If Jack Revel had to pick a theme for his travel agency’s 70th
birthday, it would be “Survivor.”
When Revel’s father, Sam Revel, started the Revel Travel Service
in 1933, the “office” was simply a desk in the lobby of a Hollywood
Now Revel Travel is the agency of the stars with bustling
offices in Beverly Hills and 60 employees.
Jack, now president, doesn’t want the names of his celebrity
clients published, but they include A-list musicians and actresses.
He will admit that Michael Jackson was a client for 20 years, but,
he said, “I gave him up. It just got too crazy.”
Jack also developed TravCom, back-office accounting and agency
management software, which is now in its fourth generation and is
used in travel agencies in 18 countries.
At 63, Jack loves to talk about his agency’s history, often
referring to notes his father jotted down. Sam was still active in
the agency until about two weeks before he died in 1996. “We were
planning his 90th birthday,” said Jack.
This year the agency celebrated its anniversary Nov. 14 the
birth date of Jack’s father, Sam, who was born in England and lived
in France for several years working in hotels before he landed in
He came to Hollywood with his brother, Harry Revel, who was a
composer for the film industry. Harry wrote hits for Shirley Temple
and Bing Crosby, and is known for songs like “Paris in the
With experience as a concierge for glamorous hotels in Nice and
Monte Carlo, Sam decided to set up shop as a travel agent in the
lobby of the once-renowned Christie Hotel.
Travel was simpler then. Before the advent of air travel, it was
mostly booking train or boat tickets.
The agency had three phone lines connecting to the Union
Pacific, Southern Pacific, and the Santa Fe rail lines. Getting a
ticket involved picking up the phone whoever answered first got the
In 1939, Sam met his wife, Sara Revel. He was handling in-bound
reservations for a hotel, and she was visiting from Chicago. Sara
later worked with him in the business for 40 years. She died in
World War II brought a halt to international travel. Sam, who
couldn’t serve because of a medical condition, was one of few
agents still operating. He got by, though, selling tours of movie
stars’ homes, car rentals, and resort vacations to Palm Springs and
Sam became a charter member of ASTA and served as president of
Southern California chapter in 1948. He organized the first
regional conference at Yosemite Lodge that year.
After the war, trans-Atlantic travel came back and Sam developed
a large clientele of affluent travelers in the entertainment
industry, which enabled him to open his own Hollywood office.
In 1954, the first flight from California to Israel was
launched. It was a two-day trip by prop plane, with an overnight in
New York, but it enabled Sam to expand his focus on travel to
Later, Jack said his father was instrumental in bringing cruise
ships to California.
“It used to be the only ships that came here were
round-the-world,” Jack said. “If you wanted to go to the Caribbean
you had to fly to New York.”
By the 1960s, when Jack joined his father in the business,
cruise travel was a major emphasis, and it still is.
Jack’s brother, Paul Revel, also worked in the family business
for 11 years before he opened his own agency, The Travel Station in
Encino, Calif., in 1975.
So far, none of Jack’s or Paul’s children are planning a career
And while Jack says today’s travel industry is tough, Revel
Travel Service is doing well because it specializes in a market
that isn’t likely to “go direct,” said Jack.
“People in the entertainment industry rely on travel agents,” he
Agents in his line of work have a high burnout rate. His clients
are prone to wake “at the crack of lunch,” want restaurant
reservations for after midnight, and call at 3 a.m. to cancel plane
tickets for 90 people 24 hours before a flight.
But that’s what travel agents are for.
And Jack notes that 2004 looks like it will bring an upturn in
business, with the potential pent-up demand by consumers finally
being realized by agents.
“People want to travel, it’s just that there was a lot of
apprehension with terrorism and the economy,” Jack said. “Consumers
also have a misconception that they can buy cheaper on the
But, he said: “People who want to plan trips and specialize
travel will always have a need for a travel agent.”