For a company that was founded “on a whim” by Stan & Leone Pollard “way back in 1955,” Ambassador Tours is a travel industry success story--today, one of the largest and most successful family-owned-and-operated vacation planning businesses in the country. “Since there was no one we knew at the time who performed this service,” Stan Pollard recalls, “it just seemed like a good business to go into. We set up a desk in the lobby of the old Ambassador Hotel in San Francisco--thus, the name ‘Ambassador Travel Agency,’ and our little ‘Ambassador Man’ signified that we handled worldwide travel. In truth, our first reservations were for the Strawberry Lodge, near Yosemite, and a few non-scheduled airline trips to Chicago. But, we were on our way.”
During Ambassador’s early years, travel—particularly transcontinental, was almost exclusively for the wealthy. “We decided to do something about that,” Pollard explained, “and decided to apply the old retail marketing idea of offering bargains to the travel industry—a very novel idea in its time.” He said he found a cruise that was going around the world in 80 days for under $1,000. “We advertised in the Sunday paper, ‘Around the World on a Bargain,’ and when we arrived at work the next morning, people were literally lined up around the block. We had found the need we wanted to fulfill.”
Pollard said the company’s next big step was the realization that groups of workers from large corporations were booking their travels with Ambassador. “The cruise lines were beginning to turn to the mass market with group discounts,” he recalls. “We were instrumental in breaking the ‘group affinity rule’ with one of the major cruise lines and getting the same discounts for our clients--regardless of the number. Before I knew it, all the cruise lines were following suit and I became the ‘grandfather of group discounts for individuals’.”
Today, Stan & Leone Pollard have literally retired to the sea--escorting Ambassador cruise group tours and sailing to ports the world over. Their sons, Gary and Bruce, have taken over the business, which has diversified over the years into all forms of vacation travel and accommodations. Gary, now Ambassador Tours’ President, puts it all into perspective: “Our parents saw a niche for a business focused on service and bargains--understanding our customers and finding a vacation that meets their desires, and their budget. They adopted a motto--You’ll Travel Better for Less. My father still reminds me whenever we talk, ‘Give thorough, helpful and friendly service with tremendous savings and discounts!’ Their approach has withstood the test of time and served us well in the face of travel industry changes and competitive challenges. Call us at 800-989-9000 and allow us to help you Travel Better for Less.
San Francisco travel agent Gary Pollard runs Ambassador Tours, a company founded in the city by his parents in 1955, and now in its third generation with his son Bryan in the business. Pollard says, “Experienced travelers are booking more trips because the suppliers are offering better values. Read more
Ambassador Tours was recently honored with the "Top 25" award from Ensemble Travel® Group, one of the travel industry' s oldest and most respected affiliated travel agency organizations. The honor was presented to less than five percent of Ensemble Travel Troup' s 450+ member agencies in the United States.
What makes a top travel agent? Is it determination and drive? Knowledge about suppliers and destinations? Specialization? Out of well over 100 entrants, we selected those who stood out for a number of reasons—from exceptional customer service to remarkable expertise in a particular destination.
Gary M Pollard, CTC
President & CEO
Gary has been President of Ambassador Tours since 2003, and now, more than 50 years after its inception, Ambassador Tours remains a leader in the travel industry, working hard to offer the best prices, best service and the best possible vacation for every travel interest. With his 28 years of travel expertise, Gary has sailed on over 75 ships, visited more than 40 countries, and has been interviewed and quoted on travel-related topics in such publications as the New York Times, Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle, Travel Agent Magazine, Travel Weekly, Travel Age West, Consumer Reports and Caviar Affair.