Our Expert Team

Normally this section would be written using the collective “we” but our Managing Director wanted to write this piece himself so over to you Ali.

“I’m not particularly clever nor am I especially talented or inspirational. I’m certainly not a leader in the motivational way of some business owners but I do have one very useful skill and that is the ability to surround myself with good people.

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My philosophy from the very outset was to employ people that, above all, were immediately likeable and had just that little extra spark. When I look at an employment application the first thing I always read is the applicant’s personal statement. I’m genuinely not concerned by qualifications or educational history; I want the applicant to demonstrate that they can bring something just a little bit different to my business.

So, when I see those generic phrases such as “I was a member of the debating club”, my inclination is to discard the application and move on to the next one which will hopefully say something like “Last winter, I trained as a Barista and found a job working in a small mountain lodge somewhere on a remote road between Here and Nowhere”.

To really stand out in the modern day Travel Industry a company needs to offer genuinely differentiated products. It is all too easy these days to simply book a “cheap” flight, and a hotel and taxi transfers. However, my belief is that a growing number of people don’t want the traditional style holiday and are far more interested in fulfilling experiences rather than lying on a beach and gently grilling. Consequently, I want my team to come up with ideas that make us very different from the traditional holiday operator and just that little bit different from other smaller and niche tour operators.

My business was founded in 2002 and apart from having made thousands of clients very, very happy the one thing of which I am most proud is the people who work for Activities Abroad. I have a superb team of Product Development Managers who create our trips and embrace my philosophy that our holidays should be unique, rewarding and a truly great shared family experience. Product Development Manager is THE job to have in the Travel Industry. These are the guys who generally do all the travelling and experience the wonderful sights and sounds provided by our beautiful planet. However, my belief is that all my staff should have a familiarity with our products and the destinations we feature. How can my Marketing Team promote our holidays without having familiarity with the hotels and activities we offer? Similarly, how can my Sales Team talk with enthusiasm and knowledge if they lack the knowledge borne of first-hand experience?

The same thinking applies to everybody who works here. Our book keeper and administrative staff have been to many of our destinations and our Customer Liaison staff are probably the most extensively travelled of us all. Otherwise, how can they answer your pre and post-holiday questions?

When you contact us, you won’t be talking to a trained automaton you will be talking to somebody with a genuine and unshackled personality - there’s no scripts at the end of our phone lines – just a close familiarity with the holiday or holidays that you are enquiring about.

Ten years ago, the activity and adventure holiday sector was full of exciting, interesting and whole hearted people who fervently loved travelling. Since then, many of the leading adventure companies have been bought by huge corporate concerns. Consequently, these days, I find that our section of the industry is generally run for profit rather than by passion. It’s a sad if inevitable chain of events but there are still some genuinely independent people working in this industry and I know that my staff wholeheartedly personifies that passion.

So, if our employees ever become anything other than fun, friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable then please let me know because something will have gone badly wrong!"

Ali McLean

Ali created Activities Abroad a long, long time ago after returning to the UK after a year-long bike ride across Europe. Aged 30-something, he was sitting in his parents’ house with no job, no money and absolutely no prospects and thinking, 

“What am I going to do for the rest of my life?”

Barry Nolan

Barry was raised and educated in Bournemouth and made his way north in 1983 after spending three years studying history at Liverpool University, where he graduated with a degree. Following his first role in customer service and sales management, he has been with Activities Abroad since the beginning and has aided the development of many destinations.

Amy Hope

Amy joined Activities Abroad during her placement year as part of her degree in Travel and Tourism Management and has never left! She has now worked her way up to Product and Operations Manager, whilst spending time working in almost every other department on the way!

Varun Narayanan

Varun is the latest addition to the Artisan Travel Company. Varun studied English Literature at Durham University before joining the Products and Operations Department. His obsession with words and writing finds him typing away copy for the different holidays on offer, as well as helping to put them together.

Dawn Rawlings

Whilst her childhood family holidays pretty much consisted of a few weeks sitting on the beach and eating ice cream on the Isle of Wight, Dawn has managed to pick up a few things on family activity holidays since joining Activities Abroad in 2012.

Katharina Rogalski

Working within the Product and Operations Department, Katharina creates new holidays and manages the existing ones. She generally prefers to go on a summer holiday, but after her first trip with Activities Abroad to the beautiful Swedish Lapland she has fallen in love with the winter holidays as well.

Amy Walkington-Gray

Amy grew up in Yorkshire and was the youngest child of an active family. She has fond childhood memories of climbing trees and making homemade assault courses for herself and the family Labradors.Amy has a real passion for travel and learning about new cultures and different traditions.

Jono Archer

Jono started working for Activities Abroad in early 2014 as part of the Product and Operations Department, focusing on developing new and exciting holidays to adventure-filled destinations. Having previously worked in a different industry, the world of travel is one that he really enjoys working within.

Graham Hughes

Graham was lucky enough to travel a lot as a child including living in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. Here he learnt to snorkel off the pristine beaches and explore the wonderful coral reefs. Back on dry land the forest was a gigantic playground and during the rainy season the bottom of the garden became a mud slide.

Andy Marshall

Brought up as a child in Northumberland, Andy developed an early a love of the outdoors and adventure. After studying in Sheffield Andy returned to his native North East, spending many years combining his love of travel and sport, working as a travel expert for a small company organising golf holidays around the world.


    Created by families for families

    Experience real adventures enjoyed safely

    Family friendly destinations and accommodation

    Maximising your precious family time


    Family time, not screen time

    Family memories to treasure

    No kids clubs - Mum and Dad can play too

    Enjoy the company of like-minded families


    Family owned and run

    Proudly Independent

    Personal, hands-on service

    Fair and sustainable work ethos


    We safety check every activity so you don’t have to

    100% ATOL and ABTA protection

    Peace of mind promise