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Meet the Boss: Craig Burkinshaw, Audley Travel

Craig Burkinshaw, Audley TravelAudley Travel homepage

This week in Meet the Boss we talk to Craig Burkinshaw, founder of Audley Travel, one of the UK’s leading luxury tour operators. When Craig founded the company back in 1996 it was known as Asian Journeys. Today, Audley offers individual journeys, designed to match the traveller’s interests, tastes and budget, created with a commitment to quality, authenticity and a passion for travel. It features Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Australasia, North America, Antarctica and the Arctic.

Outside of work Craig enjoys adventure activities and has a particular interest in kite surfing, kayaking and skiing. He is also learning to play the piano and plans to join one of the first Virgin Galactic flights into space.

* Where did you go on holiday in 2012, and why? Any plans for 2013?

“I managed to squeeze quite a lot of travel into 2012. As well as skiing in Europe and a kayaking trip to Scotland we did a family trip to Mexico at the beginning of the year. I have recently joined the UK board of Free the Children, a charity doing some incredible development work around the world, and spent some time at their project in Kenya in August, which was a truly life-changing experience for me. Their long-term involvement with local communities means they are in the perfect position to offer visitors a real insight into all aspects of rural Kenyan village life and this is something I want to combine with the traditional Audley safari to create more wide-ranging experiences for travellers.

“Later in the year we visited Botswana, where some of our best friends live. We spent some time in the Okavango Delta and also camped out with them on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans (the famous Jack’s Camp is in the same area if you want to visit without sleeping out!). Afterwards, we headed to Brazil (our third visit), to explore the north east coast. Finally, we spent some time sailing in the Grenadines before returning home for Christmas.

“In 2013 we will be going to Madagascar, Mozambique and New Zealand. Two Free the Children trips are also in the pipeline – back to Kenya with a group in October and a visit to their new lodge, Araveli, near Udaipur in August. We will also try to get to Antarctica and the Falklands.

* What is your favourite bolthole in the UK and why?

” I love Cornwall and I think my favourite place is Fowey… but it might be Boscastle – it’s hard to choose!”

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

“I love Marrakesh but have visited a number of times, so perhaps another Moroccan city such as Fez would be great to explore.”

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

“An up-to-date guidebook and a great book to pass away a few hours travelling are the most important items for me. A third ‘must’ is a portable speaker for listening to music and the radio. I really like using Jawbone’s Jambox.”

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

“Great local guides are easily the most important ingredient if you really want to get under the skin of a place.”

* What has been your worst holiday experience?

“Travelling in Burma I picked up an infection. I asked the receptionist to get me a doctor and she produced an old wind up phone to make the call. Despite how terrible I was feeling, I was still able to register my amazement at the phone – I didn’t realise they still existed! Two days in bed with no air conditioning and a high temperature in the middle of the hot season was a fairly memorable experience, but for all the wrong reasons!”

* Tell us your favourite hotel

In the UK: “I don’t stay in many hotels in the UK but if I were to pick my favourite it would have to be Babington House in Somerset.”

In Europe: “In Europe my favourite place to stay is the Ca’Sagredo in Venice, a 15th century palace that has been declared a National Monument.”

Rest of the world: “For me it’s harder to pick my favourite worldwide: perhaps Kuidas Camp in Namibia. This is one of the stops on the Schoeman’s safari, travelling by light aircraft along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. It is really basic with bucket showers, and you eat under a tree, but the location and extreme remoteness make for an incredible experience.”

* What is the most exciting project your company is working on right now?

“We have been arranging trips to Canada for several years but have recently launched a very extensive, in-depth programme to the USA. It has been a long-held ambition of mine to create something that really gets to grips with America and I think we have now done this – it’s proving to be a massive success.”

* Thanks, Craig.

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