It’s a question that has plagued the travel industry for some time—has the wealth of information on the internet and the rise of digital booking tools signaled the end of tour operators? As our readers have told us time and time again, the answer is no.
In fact, some argue, we need travel agents more than ever to cut through the clutter and tell us what is really worth seeing. A top tour operator will negotiate the best rates possible, take care of all logistics, and help out if any issues come up during the course of the trip, such as a missed connection or overbooked hotel. Most importantly, they will plan an itinerary that is just right for you.
This year’s No. 1 tour operator in the world excels at just that. Canada-based Gray & Co., which appears in the World’s Best Awards for the first time, organizes custom cycling tours for sophisticated travelers. “Custom trips aren’t an afterthought for us,” says founder Cari Gray. “We specialize in doing it from scratch—and we’re obsessed with the details."
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated tour operators on their staff and guides, itineraries and destinations, activities, accommodations, food, and overall value.
Gray & Co. isn’t the only cycling operation on our list—longstanding favorites Butterfield & Robinson and Trek Travel also made the cut. And other winners are even more specialized. Mountain Lodges of Peru, for instance, focuses exclusively on journeys to Machu Picchu. “The guides showed excellent knowledge of culture, history, and archaeological digs,” one T+L reader said. “They encouraged respectful interaction with locals and environmentally friendly behaviors. And the destinations were outstanding—there is so much more to the Sacred Valley and the high passes surrounding it than just Machu Picchu.”