Chat with Loek Van Zijl from Premier International Tours
Here at Fine Designs, we’ve been partnering with Premier International Tours for several years now providing the official event apparel at the Iber Cup and the Dallas International Girls Cup. Premier International Tours is unique in that they not only organize tournaments, they organize international soccer tours for teams. They recently secured a partnership with US Youth Soccer and Nike, among several others. We had a chat with the founder and President, Loek Van Zijl, to learn more about the company.
Tell us a little about yourself and your role as President of Premier International Tours.
I am President and Founder of Premier International Tours. I am from the Netherlands and have been involved in international group travel for over 40 years. In 1994 I moved from the Netherlands to the USA with my wife, son and daughter.
Premier International Tours won the 2017 Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Trust, Performance, and Integrity
Premier International Tours, as an organization, have always taken pride in providing our customers with not only an experience of a lifetime but also providing the best customer service and open and transparent communication with our customers. They deserve it. We have an A+ rating from the BBB and they informed us that we should apply for the Torch Award and we were excited to do so. We went through the application process and were named as a finalist with 3 other companies. After a rigorous interview process, we were announced as the winner! We are extremely proud of this and extremely grateful as well..
At the B.B.B. awards ceremony, you gave an amazing speech. You mentioned that you came to the U.S. 23 years ago to build a new life. What led you to start your company?
As a former soccer player myself (I was a goalkeeper), I had the pleasure of taking part in some international exchanges with other soccer teams from different countries. This experience really made an impact on me in seeing how friendships with people from other countries and cultures can be built through the sport. International soccer has always been a passion for me, it’s in my blood. I worked for another organization in The Netherlands for many years coordinating group travel for teams from the U.S. After that, I saw an opportunity to come to the U.S. and build on this. After consulting my wife and family we decided to take the big step in moving to the U.S. to start the company. We haven’t looked back since! If you’d like to watch the speech click here!
What sets your events apart from other international tournaments?
The biggest thing that sets our events apart from other international tournaments is that our tournaments are not just tournaments. Our team organizes events during the trip that make the soccer teams feel they are part of something special. We have a grand opening ceremony to kick-off the tournaments and we host an international team leaders reception during the tournament. Our company is also unique in that we offer the international teams a homestay program where they can stay with families from local clubs in the area. This is unique because of the special bond made between the international teams and their host teams. Our tournaments are also the most competitive international tournaments in the U.S. Our tournaments attract teams from some of the best pro clubs in the world including Manchester City, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid and more. And, of course, we have some of the best US club teams participating, including the host club the Dallas Texans.
When students go on your soccer tours they get to experience a different culture in a new country. What effect do you think this has on them long term?
Many of these students/athletes will travel internationally for the first time when they travel with their teams. They will experience new cultures, try new food, use different currencies, learn how to communicate with people who speak a different language, so it is an opportunity to grow as an individual. We’ve always felt that the one of the best ways to develop as a person is to step out of your comfort zone and try new and different things. An international tour is a golden opportunity to do this.
Traveling internationally can have a lot of unexpected surprises. Do you have any stories that you’d like to share?
It is my plan to write a book about all the travel stories I like to share because we have so many. I hope there will be a day that we have the time to do that. Each year at the USC Soccer Convention many of our customers visit our booth and especially the opening night we talk about these stories how impactful our tours and tournaments are and how we change lives in a very positive way.
What do you like to do to unwind and have fun when you aren’t working?
Soccer is my passion, so I love watching soccer games, especially the Dutch National Team and Feyenoord Rotterdam, the pro team in The Netherlands from my hometown. Since I moved to the U.S. I have really enjoyed watching American Football, especially the Denver Broncos, so I love to go Denver Broncos games. We live in Colorado so we go to the mountains quite a bit with my family and friends. Snow-shoeing and snowmobiling is a great way for me to unwind. In the Summer my hobbies are fishing and hiking. Last Summer I completed my first 14-er – Mount Quanday so I guess I can call myself a true Coloradoan now.
Last month, your company took 40 coaches and guests to Barcelona for an educational trip. Can you tell us a little more about that trip?
Each year we take coaches from the teams that travel with our organization and coaches from some of our partner program on a 5-day coaching education trip to Barcelona. During this trip our coaches are special guests of pro teams FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol. Our coaches go to the training grounds of FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol and watch some their youth teams train and play and see a presentation from an FC Barcelona and Espanyol coach. They get to tour the Nou Camp, FC Barcelona’s stadium and the highlight of the trip is that the coaches get to see an FC Barcelona game!
Organizing each tour requires a lot of attention to detail. How did you find staff that do this job so well?
At Premier International Tours, we have a staff that is passionate about international travel and are also soccer/sport enthusiasts. Our staff come from referrals of people we trust who want to be a part of a special organization. Most importantly, we have staff who like to have fun. Our staff is like a family and we have a great relationship all while having fun, working hard and being successful.
What kind of impact do you want to make on the soccer community?
We feel that international competition is an integral part of developing as a soccer player. Our goal is for teams to get exposure to international competition to develop as players all while having an experience of a lifetime. Ultimately, we want to see US Soccer improve and succeed on all levels. We feel that international travel and exposure to international competition will only help improve the players and the game in the U.S.