After 20 years in business, Toronto-based travel company GAP Adventures is opening its first U.S. sales office.

"The goal is to grow the U.S. passenger base and to develop travel agent relationships in the United States," said Cyndi Zesk, who was named general manager for the company’s U.S. operation.

She added that U.S. residents currently account for less than 10% of GAP’s customers.

Zesk is shopping for an office in Providence, R.I., and said she is looking to hire a sales and marketing staff of between 12 and 13 people.

GAP Adventures, which was founded in 1990, has more than 800 employees and annual revenue of about $150 million. It offers small group tours, safaris and expeditions to more than 100 countries on all seven continents.

GAP owns the 124-passenger polar ship Expedition and the 24-room G Hotel in Quito, Ecuador.

In addition to its Toronto headquarters, GAP has offices in London and Melbourne, Australia. It also has concept stores in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Melbourne.

In September 2007, GAP opened a 1,200-square-foot retail space in New York on Sixth Avenue. That store will continue to be used to showcase GAP products as well as to host agent education events, Zesk said.

Zesk most recently was vice president of sales and marketing at Blount Small Ship Adventures, which she joined in 2009 after 15 years at Collette Vacations, where she last served as vice president of global marketing.

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