Spotlight on Adventure Champions: Ciclismo Classico

20 November 2021

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) Adventure Champions are the vanguards of the adventure travel industry having been members of ATTA and leaders in the community for a minimum of 15 years. They are true believers in the power of adventure travel and have made an impact on the direction of ATTA and on the industry as a whole. To honor their commitment to their ethos and lasting contribution to the adventure travel industry we are spotlighting Adventure Champions through a series of interviews.

Ciclismo Classico
Tour Operator: Luxury Bicycle Tours in Europe, USA, and Canada
Headquarters: United States
ATTA Member since 2005

Introducing Lauren Hefferon, Founder and President, Ciclismo Classico
Lauren Heffron, Founder and President, Ciclismo Classico

Tell us about Ciclismo Classico: Our mission is to offer high-quality, educational, and dreamy bicycling and walking itineraries that celebrate the diversity of the Italian, European, and North American landscape, art, language, music, folklore, and of course delicious cuisine every traveler’s transformational experience. By combining 33 years of legendary service and intangible cultural experiences, our Ciclismo philosophy continues to energize and transform our loyal guests and fans all over the world.

That’s why our Ciclismo Collection of pedaling paradises do not cover the whole planet, instead since 1989, we have created, curated, and perfected unique, one-of-a-kind itineraries that combine gorgeous roads, fascinating culture, succulent specialties, and a steady diet of learning opportunities led by extraordinary tour guides. That’s how we earned our reputation as the bicycle tour pioneers.

At the core of Ciclismo Classico, one simple principle remains: Life is a dream waiting to happen, Andiamo! (Let’s Go!) We share, understand and know how to ignite your passions for cycling, travel, learning, and active exploration.

Why have you stayed an ATTA member for 15+ years?

Having founded Ciclismo Classico just out of college, I became an entrepreneur at a young age and over the years have joined many business organizations but I have never felt so much kinship with fellow entrepreneurs and travel business colleagues as I do as a member of the ATTA. Not only is there a strong tribal connection but at every ATTA gathering whether in person, online, or one-on-one, I have become a better person and entrepreneur. The geographic, ethnic, and professional diversity is very special and unique. Finally, through the ATTA I have formed life-long mentorships, partnerships, and soulful friendships, and... let’s not ever forget what a fun adventure every single ATTA event is!

How has your company changed over the last 15 years? 

I lived and biked in Italy for several years and founded Ciclismo Classico with the intention of specializing in Italian bicycle tours. In the early years, Ciclismo Classico focused on only Italy and had bicycling itineraries in almost every region in Italy. In the last 15 years, we have expanded our offerings to other European countries and during COVID, I quickly pivoted to bike tours in the USA and Canada. Since I began Ciclismo in 1989, Europe has become a more challenging place to do business because like most special places, it has become more crowded and is at risk of over-tourism but there are also some excellent initiatives, many led by the ATTA and its members, to mitigate this risk.

What is the greatest force that drives you to work every day? 

My life purpose and work have not changed in 33 years. I believe in and love adventure travel and the educational mission of Ciclismo Classico: to offer the dreamiest, most educational, and amazing bicycle rides on the planet.  Our tours are not merely a vacation, they are poetry in motion, where dreams come true.  I  enjoy all the places we go, the guests we serve, and our dedicated team. When my guests tell me how magical a Ciclismo Classico tour is, how great our guides are, how much we care about each and every guest, that our experience is special and life-changing– I am inspired to work hard to exceed their expectations, fulfill their dreams and continually transform their lives through active travel. I am inspired to work hard to continually fulfill their expectations. I believe that bicycling is an activity for life and I always enjoy helping people become better cyclists and helping them discover new places to ride. Bicycling can and does change people’s lives; it is an activity/form of transportation that is good for the planet, so if people ride more and more safely, it is a win for all. Promoting bicycling as a lifestyle and travel alternative is my small way of making the world a better place

What gives you hope about the next generation of adventure travel leaders?

When I meet young travel leaders I see the same passion, curiosity, drive, and creativity that I had when I started Ciclismo Classico at 26 years old. What is exciting is that young entrepreneurs have so many more ways to efficiently network and achieve better results with technology and more sophisticated systems. This means they have the passion and a better toolbox to do more great work for the planet and its people.

This work is intensely fulfilling but NOT easy; it takes a special, super high energy positive person with a blend of drive, ambition, experience, and creativity to sustain the energy and focus needed to launch, build and succeed at an adventure travel business. This ability for young leaders to work hard and understand how fragile our world is gives me hope that they will be the ones to make a difference in the 21st century.  Climate change makes the work we do hugely at risk but, as its key stakeholders, it means it is our number one responsibility to take action, work together as business owners to help slow or reverse climate change. What questions do we need to ask? How must we change to be a part of the climate solution rather than part of the problem? How can this generation of adventure travel innovators innovate? Do we bring our passion closer to home? Since young adventure entrepreneurs have the opportunity, the skills, the right tools and the passion to drive this change--- there is hope!

What is your advice for young adventure travel companies?

My advice to young adventure travel companies is to not only embrace their passion but to learn all the hard stuff too. Become financially and legally savvy about the niche of adventure travel business you are in. It is very easy to focus on the creative and sexy aspects of the adventure travel business (marketing, sales, tour development) but make sure to take classes in finance, find an excellent lawyer and accountant to make sure you understand all the ins and outs of your travel niche and destination. Do not get so focused on growth that you forget why you do what you do and find yourself having less time to do what you love.

Know who your competitors are but embrace your niche. Find a mentor. Never stop learning. Figure out what you are most passionate about in your business, what you are the expert at in your business and where you add the most value (your purpose). Keep doing these things and try to delegate the rest. Recognize that travel must change to be a part of the changes that are needed in the world.

What gets you excited about the future of adventure travel?

I am excited and hope that as more and more people discover adventure travel that they will see how interconnected our world is, how fragile nature is, and long after their tour is over that they take action to make the world a better place. I dream that every business, individual, and destination that delivers adventure as part of their offerings also educates the clients about the fragility of our planet and the cultures that inhabit it and can offer actions to take.  I am excited that adventure travel has a chance to change the way we see and experience the world to transform people to intrinsically understand that small is beautiful and that their backyards are just as amazing as exotic destinations. That our adventure travel industry attitude and code of ethics --curiosity, respect, exploration, passion-- will result in the world being a better place. All businesses have a responsibility to make the world a better place. I believe that the adventure travel business is one the industry that cares the most and has the most at stake. The ATTA is the organization that can galvanize all of us, understand our perspective on the ground, and lead the charge and the change.

We have to accept that the planet needs us each to embrace that-- less is more and that the planet may be better off if we travel less and better (fewer planes, automobiles) and come up with alternatives and to growing travel activities that do not increase emissions--bicycling and walking!

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I want to thank Shannon and the whole ATTA team for keeping the dream alive and always changing. Also, I am happy to speak to any new adventure travel entrepreneurs who have specific questions about the ATTA and the adventure travel business  [email protected].

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