Hal and Norma Taussig founded Untours in 1975 to offer travelers a deeper way of experiencing Europe. Their own life experiences taught them that community-based apartment stays offered a richer cultural experience than traditional hotel vacations or bus tours did. During his brief career as a college professor, Hal and his family took a sabbatical trip to Europe and stayed in apartments, cottages, and convents in Switzerland, Germany, and France. Renting apartments not only saved him money but connected him to the communities and cultures he visited in a much more meaningful way, sparking friendships that have lasted a lifetime. He wrote about his experiences in a book called Shoestring Sabbatical. This book and his enthusiasm for cross-cultural travel led him to create Untours.
Norma and Hal Taussig
At the time, Switzerland was the only destination Untours offered, but Hal attracted a devoted group of clients committed to traveling the Untours way. These "alumni" encouraged Hal to expand the Untour mode of travel to new destinations. In the years since, Untours has grown to offer Untour programs in 25 different destinations.
In addition to its Untour packages, the company now offers independent apartment rentals through The Right Vacation Rental and has expanded to offer hand-selected small boat cruises and adventures through its Ventures offerings. Untours continues to add destinations and new travel opportunities while staying true to Hal's vision, working to offer exciting and meaningful travel opportunities and fostering a sense of community and connection among Untours guests, staff, and local hosts.
Hal was an unusual entrepreneur in many ways. In addition to his dedication to connecting people from different cultures, he never wanted to become wealthy. In fact, he and Norma gave nearly all of Untours' profits to the foundation they created, the Untours Foundation. In 1999 Paul Newman and John F. Kennedy Jr. honored them with an award, naming Untours "The Most Generous Company in America."
Hal accepting B Lab's first annual Hal Taussig Award
Over a decade later, Untours still strives to embody the virtues that earned it this recognition. Untours' generosity helped inspire the Benefit Corporation (B Corp) movement of social responsibility in business. In 2010 B Corp presented Hal with the first annual Hal Taussig Award. This award is now given each year to business people in the B community who exemplify Hal's values.
Over the years Hal's focus shifted to running the Untours Foundation, though he retired from this work several years ago. Brian Taussig-Lux has managed Untours since 1996 and Elizabeth Killough runs the Untours Foundation. Both worked closely with Hal for many years and continued to connect with him and his vision as his direct involvement waned.
As Hal planned, ownership of Untours passed to the Untours Foundation shortly before he passed away. Still, Hal's passion continues to inspire the staff of Untours, his local community, and the wider worlds of business, travel, and fair trade.
The Untours staff is passionate about international travel. Most members of the Untours team have worked for the company for 10 or more years, and they bring a rich diversity of languages, cultures, and skills to their work. Staffers love the countries and cultures of the Untours they coordinate, and their knowledge is informed by years of personal and professional travel. US staff members regularly visit Untours programs and apartments to make upgrades and ensure everything is running smoothly on location. They strive to share their knowledge and experience with clients and offer superior pre-trip planning support, just as their colleagues on site see to all aspects of local hospitality.
Untours Staff, 2015
Untours is working to make business better. The company strives to pay good salaries, offer generous benefits, and provide a positive work environment for its employees. In addition, Untours attempts to minimize its environmental impact in every way possible, from composting lunch scraps and using only recycled paper and double-sided printing, to incentivizing carpooling, biking, and other commuting alternatives. Untours uses only renewable energy to run its office in Media, Pennsylvania. The company has installed an 18.8 kW solar installation on its roof, generating as much power as one US household would use. This is another step in its quest to offer the best, most meaningful travel opportunities while operating as a model of sustainability.
Untours' 18.8 kW solar installation
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We're sometimes called Idyll, LTD., which is what we called ourselves before we went with Untours. In fact, Idyll, LTD., is where our email listserv's name, IdyllChat, comes from!