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On Jan. 28, 2018, the global travel and tourism community lost one of its most prominent members, with the passing of Klaus Billep in Santa Monica, Calif.
Billep was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, and went on to earn his education at Lemania College (Ecole Lemania) in Lausanne, and University of Neuchatel, both in Switzerland.
Known as “Mr. Travel” in the industry, Billep was fluent in English, German, French and Italian, and visited more than 150 countries over the course of his career as a travel executive. His agency Universal Travel System was renowned as a fantastic luxury tour operator that also ventured to less-traveled destinations such as Somalia and North Korea.
“I am deeply saddened. Klaus was a mentor to many and guided me through my PATA North America leadership career,” said Jim Ferguson, the former North America director of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
It was with Billep’s support that the San Diego chapter, which opened its doors in 1979, existed.
In 2004, Billep was given the PATA Award of Merit for the Southern California Chapter of PATA, due to his commitment and contributions to the organization for more than 40 years.
He also held many positions and titles, including time as the president of SKAL Los Angeles Club and chairman of Travelers’ Century Club, which is composed of members who have visited 100 nations.
Billep will be cremated and honored in one of his most beloved travel destinations: Hawaii. A celebration of life is to be arranged soon.