Toronto-based Aufgang Travel earned bragging rights at last night’s milestone event. The company turned 65 this year - no small feat for the tourism industry.
Aufgang’s humble beginnings date back to 1949 when Isaac Aufgang launched the first storefront office at College and Spadina.
This Mom and Pop agency owes its longevity to deep roots in the Jewish community. The business started out by arranging travel from Europe to Canada for displaced Jews after World War II. Aufgang quickly earned a reputation for its above-and-beyond service. “People just knew about us and liked working with us. In those days, people came to you. Business people, families, individuals, they would come to us from all over - Kitchener, Hamilton, Toronto. They liked us so they dealt with us,” said Emile Aufgang, Isaac’s son.
Aufgang Travel’s loyal clientele led the company to flourish, and they eventually began promoting tours to Israel. Emile, who eventually took over the business, says Jewish tourism changed after the Six-Day War in 1967.
“Jews all over the world felt more connected and proud, and that’s when interest in travel to Israel really took off,” he says. “We started selling group tours to Israel, and then family and Bar/Bat Mitzvah trips, and eventually businesses came to us to organize their incentive trips and conventions.”
In 2004, YYZ Travel Group acquired Aufgang Travel while maintaining the same brand and staff. The acquisition helped YYZ Travel Group gain a larger share of the Israel market by connecting with Aufgang’s loyal client-base.
“[Aufgang] had established an impeccable reputation for service. I always aspired to establish that same kind of success for our business,” says Alexandra Pelts, president of YYZ Travel Group.
The company branched out to offer unique private tours with a focus on cultural immersion. These include culinary tours, military tours, and genealogical tours where travellers can geographically trace their family history. Aufgang also introduced accessible travel services to accommodate clients with special needs, an under-served market in the industry.
The classic Bar/Bat Mitzvah tours still remain a favourite, says Sylvia Murarotto, marketing and communications manager.
To survive the rapidly evolving industry, Aufgang Travel is always reinventing itself. But, despite the digital age, the company still sticks to their original values. Sylvia explains: “YYZ Travel has an online booking channel, but we’re still very much bricks and mortar. We’re very close to the community and that’s what keeps us going forward.”