Meet the Boss: Alastair Donnelly, Inside Japan Tours

alastair-donnellyTokyoHotel Louis C Jacob

Each week at 101 Holidays we interview one of the people behind the UK’s finest travel companies. This week we meet Alastair Donnelly, director of the specialist operator, Inside Japan Tours. Alastair founded the company with his business partner, Simon King, after they had both spent time living and teaching in Japan. Alastair is single and lives and works in Bristol

• Where are you planning to go on holiday this year, and why?

In June I spent two weeks visiting my girlfriend in Texas, which was quite an experience. If I didn’t know Sarah I wouldn’t have even considered Texas as a holiday destination but having been I can see the appeal – pretty much guaranteed sunshine, lots of outdoor activities – I got out on a horse, kayaking in Austin and tubing down the Guadalupe – good food, really friendly people and events like rodeo. A guy in a burger joint even paid our bill for us, which I don’t think has ever happened to me before.

• What is your favourite bolthole in the UK, and why?

I don’t tend to do much bolting. I have a season ticket for Bristol City so perhaps you could call Ashton Gate my bolthole – a place where I can really get away from it all.

• If you could spend a long weekend in any city abroad, which would you pick, and why?

When I travel I love to eat great food and nothing beats Tokyo. I get such cravings for grilled “yakitori” chicken sticks under the railways tracks, freshly-made sushi served in tiny restaurants and the cries of “Irashaimase!” (“Welcome!”) when a customer steps through the door. And then there is great nightlife, some of the best bars in the world, amazing shopping and just outside the city, beautiful mountains and hiking up at Mt Takao.

• Please tell us three items that are always found in your luggage.

My hat. I don’t go anywhere without my hat. Sadly this means each one only generally has a shelf life of a couple of years before it gets left at airport security or on a train due to my tendency to forget things. My laptop, which is a touch sad, but I don’t go anywhere without it. And finally, my swimming shorts. I always pack them and basically never use them, which is daft because, in theory, I love swimming.

• What one thing would most improve people’s overall holiday experience?

Better maps! What is it with cities and their maps? Guide books often have poor maps but the ones that get me most are the ones provided by the city government. My pet hate is maps that are not in the orientation you are. So I look at the map, expect something to be directly in front of me (because that is where it is shown on the map) but actually it’s behind and to the right because that is where north is. Grrrr!

• What has been your worst holiday experience?

A year and a half ago I went to the States for Christmas and New Year. The whole thing was a disaster. I got to Amsterdam and they wouldn’t let me on the plane as I didn’t have a US visa. Having flown back to the UK to get a new passport I finally made it to Chicago two days late. I then spent 24 hours on a train to New York in complete agony with toothache. My bags failed to turn up in Chicago and I subsequently found they had been returned to my home in Bristol by KLM. The removal of the offending tooth a couple of days later cheered me up somewhat but a cancelled flight back to Chicago and 14 hours at JFK soon got me back feeling sorry for myself. Basically, the whole trip was a nightmare. A bit embarrassing for a travel professional, but there you go. We all make mistakes!

• Tell us your favourite hotel: in the UK; in mainland Europe; in the rest of the world

I haven’t travelled much in the UK and I either camp or stay with friends. In mainland Europe it is the Hotel Louis C. Jacob (pictured top right) on the outskirts of Hamburg. I stayed there one February and it was simply magical. We arrived late in the evening but the following morning woke up to a beautiful snow covered scene on the banks of the river. We spent all day in the bar curled up in huge leather armchairs chatting and watching the view.

Last year I stayed in the Lamp no Yado on the Noto Peninsula in Japan. This is a secluded Japanese inn located at the bottom of a cliff on a sparsely populated bit of the Japan Sea coastline. Lying in my natural open-air hot spring bath with the waves crashing against the rocks as a storm blew in was a magical moment and like nowhere else I have ever been.

• Thank you, Alastair.

Don't miss out...

Try another site