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Meet the Boss: Nick Van Gruisen, The Ultimate Travel Company

Nick Van Gruisen, The Ultimate Travel Company       The Ultimate Travel Company

In our latest Meet the Boss interview, we talk family holidays with Nick Van Gruisen, Managing Director of the independently-owned The Ultimate Travel Company. Having started his working life as a safari guide in Botswana, Nick worked for Tiger Tops before buying a company called Eco Safaris. As its horizons expanded beyond Africa, the company became Worldwide Journeys and Expeditions until merging with The Ultimate Travel Company.

In March 2012, it acquired the Australia, New Zealand and Canada specialist Bridge & Wickers. The company also has a retail division, corporate travel, escorted tours and a charity travel department. Nick says: “We can arrange virtually every aspect of travel except British rail tickets or outer space.”

Nick is married to Iris and they have two children, Hamish (20) and Tara (18).

Q. Where did you go in 2012?

“We had a wonderful family holiday in Bali, dividing our time between Alila Villas above the coast in Uluwatu, followed by a cruise on the Silonona, a beautiful wooden schooner which cruises the East Indonesian islands.”

Q. Where are you heading in 2013?

“This summer will see us all in Corfu, where I’ve never been, combining days in a villa in the northeast corner or the island with a few trips on a friend’s yacht. Our long haul trip will be to Kenya, with time in the bush at Lewa Downs where I’m planning to run in a TUSK-sponsored half marathon – an interesting experience where spotter planes have to keep an eye out for game and nobody wants to risk coming in last! We’re also going to do some walking at a community-owned ranch called Tassia, followed by days on a beach south of Mombassa.”

Q. Where is your favourite bolthole in the UK, and why?

“The Lake District for all the reasons that have been attracting visitors over the decades. We have a holiday home there, in the Winster Valley near Windermere.”

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

“Lots of temptations but if I had to single out one it would be New York. I love it for the sheer energy of its street life, plus of course the great restaurants, galleries, shops, etc.”

Q. Please tell us three things that are always found in your luggage.

“An all-in-one Leatherman tool kit, a sunhat and decent walking shoes.”

Q. What one thing would improve people’s overall holiday experience?

“Better airports with comfortable places to kill the two hours between check in and take off, rather than shopping malls. Add to that better transport links, shorter queues for everything from check in to passport control and slicker luggage handling.”

Q. What has been your worst holiday experience?

“Flying 66 guests to Buenos Aires to connect with a flight to Ushuaia where we were joining a cruise to the Antarctic – only to be told on arrival that the flight had been cancelled and it would take up to ten days to get all 66 of us to the port! After a lot of stress and ‘discussion’, the airline found an alternative aircraft and we reached the ship in time.”

Q. Tell us your favourite hotel in….

The UK – Hambleton Hall overlooking Rutland Water for all good things: service, food, rooms and location.

Europe – The Cipriani in Venice, made even more special if you travel there by Orient Express.

The rest of the world – it’s back to Bali, at the Alila Villas Uluwatu.

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

“Well, without giving away too many trade secrets, we’re expanding our highly successful programme of Directors’ Tours led by myself or one of my fellow directors, often to places that are perfectly safe to visit, yet people feel reassurance by having a little first hand guidance from one of us. To date we have organised successful Directors’ Tours to Burma, Bhutan, the northern Himalaya (for fishing) and Antarctica.”

Thanks, Nick.

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