Grand Circle Travel Celebrates 50 Years of Serving American Travelers over 50
More Than 1.5 Million American Travelers To-Date
BOSTON-Alan E. Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Grand Circle Travel, and his wife Harriet Lewis, Grand Circle's Co-Chairman, are pleased to announce the company's 50th anniversary in 2008. Established in 1958 to serve AARP members, the small travel company has since evolved into a $732M corporation with more than 3,000 employees, 40 offices worldwide, a fleet of 50 small ships, and 160,000 travelers a year annually. The company has been widely recognized for its small-ship cruise line, soft adventure brand, and innovative philanthropic efforts worldwide and has been named as one of the top 50 companies to work for in the U.S.
"We are delighted to celebrate fifty years of serving American travelers over 50," said Mr. Lewis. "We owe our success, growth, and inspiration to a remarkable generation of travelers as well as to our associates, who we believe are among the best and most committed people in the world.
Alan and Harriet Lewis acquired Grand Circle Travel in 1985 from Colonial Penn Insurance. At that point, the company had annual sales of $25M and 10,000 travelers. They moved the company from New York City to their hometown of Boston and began offering Grand Circle's vacations to all Americans over 50, not just AARP members. In the 1970s, Grand Circle Travel pioneered the popular "extended stay vacation" concept that offered travelers the chance to live overseas in such warm climes as Spain, Portugal, and Malta for several weeks, living like locals and enjoying the value gained by a longer stay and apartment living versus short stays in more expensive hotels.
In 1993, Grand Circle acquired Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Overseas Adventure Travel to provide older Americans with "soft" adventure opportunities and cultural immersion in small groups of 10-16 travelers. In 1997, the company made a strategic decision to expand from its headquarters in Boston by establishing regional offices, which now number more than 40 worldwide, in order to provide travelers with more authentic experiences, higher excellence, and better value that only locals in a country can achieve. In 2007, 97% of Grand Circle travelers said they would travel with the company again with more than eight in ten rating their experiences as "excellent".
In 1998, Grand Circle entered the small ship business, establishing Grand Circle Small Ship Cruises and expanding from a single European river ship to a fleet of 50+ owned and chartered ships. Today, the fleet includes a total of 16 river ships—12 in Europe, two in Egypt, and two in Russia; six European barges; three 50-passenger ocean ships in the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean; a 16-passenger Galápagos expedition vessel; the 330-passenger M/S Paul Gauguin; and more than 20 privately chartered small ships, predominantly serving South America, Turkey, and Greece.
With the belief that successful companies have a responsibility to give back to those who've helped create such success, Grand Circle established Grand Circle Foundation in 1992. Funded by company profits, the Foundation has donated more than $30M to educational, humanitarian, and cultural organizations in more than 40 countries to date. Grand Circle's newest program, the "World Classroom Initiative," is a five-year, $10M program that supports 70+ schools and youth-related organizations in communities where Grand Circle travels. Today, that support is being expanded into the communities where those schools exist. Overall, Grand Circle Foundation currently supports 85 educational and cultural sites worldwide.
In 2006, Grand Circle was named one of the "Top 25 Best Medium-Sized Places to Work in the U.S." by the Society of Human Resource Management and the Great Place to Work® Institute, Inc. For the past two years, Condé Nast Traveler readers have rated Grand Circle Small Ship Cruises as the #2 "World's Best Small Ship Cruise Line" and included the fleet on its prestigious annual Gold List. This year, Travel + Leisure readers gave Grand Circle's fleet the #1 spot for "World's Best Value" and top 10 for "World's Best Service;" and named OAT one of the "World's Best Tour Operators/Safari Outfitters" for five years running and among the top three operators for value.
Grand Circle has also been cited for its innovative philanthropic work, particularly for its efforts to engage travelers and associates in its volunteerism programs and for the ability to measure the success of the projects it funds. In 2006, Grand Circle became the first travel company to win Paul Newman's (Newman's Own) and Ken Derr's (formerly of Chevron) Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy's excellence award for corporate (CEO) leadership and innovation in philanthropy. The same year, Mr. Lewis was awarded Ernst & Young's New England Social Entrepreneur of the Year award for creative philanthropy and the company received the Humanitarian Award from the Tanzanian government for its support of rural schools.