IsramWorld Havana tourNEW YORK — Richard Krieger was given a mandate when he took over as president of IsramWorld last November: Move the company forward.

Ady Gelber, IsramWorld’s longtime president and CEO, who remains as CEO, tapped Krieger, formerly IsramWorld’s vice president of marketing and product development, after working with him for five years and knowing him for 20.

“I originally asked him to move back to New York City to work with me, thinking he would lead a division or two,” Gelber said earlier this month. “But after just a few months at my side, I knew he was the right choice to move the company forward as president.”

Gelber said his directive to Krieger was simple: “Take IsramWorld into the 21st century, into the future, but never forget our past.”

In the months since Krieger assumed the presidency, Gelber said he was already impressed with the direction IsramWorld is taking, and he said feedback from the industry “has been overwhelmingly positive.”

IsramWorld has long been known as an Israel tour operator, and the Holy Land is still its top draw. Under Krieger, the company has introduced tours to new parts of the world, while refreshing its core Israel product.

“It hasn’t been our tradition to expand,” Krieger said. “We are now launching myriad new products.”

Gelber, he said, “was very successful at begin a traditional tour operator, and the market knows who we are. He identified the need to be relevant and change.”

Perhaps most exciting to Krieger was IsramWorld’s product in Cuba, which the company introduced late last year; the move helped make Latour, IsramWorld’s Latin American travel subsidiary, its fastest-growing division.

Krieger said a huge amount of press and interest followed the introduction of the tours, which he’d hoped would attract between 100 and 200 people. More than 1,000 have signed up.

Under Krieger, IsramWorld this year is reintroducing an Africa brochure after more than 10 years without regular African departures. The first programs will launch in South Africa at the end of this year and grow from there.

Also new this year will be a division called Isram en Espanol, which will offer tours of all IsramWorld destinations to Spanish-speaking travelers.

Krieger said that travelers who took Spanish-language tours of Israel would often ask if IsramWorld offered tours in Spanish to other parts of the world as well.

IsramWorld’s Europe division, EuropeToo, recently introduced a London itinerary that features a day trip to Highclere Castle, the castle featured in “Downton Abbey,” which Krieger said created tremendous buzz.

Krieger said EuropeToo is developing new Italy products as well as revamping its Greece and Turkey tours.

In Israel, Krieger is refreshing the core product with new tours like “Israel… The Second Time Around,” for travelers who have already seen the country’s most well-known sites. The tour visits a resort on the edge of the Mitzpe Ramon crater in the Negev Desert, and in Tel Aviv goes to Tachana, a converted railroad station now filled with restaurants and shops.

Susan Weissberg, president and CEO of Miami-based Wylly’s Professional Travel, said the new tour is popular with her clients who have already seen the “must-see archaeological, biblical and historical sites.” On subsequent visits, she said, they want to see new things, and the “Israel… The Second Time Around” tour delivers.

“They created a special tour that offers interesting sites without repeating what they saw the first time,” she said.

The Cuba tours have also proven very popular, she said, adding that a Cuba tour with the IsramWorld name makes her clientele comfortable.

“You have to move with the times, and for some people the traditional tour is the right thing,” she said. “But new destinations and new sites within the same destination are very important. And I hope that in the future [Krieger] will create an Israel [tour] for third-timers.”

Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.

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