A Letter from the CEO

In January 2020, IWorld of Travel released an award-winning ‘bucket-list’ brochure to ring in the New Year.  My letter to you at that time, just weeks before a global pandemic brought the entire world to its knees, was full of promise, passion, and hope for the coming year. But Friday, March 13, 2020, was the last day of normalcy for two years. As the world shut down, one country at a time, and travel was out of the question, we kept hoping that the light at the end of the tunnel was not a train, but a train it was, a train that stopped time. Animals roamed through deserted cities. The canals of Venice became clear. And, sadly, so did the skies that connected us.

I look back and still shake my head in disbelief that those two years really happened. Now, as I give you an update on our company, I realize how much we did as our lives were placed in a holding pattern, having no clue what the future held. As many around us seemed to be reeling, we looked for a way to change the conversation, and as a team we decided that sharing my story of rebuilding the company after my father passed away seemed right at that moment. Via webinars and newsletters, I told how I got through a dark time, taking on an almost impossible task, and how having to do it over again was almost too much. But it turned out to be a mitzvah. Nearly 50% of you opened my newsletters and the responses I received back from advisors I didn’t even know who opened up about their loved ones, their fears, and their pain, created a bond that lasted way beyond the pandemic. Many are friends and partners today. This, I will tell you, was probably the most rewarding time since I took the reins at IWorld of Travel, feeling the connection with you and making a difference that had nothing to do with travel.

During that time, we refocused what really mattered to us, tightened up our purpose, and ensured we were aligned with it, and recommitted to serving our travel advisor partners more than ever. We strengthened our bonds with our supplier partners around the world, retained our talented destination experts, and hired a few more good people (two on the ground in Peru and three in Croatia) to prepare for the surge in demand we were sure was coming after the pandemic waned.

As the months ticked by, we were asked to consider an opportunity with small ship luxury cruising offering guests an intimate, exclusive cruise experience. We secured a partnership and Gelbers Way (DMC) was launched in Europe with headquarters in Croatia to be as close to our new venture as possible. With a fully operational office in Croatia, (along with Israel and Peru), we hosted our inaugural cruise FAM, sailing the Adriatic along the dazzling Dalmatian coast, exploring coastal cities and medieval islands aboard a luxury yacht (one of 3 family-owned, 15-19-cabin small ships in our Croatian fleet: Adriatic King, Adriatic Queen, and Avantura). As our FAM trips grew (dubbed 30 Perfect Strangers) and became known in the industry as some of the best, more bookings of custom charters followed, including pre- and post-cruise land extensions in neighboring countries Italy, Slovenia, Montenegro, and inland Croatia.

Next, we partnered with Elixir Cruises to offer deluxe small ship charters in Greece and the Red Sea—the exclusive 25-cabin Boutique Discovery Elysium, at the forefront of spa cruising combining wellness with authentic travel; and the luxe Gemaya, an ultra-luxurious vessel that can easily dock at secluded marinas, perfect for intimate cruise experiences with a mere five elegant staterooms. The routes explore the Greek islands in the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Ionian Seas, including a mesmerizing crossing of the Corinth Canal at night, as well as exotic ports in the Red Sea in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. We also planned for pre- and post-cruise land excursions in these countries. Then on October 7, 2023, my homeland was viciously attacked, and a new reality was suddenly thrust upon the world, bringing me back to March 13, 2020, knowing that life will never be the same again. And just like that, Israel was no longer a destination, and the Red Sea was a battle ground. Two weeks later, while still numb and heartbroken, I was hosting some of my best friends, travel advisors, on our first FAM in Greece, 30 Perfect Strangers season 8. As I am writing this, we still don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but Israel is Israel, and we are waiting for the #dayafter, just like many others in past years who had to persevere through the pain. Ironically my father’s FAM trips to Israel were also renowned, (called Seminar at the Source) and the Gelber name has always been synonymous with Israel. Since my father’s passing, we are proud to say that has not changed and will continue to be the core of who we are.

Today we cover 80 countries from wheels down to wheels up, and create customized FITS and small luxury group packages. To give you quick, concise information in a creative way that allows you and your clients to quickly understand any destination and or service/product we provide, we introduced a new video tutorial series 360º in :180, three-minute Vlogs featuring interviews with industry experts and the latest information and intelligence, shareable with your clients.

I look back at our company’s achievements over the past 57 years with tremendous pride, not just for what my father achieved, but pride and love for our team’s passion about being loyal stewards in honoring him and consistently wearing their servants towel loud and proud. My father said it from the beginning, and this holds true today: The Travel Advisor’s Friend since 1967….

We wouldn’t have it any other way!

Michael Gelber
CEO & Chairman of the Board

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