Travel Weekly Readers Choice 2016


Tour Operators

AAT Kings

NOMINATED: Asia/Pacific

Australia and New Zealand specialist AAT Kings was founded in 1912 and offers escorted tours, day tours, shorter vacation packages and small-group tours. Based in Anaheim, Calif., AAT Kings is owned by tour operator conglomerate the Travel Corp.

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. Earlier this year, Chinese real estate developer Zhonghong Group agreed to purchase a majority stake in Abercrombie & Kent. Abercrombie & Kent added Iran to its product mix for 2017 and has developed several new tour products this year with partner Times Journeys, the tour and travel division of the New York Times.

Adventures by Disney

NOMINATED: Adventure

Since launching 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. In 2016, Adventures by Disney offered 33 itineraries in 26 destinations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Central and South America, Europe and North America. And the company made a splash when it launched family-friendly European river cruising in 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. African Travel is one of a growing number of travel companies that has vowed to stop selling elephant rides and elephant shows as part of its animal welfare policy.

Apple Vacations

NOMINATED: Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Packaged Overall, Packaged Sales and 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, Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico and North America ski resorts.

Blue Sky Tours

NOMINATED: Hawaii

Founded in 1981, Blue Sky Tours sells only Hawaii and the South Pacific 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 and Service, Escorted Overall 

For 85 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. Earlier this year, CIE Tours appointed Elizabeth Crabill to serve as CEO, taking over for Brian Stack, who retired after 25 years with the company.

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 Asia to its portfolio as well as a program called Classic Connections, which offers tours the wholesaler hasn't traditionally offered through third-party suppliers.

Collette

NOMINATED: Africa, Canada, Domestic Escorted, Escorted Overall, Europe, Escorted Sales and 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 more than 160 tours to destinations on all seven continents.

Contiki

NOMINATED: Adventure

Dating back to 1962, Contiki specializes in travel experiences for the 18-to-35-year-old set. The company offers more than 300 trips in 50-plus countries and is owned by the Travel Corp. Most recently, Contiki added Japan and India to its product mix.

Delta Vacations

NOMINATED: Caribbean, Domestic Packaged, Europe, Hawaii, International, Mexico, Packaged Overall, Packaged Sales and 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. Delta Vacations is operated by Atlanta-based MLT Vacations.
exclusive group travel.

Exclusive Group Travel

NOMINATED: Caribbean, Mexico, Packaged Overall

Exclusive Group Travel was founded in 2014 by Elyse Elkin and is headed by tour operator veteran Steve Gorga, who serves as president and CEO. The company is a tour operator that sells FIT and group travel to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and Miami, exclusively to travel agents.

Funjet Vacations

NOMINATED: Adventure, Caribbean, Domestic Packaged, International, Mexico, Packaged Overall, Packaged Sales and 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, Cuba, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, the continental U.S. and North America's ski regions.

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. For next year, the company is expanding the number of tours offered under its National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures program.

Globus

NOMINATED: Africa, Asia/Pacific, Canada, Domestic Escorted, Escorted Overall, Europe, International, Escorted Sales and Service

The Globus Family of Brands  which encompasses the brands Globus, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon Waterways  dates back to 1928. Today, the Globus Family of Brands comprises some 10,000 departures and nearly 300 itineraries, spanning more than 65 countries on six continents. Combined, the company's brands move nearly 500,000 passengers each year.

Gogo Worldwide Vacations

NOMINATED: Canada, Caribbean, Domestic Packaged, Europe, Hawaii, Luxury, Mexico, Packaged Overall, Packaged Sales and 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, the 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, International, Escorted Sales and Service, Luxury

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 launched a complete Luxury Gold collection aimed at the high-end tour market, with five-star properties and dining in Michelin-starred restaurants.

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

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 South America and programs to Australia, Bali, Cambodia, India, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam.

Pleasant Holidays

NOMINATED: Asia/Pacific, Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Packaged Sales and 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. as well as European river cruises. In 2016, Pleasant Holidays added Ireland to its product mix.

Rocky Mountaineer

NOMINATED: Canada

Rocky Mountaineer is the largest privately owned luxury tourist train in the world. It 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. The line's SilverLeaf Service, offered on its Rainforest to Gold Rush route, includes gourmet snacks and complimentary wine, beer and spirits.

Tauck

NOMINATED: Africa, Asia/Pacific, Canada, Domestic Escorted, Escorted Overall, Europe, International, Luxury, Escorted Sales and 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's growing European river cruise business expanded to a fleet of nine vessels in 2016, with the launch of two new ships.

Trafalgar

NOMINATED: Canada, Domestic Escorted, International, Europe, Escorted Sales and 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 trips.

Travel Impressions

NOMINATED: Caribbean, Domestic Packaged, Hawaii, International, Luxury, Mexico, Packaged Overall, Packaged Sales and 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.

United Vacations

NOMINATED: Domestic Packaged

United Vacations is the packaged travel brand of United Airlines and is operated by Milwaukee-based Mark Travel Corp. United Vacations sells vacation packages to the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Central America, the Middle East and South America. United Vacations also sells Disney packages. 

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