On July 10, 2019, Travel + Leisure magazine announced their readers voted Classic Journeys #1, the World's Best Tour Operator for 2019. We've been included in the World's Best rankings every year for more than a decade, and this is the second time in the last five years that travelers have voted us into the top spot. Shortly before the results were made public, we chatted with Founder Edward Piegza about how he learned the news, how it feels to earn this recognition, and what it means for travelers.
Congratulations! How did you get the news?
I received a top-secret email and phone call from the editor of Travel + Leisure a few weeks ago with orders not to tell ANYONE. Friends and neighbors must have wondered why my smile has been so extra big lately. Now they know.
And how does it feel to be the World’s Best Tour Operator again?
Awesome. Humbling. So, so satisfying. Deeply gratifying to learn that we have achieved what we set out to do which is to handcraft trips of a lifetime for every guest who travels with us. I’m known as long-winded, so I could probably come up with 10 or 15 more ways to describe it if you want me to keep going.
Why do you think Travel + Leisure gave you this recognition?
Actually, it isn’t the T+L editors who make the decision. That’s the best part. Their readers cast the votes. So the people who do the traveling, the guests who explore the world with us and our competitors—they are the ones who raised their hands to tell T+L that Classic Journeys is the World’s Best Tour Operator based on their own experiences. Let me say it right here: “To all of you who voted for us, you are the World’s Best Guests!”
What do you think makes your guests the World’s Best Guests?
That’s easy. They are curious. They care about connecting with people of different cultures and immersing themselves in the world. They treasure experiences more than things. Like the old ad slogan went, they go for the gusto and crave the chance to have one-of-a-kind moments. They are incredibly interesting and interested people, and all of us at Classic Journeys count it as a real privilege to share in their passion for travel. And we feel that way on the other 364 days of the year when we’re not celebrating recognition like this.
I guess this is what you meant when you told me that “Enthusiasm is contagious.”
Absolutely. That’s not our official motto, but it could be. We love what we do. We enjoy helping guests figure out how to invest their precious time and budget. I can honestly say that all of us feel that way—the Guest Services folks who interact with you while you’re planning your trip, the Tour Operations team members who plan all of the logistics, the local guides who lead each one of our trips full time. There’s just a huge amount of positive energy in what we do, and I think it truly is hard to resist. We’d climb into every one of our guest’s suitcases and go along with them if we could. Because we can’t, we call each guest while they’re on tour just to be sure they are having a trip of a lifetime.
Has anyone ever called Classic Journeys obsessive?
I hope so, because we are. Everything is in the details. For instance, we’ve created a special tour for the total eclipse of the sun which is going to pass over parts of South America in 2020. We’ve already analyzed likely traffic patterns in the most remote areas and figured out how to structure our itinerary so that our guests will be in place in the path of totality while the people who don’t plan ahead will be stuck in jams on remote dirt roads. We enjoy obsessing about details like that so that our guests never have to.
How can you top this?
Oh, we never let ourselves think of it that way. We just continue to approach every single guest on each and every departure like the most important guest we’ve ever had. It seems to be working! Of course, we keep looking for new ways to win more converts. For 2019, we’ve launched a new series of Classic Journeys that are based from river cruise boats. On a different note, seeing how many travelers can’t always find as much vacation time as they really want, we have developed a series of 6-day or shorter quick trips that go as far afield as Iceland, the Galápagos and Morocco.
It’s always an honor to win recognition. But, for all of us at Classic Journeys, the biggest privilege is to share the dreams of our guests and make those dreams come true. That connection is the best feeling of all.