Last updated: 11:28 AM ET, Fri March 06 2015

Travvy Awards Winners Spotlight: Travel Impressions

Tour Operator | Travel Impressions | David Cogswell | March 06, 2015

Travvy Awards Winners Spotlight: Travel Impressions

Travel Impressions, one of the most successful and dynamic wholesale vacation packaging companies in the travel industry, started in 1967 as a travel agent. The travel agency business was sold off in 1982, but Travel Impressions’ founder Arnold Tolkin said that the travel agency culture always remained an important component of the way Travel Impressions did business.  

“We remember our humble beginnings as a travel agency,” he said, “and despite the fact that our early retail operations were sold in 1982, we have always been dedicated to providing the service we, as travel agents, wanted for ourselves.”

The company has been through many incarnations in its 44-year history, but has stayed strong and vital and has stuck close to its roots. It started in the big vacation destinations of the Caribbean and Mexico, and that remains today the strongest part of its business.

The wholesale operation began in 1971 when the company started packaging vacations to Cancun, Barbados and St. Maarten as a group incentive and convention travel company.

Travel Impressions was incorporated as a vacation packager in 1974, primarily offering affinity charters, and when the airlines were deregulated, the company was ready to be among the first companies in the emerging vacation packaging industry.  

In 1992, TI acquired Cavalcade Tours and with it a contract as a wholesaler with American Airlines, which enabled the company to become a nationwide wholesaler. By then it had entered the big leagues, but its best days were still ahead of it.

The company continued to expand through the 1990s, adding new carriers and destinations.

In 1998, the Tolkin family and partner Ira Theodore sold the business to American Express. American Express used its financial and marketing muscle to grow the company further. During the next 12 years the company grew its business, expanded its product line, added destinations around the world and solidified relationships with supplier partners and retail partners.

In 2012 American Express sold Travel Impressions to the Apple Leisure Group.

Apple said it wanted to keep Travel Impressions operating in the same way that had made it such a successful company, and only to make changes such as adding product to the line.

ALG expanded Travel Impressions’ product offerings by adding charter flights and other offerings from Apple Vacations' product line, as well as escorted tours from Wendy Wu Tours and Mayflower Tours. Under ALG Travel Impressions continues to expand dramatically. 

In 2015 Travel Impressions’ global portfolio includes more than 2,400 hotels and resorts and 1,350 luxury villas and can accommodate groups of all sizes. The company continues to innovate constantly. It recently added new options, such as escorted multi-day tours, experiential and niche market programs and European River Cruising. It is continuing to expand its Villas program, now five years old. It has expanded its domestic U.S. escorted tours and launched an India product.

Travel Impressions’ long history of working productively with the travel agent community came into play when the Travvy Awards asked travel agents to choose their favorite tour operators. Travel Impressions swept two categories: Best Vacation Packager Caribbean and Best Vacation Packager Overall.

“Travel Impressions remains committed to the travel agent community and will continue to provide the industry highest service standards and unparalleled supplier relationships which established the brand as a leader many years ago,” said Jeff Clarke, who took over as president Jan. 1. “With the addition of new products, including the popular Dedication Vacation Flight program, we are working aggressively to enhance agents’ ability to compete in key gateway markets.”

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