TORONTO — There are not many travel companies around today that can boast a 65-year long history, but for Aufgang Travel, a Toronto-based travel retailer serving the Jewish community since 1949, this milestone is a great source of pride.
Aufgang’s first storefront office was established on College and Spadina by Isaac Aufgang on Oct. 7, 1949. Isaac was no stranger to the travel business, having run a travel bureau in Paris before immigrating to Canada.
The agency started out by arranging travel from Europe to Canada for displaced Jews after World War II. “We’d bring clients over on the great steamships, Cunard Line and Canadian Pacific,” said Emile Aufgang, Isaac’s son. Emile took over the family business and ran it until 2005, before retiring.
Aufgang Travel soon made a name for itself in the Jewish community. “We just gave good service,” said Emile, commenting on the longevity of the Aufgang brand. “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.”
The travel agency flourished, and eventually started to sell travel and tours to Israel. “Following 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,” said Emile Aufgang.
“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. “My career in travel happened by accident,” remembers Alexandra Pelts, President of YYZ Travel Group. “When I started my first job, I worked right across the street from Aufgang Travel. The travel agency had established an impeccable reputation for service. I always aspired to establish that same kind of success for our business.”
The acquisition of Aufgang Travel was a step toward solidifying a larger share of the Israel market. It also strengthened the company’s ties to the Jewish community. “We were already selling fixed departure tours to Israel through our wholesale division, Canadian Gateway, so adding Aufgang just made sense.”
Under new management for the past 10 years, Aufgang Travel continues to operate as its own brand, but with a new vision and product strategy. “We made a conscious decision to keep the name, the staff and maintain the same standards of service, but we wanted to diversify in terms of product offering. We offer the classic tour of Israel and Bar/Bat Mitzvah tours, and are happy to do so, but our main focus is on customization, specialization, and creating really unique travel experiences,” said Vicky Zaltsman, Executive President of YYZ Travel Group.
“Whether it’s a culinary tour or a military tour of Israel, Aufgang has the expertise to design a really special trip.” The travel agency also offers Jewish interest tours around the world, including genealogical tours. These private tour opportunities focus on research and cultural immersion. Travellers can trace their family history and visit their ancestral town or village.
Aufgang has moved beyond Holy Land tours to offer faith-based tours around the world. And recognizing a need in the marketplace that is highly under-served, Aufgang introduced accessible travel services to Israel and other destinations.
“The travel business has undergone incredible changes over the past 65 years, so we’re incredibly proud to have reached this milestone, and very grateful for the support of our clients, community and travel partners. We can’t know what the next 65 years will bring,” said Vicky Zaltsman, “but hope our experience and passion for Israel as a travel destination will continue to carry the Aufgang brand forward.”