General Tours World Traveler has announced the passing of its founder and Chairman Emeritus, Alex Harris. Mr. Harris was 91.
Mr. Harris was a brilliant pioneer of the modern American tourism industry, founding General Tours in 1947. In 1954, after requesting special permission from the U.S. State Department and Eisenhower Administration, Mr. Harris was granted the authority to operate the first scheduled tours to the Soviet Union for American travelers.
He expanded General Tours into a worldwide travel company and continued to innovate, helping to develop the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) into a preeminent trade and marketing association.
Mr. Harris was inducted into the ASTA Hall of Fame in 1992 and received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2005; over the decades he received widespread recognition from his peers for his vision and success and was the recipient of numerous other awards. "Alex Harris was a true icon of the travel industry."
Born in September 1921, Harris' life traced many significant events of the 20th century. As a young man in Poland, he lost two generations of his family in the Holocaust. Arrested in Russian-occupied eastern Poland and sent to a Siberian Gulag, he and other Polish citizens were subsequently released and conscripted into the Second Polish Army to fight the Nazis.
The end of the Second World War found Mr. Harris in a displaced person’s camp in Eschwege, Germany outside of Dresden. Given the chance to immigrate to the United States, he came to New York where he founded General Tours.
He is survived by his wife, Judy McDaniel Harris. A celebration of Mr. Harris’ life is being planned; additional information is available by calling General Tours at 800-858-0908.
Contributions in Mr. Harris’ memory can be made to:
Tourism Cares: www.tourismcares.org/donate. On the donation page, please type “For Alex Harris” in the Special Notes field as a special educational fund is being established.
Jewish Foundation of the Righteous: www.jfr.org. Click on Donate to Make a Gift in Memory of Alex Harris.
Mary Manning Walsh Home: Mail your check to: Sister Sean William O’Brien, Executive Director, Mary Manning Walsh Home, 1339 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021.