How Italian specialist Perillo Tours continues a family tradition : Travel Weekly

Perillo Tours is going where few family tour operators have gone before: the fourth generation.

After 78 years in business, the company has stood the test of time, surviving wars, economic recessions, a pandemic and perhaps its greatest threat yet: being taken over by a bigger company. .

“Three generations is tough,” said Steve Perillo, CEO and owner of Perillo Tours. “The fourth generation is the hardest thing to achieve in business.” He still marvels at the resilience of the business as the number of family touring businesses has dwindled over the years.

Perillo is the grandson of Joseph Perillo, who started Perillo Tours in the 1940s, and the son of Mario Perillo, the second-generation owner whose “Mr. Italy” television and radio commercials raised the company’s profile. business in the 1980s and 1990s.

Enter Devin Buonanno, Steve Perillo’s 26-year-old nephew and heir apparent to Perillo Tours, which is best known for specializing in custom tours in Italy but also offers Spain and Hawaii.

Buonanno is currently Regional Manager for Perillo Tours in Hawaii, overseeing product development for the destination.

Buonanno said he got his start with Perillo Tours when he was still a child, thanks to his love of traveling to Italy with his mother and siblings every year.

“I just got addicted to travel,” Buonanno recalls. “I’m also a big sports fan. I like to travel across the country to see my sports teams in different cities.”

But spending time with his family was Buonanno’s biggest motivation for joining the family business.

“I love the whole family aspect with my uncle, my grandfather and my great-grandfather. I’m a big family,” Buonanno said.

Business is now good for Perillo, but the past two years have been the toughest the company has faced since the company opened in 1945.

The closure of international borders has crippled business in Italy and Spain; Hawaii bookings have done relatively well comparatively; however, these sales were not enough to offset the huge losses in Europe.

But government-issued Covid relief funds kept the lights on at Perillo Tours. Now, on the heels of those hard-hit pandemic years, it is poised to turn a profit in 2022.

The tour operator has a reduced staff, will benefit from tax breaks for small businesses and sees the number of bookings increase again, even if it still operates at 50% of its pre-pandemic level.

The company – which continued to run its TV ads before the pandemic, with Steve taking the place of his father, who died in 2003 – was also forced to cut its marketing budget and stop spending money on advertising. It’s a decision Perillo can probably live with. After all, who needs publicity when your ads have been immortalized in a “Saturday Night Live” skit, with Adam Sandler playing “Joe Romano,” down to the bearded detail?

“It was a very, very big deal,” Perillo said. “Things like this only happen once in a lifetime.”

Perillo Tours will launch its first tours in Greece next year, and bookings will be available online this month.

And soon, travel advisors will also be able to take advantage of the Perillo Trip Planner, a digital library of 25 professionally curated Italy tours that will allow travel advisors to customize and create multi-city itineraries and make selections among activities, hotels, car rentals, the train. and plane ticket.

“You can modify it into any shape you want,” Perillo said. “We have a team of eight travel agents who we give a 20% commission to work the system and really put it to the test.” Trip Planner is expected to launch in January.

In his current role, Buonanno says he’s been busy working on his passion project: creating independent routes in Hawaii. He used to want to expand Perillo Tours’ destination offerings around the world, but says his uncle Steve reminded him of something.

“I’ll never forget him. He said, ‘You have to stay true to who you are. We’re not going to be known as the No. 1 tour operator in Italy and we’re going to lose our niche if you live those destinations,” Buonanno said. “I want to have the same mindset. It’s very important to me.”

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