was founded as a safari outfit by Geoffrey Kent and his parents in 1962. Since then, it has grown into a global, luxury travel brand with 50 offices around the world, and land programs, private villas, ocean and river cruises in 100 countries on all seven continents. A&K continues to expand its product offering and trip styles, having recently added Ganges, Amazon and Mekong river cruises to its portfolio, and is developing a series of tours that will be led by the company’s CEO, called Intrepid Expeditions by Geoffrey Kent

Adventures by Disney

NOMINATED: ADVENTURE

What started as a soft launch with just a couple of itineraries in 2005, Adventures by Disney, the Walt Disney Co.’s tour operator arm, has grown into a global vacation escorted tour brand for families. For 2016, Adventures by Disney is offering 33 itineraries in 26 destinations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Central and South America, Europe and North America. The company made a splash this year when it launched European river cruising for 2016 through a partnership with river cruise line AmaWaterways.  

African Travel

NOMINATED: AFRICA

The Travel Corp.’s Africa specialist operator, African Travel offers wildlife safaris and custom adventures to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Swaziland, Mozambique, Mauritius, Seychelles, Rwanda and more recently Dubai and Jordan. This year, African Travel became one of several travel companies that vowed to stop selling elephant rides and elephant shows as part of a new animal welfare policy.

Apple Vacations

NOMINATED: CARIBBEAN, HAWAII, MEXICO, PACKAGED OVERALL, PACKAGED SALES & SERVICE  

The family-owned and -operated Apple Vacations dates back to 1969. Today, the company has evolved to offer a mix of air-only, hotel-only and complete vacation packages to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Panama, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico and North America ski resorts and this year added Cuba to its product mix. 

Big Five Tours & Expeditions

NOMINATED: ADVENTURE

Founded in 1973, Big Five Tours & Expeditions is a family-run custom, luxury safari and adventure travel outfit. Big Five develops personalized tours to Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Antarctica and the South Pacific. Founder and CEO Mahen Sanghrajka and his son, President Ashish Sanghrajka, are advocates of low-impact tourism that supports environmentally responsible lodgings, camps, excursions and cruises.

Blue Sky Tours

NOMINATED: HAWAII

Founded in 1981, Blue Sky Tours sells only Hawaii and only through agents. Based in Albuquerque, N.M., Blue Sky is a member of the Mark Travel Corp. and provides complete Hawaii vacation packages, including hotels, condos, car rentals, tours and air.

CIE Tours

NOMINATED: ESCORTED SALES & SERVICE, ESCORTED OVERALL

For 84 years, Morristown, N.J.-based CIE Tours International has specialized in vacations to Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. The company offers escorted tours and packaged vacations as well as custom independent travel. CIE Tours also has self-drive and chauffeur-driven programs available in Ireland.

Classic Vacations

NOMINATED: HAWAII, LUXURY

Classic Vacations started in 1978 as a Hawaii specialist. The company has since grown to provide premium and luxury travel packages, accommodations, transportation options, tours and excursions in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Europe, Mexico, Canada and the South Pacific. This year, Classic Vacations added pre- and post-cruise packages to its vacation portfolio, starting with 45 cities throughout Europe.

Collette

NOMINATED: AFRICA, CANADA, DOMESTIC ESCORTED, ESCORTED OVERALL, EUROPE, INTERNATIONAL, ESCORTED SALES & SERVICE

The Pawtucket, R.I.-based Collette is one of the oldest tour operators in the U.S., dating to 1918 when Jack Collette founded the company. In 1962, Dan and Alice Sullivan took over, and the company has stayed in the Sullivan family ever since. Today, Collette offers over 160 tours to destinations on all seven continents. This year, Collette opened an office in Sydney, Australia, which became its fourth office worldwide. Some 25 years ago, Collette opened offices in Toronto and London.

Delta Vacations

NOMINATED: CARIBBEAN, DOMESTIC PACKAGED, EUROPE, HAWAII, INTERNATIONAL, MEXICO, PACKAGED OVERALL, PACKAGED SALES & SERVICE

Delta Vacations offers Delta Air Lines vacation packages from the U.S. and Canada to Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada. In the past year, the company added Colombia to its product mix. Delta Vacations is operated by Atlanta-based MLT Vacations.

Funjet Vacations

NOMINATED: ADVENTURE, CARIBBEAN, DOMESTIC PACKAGED, INTERNATIONAL, MEXICO, PACKAGED OVERALL, PACKAGED SALES & SERVICE, AGENT LOYALTY PROGRAM

Funjet Vacations, the Mark Travel Corp.’s flagship brand, specializes in vacation packages to 120 destinations in Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, the continental U.S. and North America’s ski regions. Funjet added Cuba to its product mix this year.

G Adventures

NOMINATED: ADVENTURE

Founded in 1990, Toronto-based G Adventures has grown into an adventure travel company with more than 1,800 employees worldwide, offering small-group tours, safaris and expeditions to more than 100 countries on all seven continents. In 2015, G Adventures partnered with National Geographic to launch National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures, National Geographic-branded tours at a more accessible price than other National Geographic travel products.

Globus

NOMINATED: AFRICA, ASIA/PACIFIC, CANADA, DOMESTIC ESCORTED, ESCORTED OVERALL, EUROPE, INTERNATIONAL, ESCORTED SALES & SERVICE

Founded in 1928, the Globus Family of Brands — which encompasses the brands Globus, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon Waterways — takes travelers to 79 countries on six continents. Today, the Globus Family of Brands comprises some 10,000 departures of nearly 300 itineraries, covering more than 65 countries on six continents. Combined, the company’s brands move nearly 500,000 passengers each year.

