Perillo: Mr. Italy Goes to Greece | Travel Research Online


Perillo: Mr. Italy Goes to Greece

Perillo Tours, the company that has been known as “synonymous with Italy” for three generations of family ownership, is debuting a new tour program for Greece for 2023, and Steve Perillo, the company president, says the tour is flying off the shelf.

“This was not the big year,” he told me. “Next year is the big year. We’re seeing a gigantic wave. We’re about half sold out. Usually, you start selling in January. Prices are up, and nobody cares.”

When predicting a boom year, there’s a sense of déjà vu, with a twinge of uncertainty.

“Now we’re set up for another giant year,” he said, “just like in 2019, 2020 was going to be a giant year. Then it just collapsed. The same happened in 2009, or 2003.”

When Perillo Tours says it’s synonymous with Italy, it’s not just a slogan. The company has periodically offered other destinations over the years. But those programs come and go, while Italy remains core.

Offering other destinations for Perillo has been a way to provide perks to reward loyal customers and give them a way to travel within the fold, in the Perillo style, to other destinations besides Italy.

Over the years, Perillo has offered many destinations, including Ireland, Australia, Israel, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica. Under its Learning Journeys brand, the company offered a wide range of destinations around the world, before the division was spun off in 2020 as an independent company under Carol Dimopoulos. Perillo has also sold cruise cabins. But Italy always remains its bread and butter.

According to Steve Perillo, “We’ve been looking for a new Mediterranean destination to offer our thousands of loyal, Italy tour alumni guests. Greece has so much to experience from the history to the food, to the beaches, making it the perfect complement to our Italy product. Plus, with a favorable exchange rate, now is the ideal time for travelers to book.”

The core of Perillo’s Greece program is an 11-day Deluxe Greece itinerary that includes three nights in Athens, three nights in Mykonos, and three nights in Santorini. The tour kicks off in Athens with a sunset rooftop dinner in view of the Acropolis.

It includes walking tours, visits to ancient ruins, a market, a winery, a medieval village, and a catamaran cruise at sunset. The program also includes a lot of free time.

It’s priced at $3,995 per person double occupancy. Departures will run from April through October 2023. A three-night Crete extension is also available starting at $995 per person double occupancy, with three nights hotel accommodation, daily sightseeing with a private guide, daily breakfast, and transfers. The package includes hotels, guided sightseeing, transfers, baggage handling, daily breakfast, select scheduled meals, tips, taxes, and complimentary wifi on coaches.

The company introduced a Spain tour in 2020, which is still available this year. But while sales for Spain have been lackluster, Greece is hot. The tour includes stops in Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, and Seville, and an optional extension to Barcelona. It is designed to be experiential, with cooking classes and experiences learning about olive oil, farming, wines, and so forth.

Perillo also offers custom-designed independent vacation packages for Italy through an online FIT booking engine called Travel Genie that can be accessed at

“The biggest users of the FIT engine are travel agents, not individual consumers,” he said. “We want to help them.”

Perillo’s Historical Legacy

The company’s history is legendary. The company was founded by the grandfather of Steve Perillo, Joseph Perillo.

Joseph Perillo and Sons, a travel agency, was founded in 1945 during World War II. Joseph’s son and Steve’s father, Mario Perillo, was serving in the army at the time. When Mario returned from his tour of duty, he went to New York University and earned a law degree. But instead of practicing law, he went to work for his father. Eventually, he took over management of the company.

The Perillos were always on the leading edge of using media to market their company. Joseph promoted the company on the radio in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Mario continued using radio and then introduced TV ads in the ‘70s.

In the company’s commercials, Mario Perillo was introduced as “Mr. Italy,” and that’s when the company started claiming it was “synonymous” with Italy. And when it came to travel, for many people the claim was true.

The company was always focused primarily on Italy, the family’s country of origin. In its earliest days of offering Italy, transatlantic travel was by steamship. When transatlantic jet travel became available, the company incorporated it into its packages. In 1975, it started chartering planes and then taking people around in Italy on motorcoaches. That was when it began offering escorted tours.

Perillo’s Music

Like his father, Steve Perillo pursued an education that was not tied to the travel business. He was trained as a musician, earning a bachelor’s degree in composition from Boston University. He composed music and made recordings of it, some of which are still available on CD from Amazon.

Palisades Virtuosi, a classical chamber music group will be performing some of Steve Perillo’s compositions in a program at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7:30 pm.

Steve took over leadership of the company as president in 1997. Mario died in 2003 and at that time Steve fully took over the business.

Evolving Media Marketing

Perillo under Steve continues to innovate and to try to stay on the leading edge of media evolution.

Ironically, while TV was a key to success for Perillo Tours in the 1970s, that’s no longer the case. “We stopped television,” he told me. “We had to because of the pandemic, but it turned out it’s the biggest waste of money. Now it’s all about search terms on Google. It’s not as fun. You’re not part of the culture. Adam Sandler won’t be doing a parody of you on Saturday Night Live. We’re getting the same results at 25 percent of the cost.”

And internet marketing has not replaced hard copies!

“We’re sending out more brochures than ever before – brochures!” he said. “And now we have the influencers. We’re talking to an Italian woman in Brooklyn now and she’s going to invent a tour, and it’s going to be an Instagram tour.”

In recent times the company launched Perillo TravelVR, an operation separate from the tour company that provides an inexpensive version of virtual reality, harnessed for travel. With the rapid advance of technology and plunging prices, Steve Perillo predicted that VR would eventually take over video as the prime medium for marketing travel. The technology is gaining traction. Recently Staples approached the company to deploy the technology in its upcoming travel enterprises.

During the Covid lockdown period, Perillo offered some domestic packages, such as an Adirondack Adventure to Lake Placid, as well as Montana and Yellowstone packages and vacations in Wyoming and Alaska. The company also introduced live videos of tours and cooking classes transmitted from Italy by video, made accessible free via Facebook. It was a way to keep travel advisors and clients engaged during the lockdown, and to stoke their travel aspirations for the time when it would be safe to travel again.

Now that time has come, and so has Perillo’s new program to Greece. But still, Perillo is still synonymous with Italy.

“I think that’s where our destiny is going to be,” he said, “very heavily into Italy in coming years.”

For more information on Perillo Tours, visit or call (800) 431-1515.

headshot of David Cogswell

David Cogswell is a freelance writer working remotely, from wherever he is at the moment. Born at the dead center of the United States during the last century, he has been incessantly moving and exploring for decades. His articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Fox News, Luxury Travel Magazine, Travel Weekly, Travel Market Report, Travel Agent Magazine,,, and other publications. He is the author of four books and a contributor to several others. He was last seen somewhere in the Northeast US.

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