Meet The Activities Abroad 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.Read more
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 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?”
Jo started as a placement student in 2006 as part of her Travel and Tourism Management degree and the rest they say, is history. Born in Newcastle and raised by very active parents, she was lucky enough to spend many summers camping and hiking in the Alps and skiing during the winter. Weekends were spent outdoors mucking about in boats or in the hills, and whilst she begrudged being dragged up windy mountains as a child, she still does all of these things now!
Amy joined Activities Abroad during the placement year 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!
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 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.
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 new experiences on family activity holidays since joining Activities Abroad in 2012.
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.
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.
Andy grew up in Northumberland and developed a love of the outdoors and adventure at a young age. 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.
Alex grew up in Surrey and developed her passion for travel and adventure from an early age being fortunate to travel frequently as a child with her family. Alex’s love for the outdoors led her to study Adventure Education at University and she has since worked within the Adventure Travel and Expedition industry. She joined the Activities Abroad expert team in March 2017 and looks forward to helping families experience fantastic active holidays!
After graduating from Newcastle University, Allan decided to indulge his passion for travel and explore every corner of the world. From Morocco to South Africa, the Far East to Finland, Allan has taken his family to experience it all. After years in the travel industry, Allan jumped at the opportunity to join Activities Abroad to show you and your family the very best holiday destinations and experiences.
Caitlin recently made her way back to the UK after spending some time travelling the world. Arriving home in Northumberland and keen to be part of the travel industry, she joined the Activities Abroad family in 2018 and is now helping to design our award-winning family holidays.
Family holidays have always been a big part of Lauren’s life with her enjoying many happy times away throughout her childhood. Some of her favourite experiences include camping trips around the UK and exploring the Spanish countryside on a big family summer holiday. She has also been lucky enough to tour California too, visiting the likes of Las Vegas, San Francisco and Yosemite National Park.
Ashleigh grew up in the Lake District and loves sharing her childhood memories of exploring this beautiful part of England. From weekend family strolls around the lakes to pony trekking along picturesque country trails, Ashleigh found there was always plenty to keep her occupied growing up.
Growing up in Northumberland, Jade was lucky enough to spend a lot of her childhood outside, with some of her fondest memories being out and about in the great outdoors with her family. From a young age, she enjoyed camping holidays and accompanied her parents on a backpacking trip around Europe, and has since been fortunate enough to travel to various countries to experience active family holidays.
Kirsty has always loved travelling, having spent many family trips away as a child. One of her fondest memories was getting her first taste of adventure white water rafting while in France. This sparked a love for exciting activities and led to travels further afield including Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Mark is a recent addition to Activities Abroad and is part of the Marketing team. Mark grew up in Somerset and developed a love of travel and adventure from a young age, regularly going camping as a Cub during his childhood as well as being fortunate enough to travel regularly with his family on holidays around the world.
Barry has now retired but is still very much a part of the Activities Abroad family and is looking forward to spending his retirement exploring and relaxing in some fantastic destinations around the world!
Growing up in Gateshead, Niall spent many a family weekend in the surrounding countryside of County Durham. This love of nature and keeping active is something that Niall has continued in adulthood, with lots of his weekends spent hiking trails in Northumberland and the Lake District.