The Business of Traveling
September 08, 2010
Marc Casto B.A. ‘97
Whenever Marc Casto travels, one of his first goals is to find a good local cookbook. “You can’t understand a culture until you understand its food,” he says.
Casto knows a lot about cooking—and about travel: He’s president and COO of Casto Travel, the largest privately owned travel agency in Northern California, with 120 employees and offices in San Francisco and five other Bay Area cities, plus the Philippines. In business for 34 years, the company provides corporate, concierge, vacation, and group travel management services in addition to full-service visa and passport processing.
Driven by data, Casto is an avid reader who conducts ongoing research about travel industry trends and exotic locales. He’s also committed to anticipating clients’ needs—especially those of business travelers, who make up 60 percent of his company’s business. Casto schools his corporate clients in the art of spending travel dollars wisely while controlling expenses.
“We provide computer software, keep track of their expenses, and pinpoint the locations of employees when they’re traveling,” he says.
Before joining his family’s business, Casto studied philosophy at Lewis & Clark and spent a semester abroad in Ecuador.
“Geographically, Ecuador is incredibly diverse,” he says. “It offers pristine beaches, lush rain forests, and some of the highest snow-packed mountains in South America—not to mention the Galapagos Islands.”
He found philosophy equally fascinating. Studying the nature of inquiry, he says, taught him how to think and made him humble and unafraid to question his assumptions about life.
After college, he worked as an accountant for six years before the allure of travel became irresistible. He joined Casto Travel as a junior accountant in 2000. Maryles Casto, his mother and the company’s founder, named him president and COO in 2005.
“I’ve learned from the best,” he says. “There’s no one better than my mom in knowing how to motivate people.”
Every year the company brings all its employees in from the field to break bread together and laugh. Building strong relationships, he says, allows business to thrive within a nurturing family-oriented culture.
That close-knit culture flourishes online as well. Company specialists travel frequently and share their expertise and experiences through the company’s website, blogs, travel alerts, and RSS feeds.
“A common misperception is that all we do is book tickets,” he says. “In reality, we’re consultants and advocates for our clients.”
Those who travel for pleasure are looking for exceptional deals along with unique trips tailored to their needs and interests. Casto recommends lessfrequented cities like Torgiano and Positano in Italy instead of major cities like Florence and Rome, as well as Croatia’s Dalmation Coast over Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
“If someone loves Etruscan pottery, we can get them on an archaeological dig or behind the scenes at museums,” he says. “We design custom experiences for people who crave originality, who aren’t content to merely check locations off a map.”
—by Pattie Pace