The Gospel According to Campbell, Leading Luxury Tour Operator

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 network."

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.

Mark Campbell

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 2006. Campbell 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 thing."

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.

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