PATA San Diego Chapter Mourns the Loss of Industry Icon

In Memoriam: Klaus Billep

Klaus Billep, CTC, passed away on Sunday January 28, 2018, in Santa Monica, CA. Klaus was a true leader in the global travel and tourism industry community and a mentor for many.

Originally from Düsseldorf, Germany, Klaus loved his home of choice, Santa Monica, California. His travel agency Universal Travel System is a known luxury tour operator with an excellent reputation. Klaus was educated at Lecole Lemania in Lausanne, Switzerland and at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland. He spoke English, German, French, and Italian.

Klaus was also known in the travel industry as “Mr. Travel” …a walking encyclopedia of travel. His travel agency/tour operator specialized in unique, off-the-beaten path destinations (Somalia, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iraq and others). A highly experienced travel executive, he visited more than 150 countries. He was also former Chairman of the prestigious Travelers Century Club (TCC) whose membership comprised travelers to at least 100 countries. Klaus loved the Travelers Century Club and in 2013 and once said in an interview as their chairman: “I tell people you’re going to need $2 million (to travel almost constantly) and a very understanding spouse unless you’re taking them along. More than anything, TCC is a social group,” said Klaus Billep, “It started at country clubs in Los Angeles before jets and the ability to get places caused an explosion of travel agents.”

In 2004 Klaus was honored with the PATA Award of Merit for the Southern California Chapter of PATA. The award was presented to Klaus for his dedicated services and contributions to PATA for over 40 years. He was the organizer of the SoCal PATA Chapter in 1965 coordinating many Out-Of-Country workshop fams to Asia. It was with the help of Klaus that San Diego was able to establish a chapter, opening in 1979 as satellite of the SoCAL PATA Chapter.

Klaus was also a former President and devoted member of SKAL Los Angeles Club, and Regional Director of SKAL USA. From 1985-1987 he was the President of the Southern California Chapter of ASTA. He was a member of the Executive Board of Directors for tour operator.

SANPATA member, Jim Ferguson, commented, “I am deeply saddened…Klaus was a mentor to many, and guided me thru my PATA North America leadership career…and life. He was a dedicated professional – for all seasons, and above all, a true gentleman – for all reasons…auf weidersehen, my dear friend.”

Klaus will be cremated and his ashes will be taken to one of his favorite places, Hawaii.  There will be a Celebration of Life planned at a later date at a place full of sunshine, happy vibes and spiritual sharing.  We will keep our industry updated on the event.