John Klados has worked in the travel industry since 1980. John began his career working for several airlines such as Olympic Airlines, Yugoslav Airlines, and Turkish Airlines. John joined Homeric Tours in 1995 as the Group Sales Supervisor and has cultivated its group department to what it is today. Born, raised and educated in New York, John has traveled extensively around the world to learn firsthand the required level of service and accommodations that will meet Homeric’s high standards, as well as those of the American traveler. With his strong roots and family ties in Greece, John is able to intimately describe Greece to everyone’s expectation. Today, John is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Homeric Tours and Director of the Group Department.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
John Klados (JK): To be honest it was quite by accident. After graduating from college, I pursued a career in fashion as a buyer. While working at my very first job in the field, my mentor died suddenly of a major heart attack at the age of 49. When new management came in, they cleaned house and I found myself out of work. A very good friend of mine at the time was a supervisor for Olympic Airlines and offered me work for the summer while I was looking for work in my intended field. Along with a salary, they offered free tickets to Greece. Long story short, I never looked back. There was something about going to Greece or Paris for the weekend and returning to work afterwards that was alluring and exciting for me.
TRO: Tell us how you joined the Homeric Tours team.
JK: Once I decided that travel was going to be my career, I had stayed with Olympic and then moved on to Yugoslav Airlines, and afterwards to Turkish Airlines. It was at Turkish Airlines that I approached Homeric Tours with a Turkish Airlines contract, and the next thing I knew I began working for the company. This was in 1995.
TRO: You’ve traveled around the world in order to expand your own horizons to benefit yourself and Homeric. Can you tell us about some of your experiences?
JK: I was always keen on having my travels mimic that of “living like a local”. I’ve always felt that if you really want to see and experience a foreign country, avoid being a tourist and blend in as a native. Being of Greek descent, Greece has always been a special place for me; however, I have found Turkey, Italy and Israel also to be fascinating destinations. The similarities and yet distinct differences of these countries left me fascinated. I found Turkey to be enlightening with its early Byzantine and Roman history. Italy was intriguing with its many similarities to Greece. The Italian people were identical to the Greeks in terms of warmth, food, family, etc. Israel was just mind blowing for me – the cradle of religion, the landscape, the people, the food, the Dead Sea… I could go on and on. I also can’t forget Jordan, a country of incredible landscape, friendly people and great hotels.
Finally, I just returned two weeks ago from Cuba with a group of 76 people. It’s still too early to visit like a local, but what I found fascinating was the cleanliness of the island. The people were so inviting, the food delicious, and Cuban music is excellent. When I asked a Cuban waitress what she thought about America coming back, she told me that it was wonderful but that it should happen slowly. When asked why, her response was that they want to make sure America’s influence doesn’t eliminate their free medical and university benefits. It may sound a bit political, but then again she’s following our political debates, even in Cuba. That – and the incredible cars in Havana – left me wanting more.
TRO: Despite the “Classical” Greek significance of the company’s name, Homeric Tours offers more than just tours of Greece and the Mediterranean. Tell us more about the destinations on offer.
JK: That’s a great question. In short, it’s a double-edged sword because with being the largest tour operator to Greece for the last 47 years, some agents think to contact us only when it comes to travel to Greece. However, we’ve also specialized in the majority of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Central & Eastern Europe regions for more than 30 years. It has taken a bit of work and marketing for agents to realize that our services are excellent regardless of the destination, and that the value we’ve been offering for years applies to our entire portfolio.
Our 2016 Great Destinations brochure offers independent and escorted tours to Italy, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Jordan, Switzerland, and Dubai. We also just launched an African Safari product beginning in 2016, offering packages and FITs to eight Eastern and Southern African countries including Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. This has already been a success for us.
TRO: How is Homeric Tours catering to the niche travel sectors such as groups or romance travel?
JK: We cater to several niche markets successfully, I must say. In regards to romance, we have special honeymoon packages but also do a lot of customized FITs for honeymooners. We also plan a number of overseas and destination weddings. Another niche market for Homeric is the faith-based market, one that I am particularly fond of. Our 80-page Christian Faith Tours brochure, which consists of 55 common Christian and denomination-specific group itineraries to destinations around the world, from South America to China and everything in between, is a great source of group business. Our specific marketing program for those looking to get into the faith market will undoubtedly make it easier to enter this market. Groups are abundant in this niche and it takes little effort on the agent’s part to break into this market, and Homeric is here to help.
TRO: What programs or aspects of Homeric Tours do you wish agents were more aware of that could benefit their clients?
JK: I am a strong proponent of USTOA, which Homeric has been a member of for 20 years. I honestly feel that if an agent does not use a USTOA member, they are not doing justice to their client or to themselves. It’s much more than just an insurance policy for the client’s payment towards their trip, but it also ensures that we are an ethical and reputable company.
Also, if a given agent studied our brochures and compared them apples to apples to any other travel company, they would quickly realize that the value and service benefits that we have to offer are irresistible. We are very proficient in the FIT market, in addition to our independent and escorted packages. Our FIT rates and quick turnaround in quotes is very much admired by many.
TRO: What can agents expect when booking a tour or cruise with Homeric Tours?
JK: They will experience all of the very knowledgeable people who work for us. Many of our reservation agents lived overseas in the destinations we offer. Agents will find us to be flexible and very helpful. They will find that we will do what it takes to help the agent not only “get the booking”, but also have them be seen by their clients as an agent who has a wealth of knowledge to the destination that they are interested in.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
JK: Well, first and foremost, I love Greece and the Greek islands. Santorini was voted the best island to visit in all of Europe for 2016, and it came in 2nd worldwide after one of the Hawaiian islands. I also love Italy, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and I’ve recently fallen in love with Cuba.
TRO: What is on the horizon for Homeric Tours in 2016?
JK: We are thrilled to have added African Safaris into our collection for 2016. Although Homeric has specialized in Egypt and Morocco for over 30 years, we have decided to venture even further into Africa with very competitively priced first-class and luxury packages to Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. 2017 will be a lot of fun for us with some new destinations and other interesting projects that will be revealed later in the year. Just stay tuned.
For more information on John and Homeric Tours, visit them online at www.homerictours.com.