For those who really wish to discover the world and plumb its delights; for those not merely seeking stamps on their passport to say “we were here.” For those who wish to be a true citizen of the world, and not merely a sight-seer, there is Classic Journeys – a travel company which aims to peel away the surface layers of our world’s fascinating destinations for their privileged guests.
We talked to Edward Piegza, co-founder, whose passion for his craft is up front and center. There is no mistaking it. Here is what he has to say about how his organization makes each and every itinerary a CLASSIC JOURNEY.
How was Classic Journeys born?
After three unfulfilling years working for a financial institution my wife and I headed for San Diego where I ran a travel company. In 1995, I met one of my co-founders in Wales. Our mutual wanderlust motivated us to start Classic Journeys.
Please describe your programs.
We operate 4 types of tours in over 70 regions in 35 countries and 5 continents.
• Cultural Walking Adventures –guided walking combined with culture and history.
• Family Journeys –itineraries for multiple generations.
• Culinary Tours –cooking instruction, walks and cultural visits.
• Private Journeys –customized itineraries
Is Classic Journeys a retailer or wholesaler?
We sell our tours directly to the consumer through the Internet, and also work with travel agents.
How has the Internet affected your business?
Pre-Internet, our catalog was our storefront. The Internet positively impacts our business. Travelers find and book our tours online.
What role does social media play in your marketing?
We maintain a blog, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages. All integral parts of our marketing and means to engage with our guests.
How do you select a destination?
We need a “YES” for three questions:
-Is the destination generating widespread, buzz?
-Have we received demand for it?
-Can we provide a better experience?
Do you personally experience each service and product?
We use local guides, iconic hotels, scenic walks and off-the-beaten path experiences. We craft exclusive itineraries. For example: our guests visit the ancient stones of Stonehenge in the mystical hours of early morning, before the site is open. That's a Classic Journey.
What differentiates you from your competition?
• We balance walking with culture and history.
• We create itineraries with unique activities - private invitations into exclusive farmhouses, workshops or kitchens.
• Our guides are local professionals who participate in program development.
• They are cultural hosts with local access, empowered to tweak the agendas to suit developing situations.
What is included and excluded?
• First-class accommodations
• Experienced guide
• Admissions to sites
• Transportation during trip
• Transportation to and from the trip
• Personal Expenses
• Non-scheduled visits/activities
What orientation do your clients receive?
A confirmation package with detailed information on what to bring, how to prepare, itineraries, travel directions, and pre- and post-tour hotel information.
Please describe your typical guest profile.
Our guests are “travelers, not tourists.” They crave authenticity. They enjoy cultural immersion and meeting locals. They are active and enjoy exploratory walks. The average guest is 45-65 years. 1/3 are solo travelers.
Which destinations are most popular?
• Galapagos–Accommodations in boutique hotels with access to open beaches and close encounters with the wildlife and people.
• Morocco–luxury camping Berber-style in the Sahara!
• Peru–Extended visits to Incan ruins, and Peruvian culture.
• Costa Rica-the eco-star – cloud forests, monkeys and macaws. Ziplining and rafting, in a mild climate.
• Tuscany–the all-time best seller. Florence, Chianti vineyards and wine tastings. Villa hotels and the fabled Cinque Terre villages.
Where do you go the extra mile?
Full-time local guides escort and assist at all times. Our staff calls every guest to ensure their satisfaction. The answer is usually “Wow!”
How are you recognized by the industry and by the public?
Travel + Leisure magazine recognized us five times among “World’s Best Tour Operators”. National Geographic Adventure named us among “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”.
Why should a client choose Classic Journeys?
Precious vacation time should unfold effortlessly, offer terrific value and be chockfull of memories. We handcraft our itineraries, with an obsession to deliver unique, remarkable experiences and great value.
What is the best testimonial you received?
We frequently receive rave reviews from our guests. Many return for multiple trips. Sportscaster, Dick Enberg, recently summed up his trip to Turkey with two words: “Oh My!” …”We just want you to keep on doing it!” His wife, Barbara, added: “We want to meet the people, get exercise and see how the locals live. Classic Journeys really delivered.”
What is the worst?
Occasionally, a guest signs for a walking tour when they don’t want to do any walking. Or an active hiking trip instead of an easy-going walking tour. We prepare guests for tours; however they need to determine if a trip is the right fit.
Any areas that you are avoiding and why?
We follow State Department Travel Advisories and our guides’ advice. We don’t currently offer tours to the Middle East and wherever there is political unrest.
What new programs can we expect from Classic Journeys?
The U.S. Treasury Department has recently licensed us for People-to-People Educational Exchange programs in Cuba.
For 2014 we’re offering a cultural walking adventure in Portugal and a multi-sport itinerary to Turkey.
Do you believe in the philosophy of green travel?
Our small groups and vehicles minimize environmental impact. Tour guides and support staff are local. We visit conservation organizations: Thailand’s Chiang Dao Elephant Camp and the Royal Bengal Tiger Preserve at Ranthambore National Park in India; endangered griffin vulture sanctuaries in Istria, Croatia. These organizations are our win/win partners. Our guests gain meaningful exposure to nature with minimal impact and maximum safety.
Classic Journeys gives back to local communities. From a Laotian elephant preserve to a one-room school in the Andes to a traditional crafts collective in India. We support local economies, family businesses, and cultural institutions. Our Charitable Giving Program supports local projects that support community needs. In Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, India and other countries we aid cooperatives that support sustainable trades and crafts.
Which destinations are trending for 2013?
Galapagos tours remain popular. Cuba and Myanmar are both trending as new destinations.
What are the threats and opportunities facing the industry?
Leisure travel is directly impacted by terrorism, war, politics and the economy. These uncertainties will continue to shape vacation travel. Travelers are booking closer to departure
The growth of the Internet, social media, mobile apps and new online marketing technologies shape the industry. Travelers have more options and are better informed. This is both a challenge and an opportunity.
What have you planned for Classic Journeys’ own journey?
As long as we can keep exploring, stretch frontiers, take people and immerse them into new experiences. As long as we can showcase traditional places in unique, exclusive ways. As long as we can provide value, and reject “industrial tourism," our journey would have been successful.
Any last words?
Classic Journeys promises to take clients on out-of-the-world trips; show them a lifetime of experience and immersion into different lives, peoples, and culture. We pledge not to be the company that services “day-trippers–on-concrete” but to make them “travelers, not tourists.” We will make you familiar with the unfamiliar, or plumb known destinations four layers down to reveal their essence.
For a “REAL” travel experience contact Classic Journeys at: