You’d be right if you say there are high-fives, big smiles and some instant social media action. But right on the heels of that, I went immediately to the scoring results to see how many points the voters awarded us.
For 2016, we scored 97.15 out of 100 – our highest numbers to date. The thing is, the Travel + Leisure rankings aren’t just a popularity contest where they count votes. If you’ve ever participated in the process, you may remember that they asked you to rank companies you’ve traveled with on six parameters: value, destinations, guides, 5-star lodgings, cuisine and activities.
I believe we score so well because we handcraft every Classic Journey with the goal to provide every guest a trip of a lifetime. I know – “handcrafted” is a word you’re more accustomed to associating with Etsy.com or the pale ale at your local brewpub. But it’s exactly the right word to explain our hands-on approach to travel, and it’s why our trips always feel personal and never cookie-cutter.
The easy intimacy that our fulltime local guides have with our small groups is awesome to see. There’s an openness and cordiality that’s not at all typical of group travel. No question is off limits and friendships are formed. The big difference is that all of our guides live where they work. Many of them have been part of the Classic Journeys family for 20 years.
Even in well-traveled destinations like the Galápagos, Cuba or Tuscany, we start by asking, “How can we give this our own spin?” We build around the cultural experiences so that they are the focus. And we can’t keep our hands off: we constantly tweak to add a just-discovered walk or a new restaurant that’s a hit with the locals.
Everywhere we go, we pull up to the lodgings that other travelers only wish they were staying in. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the best – and ONLY – way to go! Cookie-cutter doesn’t cut it for me. Give me a farmhouse/monastery/Palazzo-turned hotel any day. If it boasts a string of five stars, I’m there. From Asia to South America to Europe and plenty of spots in between, we stay in a lot of World’s Best hotels.
We love to eat—and to eat very well. We can be just as happy grazing in street food stalls as putting on our best manners at a Michelin-starred temple of cuisine. For us, food is never an afterthought. We intend for every meal on a Classic Journey to be a culinary AND cultural treat that connects you to local life in the most fundamental way there is.
As travelers, we’re not very good spectators. We’re a lot happier being “in the game”. That means we learn to roll spring rolls instead of just eating them. We sway through a salsa lesson in Havana. We hunt truffles in Italy. The ultimate expression of our “dive in” approach is our multi-sport Family Journeys. And all of the activities you read about in our itineraries are included at no additional cost—a big advantage over other companies that hit you with up-charges.
In the end, it’s all about value. Your vacation time is really precious, and we want you to feel like your trip was the best investment you ever made. That means that we have to exceed our promises…and do it at a price that makes sense. I’m really proud of how well we do that. A lot of other companies charge a premium of 20% to 40% over Classic Journeys for trips that you would logically compare to ours.
So, yes – I’m thrilled that we scored 97.15 this year. I’m even happier that it’s our highest score ever. It proves to me that we’re upping our game and that our guests can really feel and appreciate all of the personal effort we put into every Classic Journey. Now to figure out how to get those last 2.85 points…