One of the things that you notice about Mark Campbell,
president of TCS Expeditions, is that he uses the word "evangelize" a
lot in instances where you wouldn't necessarily expect it, as in, "I've
been trying to evangelize our product line to upscale agents," or
"I'm trying to evangelize this type of product to the travel agency
Campbell insists the word is
par for the course in the new-age business sensibilities of Silicon
Valley. (He's from San Francisco
and his company is located in Seattle.)
But even with such demurrals it's hard to avoid the inevitable image of him as
a travel-brochure-thumping preacher, proselytizing the gospel of the new brand
of luxury travel with prelate-like zeal.
As it so happens, though, this is a good image to employ in
describing Campbell and one that more than competently depicts the reasons he
is our chosen "Leader of Luxury" in the tour operator segment for
is a willing, eloquent and effective ambassador for the luxury travel industry.
"One of my roles here is to evangelize this
company—getting the word out about luxury travel itself," says Campbell. "There are
so many fascinating options in the luxury arena. Let's face it, there are so
many people who have the means and the time to do this type of travel, you just
have to find them and inspire in them the desire to do this type of
The second reason we selected Campbell is his unflinching commitment to the
travel agency network, as more often than not, the wide-eyed beneficiaries of
his sermonizing are groups of agents gathered at various industry functions to
hear him, among others, speak. Since assuming his position as head of TCS in
February of 2004, the 52-year-old Campbell
has crisscrossed the nation on a good-old-fashioned barnstorming tour to raise
awareness of his company and promote outreach with the agent community. He also
works the phones at a frenetic pace.
"Travel agents are very important. After all, many of
these agents hold the keys to the best and most sophisticated travelers on
earth," says the former Virtuoso manager. That's the sort of enthusiasm
that we at Travel Agent applaud, as we wish more would so zealously pick
up the gauntlet thrown down by Internet travel portals threatening the
relevancy of the trade over the last 10 years or so.
TCS has benefited from Campbell's
agent-centric approach. The results more than validate his commitment. At the
time he assumed leadership of TCS, only about 10 percent of the company's sales
came from travel agents. That percentage has risen to about 35 percent, an
increase that is all the more impressive given the relatively rapid time frame
in which it was achieved.
"He has a real keen understanding of what it is that a
travel agent does and he's very compassionate about giving them the tools and
time and resources to be successful in their job," says Jerre Fuqua,
president of First Choice Expeditions, which owns TCS Expeditions.
"Selling luxury travel is hard stuff, and if you're a quality agent you're
going to have quality clients who demand everything, and you, as an agent,
should have the ear of the company president and he understands that."
Bob Watson of Watson & Watson/Protravel in Scarsdale, NY,
adds, "They don't come around too often like [Mark Campbell]. He's the
genuine article, a friend to the travel agent community. He understands the
value of the travel agent. He is a true partner for the travel agent and does
everything he can to help the agent facilitate the sale." The owner of one
of the many agencies to which Campbell
has paid a visit, Watson adds, "He's truly a nice person. He's honorable.
He's knowledgeable and he's a pleasure to deal with." Hear hear.