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Like Mother, Like Son

December 10, 2007 By: Debbie Strong Travel Agent

Marc Casto puts family first at home and at the agency his mom founded that he now heads

IT'S AN EXCITING TIME in Marc Casto's life, and for many reasons. The 32-year-old president and COO of Casto Travel says that business is bright not just at his Santa Clara, CA-based agency but for travel as a whole.

"I'm very excited about where this industry is heading. Travel is seeing a real rise in the tide," he says during a phone interview with Travel Agent, in which he discussed the latest developments at Casto Travel, including a new branch (bringing the total to seven) and his and his staff's decision to make the company environmentally friendly. "Our staff responded so well to this," he says of the "Green Initiative," which involves everything from airline carbon offset programs to energy-efficient lighting in the office. "We've become more sustainable wherever possible and where it makes sense. The staff took the concept and really ran with it."

But by far, the biggest news of all is something even closer to home. "My wife, Julia, and I are expecting our first child," says Casto proudly and in his typical pleasant manner. "We're very, very excited over here." It makes sense that staff-wide excitement would accompany news of a Casto baby on the way, since family is a vital part of the business. Founded by Casto's mother, Maryles, in 1974, the agency has grown to include almost 200 employees but has never lost that family-first feeling. Casto on a trip to Russia

"We're very much a family company—that is the foundation of our entire business," he says. "My favorite thing about what I do is the team at Casto. I learn something new every day. We care about each other; we look out for each other. We guard the culture here very extensively."

It's a mentality that Casto says was instilled by his mother, who made her only son president in 2004 but is still very active in the business and in her passion for travel. Though he recalls that his mom was supportive of his post-college pursuit of an accounting career, she was thrilled when he joined Casto Travel in 2000 (first in an accounting role). These days, travel is as much a passion for him as it is for his mother.

The Next Generation

"Travel in general will just continue to grow, evolve and expand," says Casto. "I definitely encourage young people to enter the industry. The pendulum has swung back to where people are interested again in personalization, in customized travel. They value it and are willing to pay for it."

When screening potential young hires, he asks the same question at the close of every interview: Describe your dream trip. "The answer definitely demonstrates whether the person has done their research. Even if they haven't had the chance to travel in their lifetime, you can tell right there if they're passionate about travel by seeing the sparkle in their eyes."

What about his own answer to that million-dollar question? "I have two answers," he says. "I love Istanbul—the history, the food, the activity, how it has been a crossroads of every civilization. And my other dream trip," he says, "is sailing the South Pacific, stopping at all the little islands, diving wherever possible, and discovering hidden treasures on the islands." He has taken both trips but wants to go back, which he'll probably do in the future.

"You know, a good vacation never ends. You're always finding ways to go back, to make it last," says the busy dad-to-be, who is up at 5:30 every morning and in the office early after walking his dogs. "I try to make it home in time to cook dinner," he says. "I really love to cook."

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