Gogo Vacations

NOMINATED: CANADA, CARIBBEAN, DOMESTIC PACKAGED, EUROPE, HAWAII, LUXURY, MEXICO, PACKAGED OVERALL, PACKAGED SALES & SERVICE

Founded in 1951, Gogo Vacations was acquired in 2008 by Australian parent Flight Centre Ltd., a move that helped Gogo greatly expand its global vacation offering. Today, Gogo sells packages to the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands, Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Dubai and Egypt.

Goway

NOMINATED: ASIA/PACIFIC

Since 1970, Toronto-based Goway has offered group and independent travel to Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America, and to island destinations around the world. Goway has offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Sydney.

Insight Vacations

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC ESCORTED, ESCORTED OVERALL, EUROPE, ESCORTED SALES & SERVICE

Insight offers more than 100 journeys in Europe, North America, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Morocco, Egypt and Israel, all with high-end accommodations and group sizes that are limited to 40 people. For 2016, Insight will offer a complete Luxury Gold collection aimed at the high-end tour market, with five-star properties and dining in Michelin-starred restaurants.

Intrepid Travel

NOMINATED: ADVENTURE

Australian tour company Intrepid Travel was founded in 1989; today it employs more than 1,000 staff and sends more than 100,000 travelers around the world on some 800 itineraries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, Australia and Antarctica.

Journese

NOMINATED: LUXURY

Founded in 1977, Journese, the luxury travel arm of Pleasant Holidays, is a boutique travel provider offering customized vacations to Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, the Cook Islands, Europe, Fiji, Mexico, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii and the continental U.S. Journese vacations include luxury accommodations, first-class air options and private transfers.

Micato Safaris

NOMINATED: AFRICA

Family-owned and -operated since it was founded in Kenya in 1966 by Jane and Felix Pinto, Micato Safaris offers several styles of safari trips in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Zambia, Zanzibar, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Rwanda and India.

Pacific Delight Tours

NOMINATED: ASIA/PACIFIC

The 45-year-old Pacific Delight Tours specializes in Asia and the Pacific, with a strong emphasis on China and Yangtze River cruises. The company also offers tours and safaris in Africa and programs to Australia, Bali, Cambodia, India, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam. In 2015, Pacific Delight Tours expanded into South America with new tours to Peru, Argentina, Chile and Brazil

Pleasant Holidays

NOMINATED: ASIA/PACIFIC, CARIBBEAN, HAWAII, MEXICO, PACKAGED OVERALL, PACKAGED SALES & SERVICE

In 1997, Hawaii specialist Pleasant Holidays purchased Japan & Orient Tours and expanded its destinations to include Asia, Europe and the Pacific. The company now also offers itineraries in Costa Rica, Mexico, the Caribbean and the U.S., and this year, Pleasant Holidays added European river cruises to its lineup. In 2015, Pleasant Holidays completed upgrades of both the Pleasant Holidays and Journese agent websites with a focus on better real-time hotel connectivity.

Rocky Mountaineer

NOMINATED: CANADA

This year marked the 25th anniversary for Rocky Mountaineer, the largest privately owned luxury tourist train in the world, which has welcomed nearly 2 million guests on over 45 vacation packages, and five rail routes to destinations such as Seattle, Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies in Alberta. This year the line began offering SilverLeaf Service, which includes gourmet snacks and complimentary wine, beer and spirits, on its Rainforest to Gold Rush route.

Tauck

NOMINATED: AFRICA, ASIA/PACIFIC, CANADA, DOMESTIC ESCORTED, ESCORTED OVERALL, EUROPE, INTERNATIONAL, LUXURY, ESCORTED SALES & SERVICE

Tauck has a history in touring that dates back to 1925, when company founder Arthur Tauck began offering tours through the back roads of New England. Today, Tauck offers premium escorted land, cruise, river cruise and family journeys that total more than 100 itineraries worldwide. The company also has a growing European river cruise business, which will consist of a fleet of nine vessels in 2016, with the launch of two new ships.

Trafalgar

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC ESCORTED, INTERNATIONAL, EUROPE, ESCORTED SALES & SERVICE, ESCORTED OVERALL

Trafalgar, which is owned by the Travel Corp., specializes in escorted vacations to Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, North and South America, South Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, the U.S. and Canada. Trafalgar has several categories of travel product, including its At Leisure program, for travelers who want more freedom; Costsaver, for more budget-oriented travelers; Family Experiences for families hitting the road together; and Hidden Journeys, a collection of small-group journeys.

Travel Impressions

NOMINATED: CANADA, CARIBBEAN, DOMESTIC PACKAGED, HAWAII, INTERNATIONAL, LUXURY, MEXICO, PACKAGED OVERALL, PACKAGED SALES & SERVICE

Founded in 1974, Travel Impressions provides leisure vacation packages to more than 200 destinations worldwide, with a roster of more than 1,850 resorts and hotels, and 1,500 luxury villas. Destinations include the Caribbean, Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, China, Europe, Israel, Dubai, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Canada and the U.S. In 2013, Travel Impressions was acquired by Apple Leisure Group.

Wendy Wu Tours

NOMINATED: ASIA/PACIFIC

Wendy Wu Tours was founded in Australia in 1998 by Wendy Wu, who is originally from China. In 2010, the company opened its first office in New York and began selling more to the U.S. market, specializing in group travel to Asia. Wendy Wu Tours now has five offices worldwide, including in Xian, Shanghai and London, and specializes in fully inclusive group tours, private tours and tailor-made holidays to Southeast Asia, Japan, India, Taiwan, Mongolia and South Korea.

Yankee Holidays

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC PACKAGED

Beverly, Mass.-based Yankee Holidays offers more than 100 independent travel packages to destinations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The company also operates escorted and independent rail journeys for the brands Amtrak Vacations and Via Rail Canada Vacations.

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