Q & A with Alistair McLean, Founder, The Artisan Travel Company – Northumberland, UK
“Handcrafted, personalized, and enriching tours in Europe and North America.”
WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT YOU ARE EXPERTS AT NORTHERN WINTER HOLIDAYS?
We’d like to think so. Certainly we were one of the very first UK operators to feature holidays in Finnish Lapland. If I had to pick one trip that embodies this experience, it would be our classic Harriniva Winter Adventure trip to Northern Finland. This includes visits to a reindeer farm and dog sledding. It was the first trip we ever offered, and it remains very popular to this day.
IN WHAT OTHER WAYS IS ARTISAN DIFFERENT FROM OTHER UK TRAVEL PROVIDERS?
We are always forward-thinking and trying to be innovative. The tour industry is always growing and competitive, so it’s vital that we differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We are in constant discussions with our overseas partners on ways to improve our trips and make them stand apart from the rest.
AS THE FOUNDER, HOW DOES YOUR PERSONALITY AND VISION INFLUENCE THIS AGENCY?
I am always interested in what’s just beyond the horizon – figuratively and literally. I want to experience our amazing world and its nature and people. That motivates me much more than the latest flashy sports car or big fancy hotel. I’d rather be outside on my bike in some faraway place, and I like being able to offer that kind of experience to others.
Basically we feature the places we love the best ourselves. We try to develop close relationships with small, independent local suppliers. We realize our travellers may very well be new to these places, and so we want them to have new and positive experiences “off the beaten track” as they say. It’s not a hard science - if we love the location and we love the people, most likely we’ll develop a new trip and start featuring it on our website.
CAN YOU BRIEFLY MENTION THE NEWEST TRIPS YOU’VE ADDED?
Our most recent additions are trips to Greenland and also to North America - specifically Alaska and the Yukon territory. These continue our long running theme of northerly and remote. There’s such as big contrast in the way of life in such places compared with the hustle and bustle of UK urban living. It’s just so refreshing to be surrounded by vast expanses of unspoiled wilderness! I’d like to think these new trips will appeal to those who want that experience.
WHAT PLACE APPEALS TO YOU THE MOST RECENTLY?
Alaska! When I first visited Alaska, I expected it to be the greatest place on the planet. It is ten times better than that! I loved every bit of it…whether it’s mountains or glaciers or dog sledding or watching bears or searching for Gold Rush ghosts…..what a place!!
YOU’RE NO LONGER EXCLUSIVELY WINTER HOLIDAYS, IS THAT RIGHT?
Correct. For a long while we were very focused on winter, but our guests kept asking for Artisan summer, so now we offer some fabulous holidays throughout the year.
It’s a mixture. We have some group departures, particularly in the winter months. For the summer, we get more couples or small groups of friends.
HOW ABOUT SINGLE TRAVELLERS?
Yes, we do book single travellers. Often our small groups are actually made up of several single travellers. They share a common bond - a like-minded approach to travel!
WHAT IS TYPICALLY COVERED BY THE TRIP FEE, AND ARE YOUR PRICES COMPETITIVE?
When it comes to pricing, we like to be as transparent as possible, so we include as much as we can in the price. The inclusive nature of our trips sometimes makes us look slightly expensive - but once you add in the “optional extras” offered by other operators which we include in our price, you’ll find that we are very competitive in our particular market.
Responsible travel is at the very core of everything we do and always has been. Our holidays are almost always in more remote destinations where any activity is strongly felt. We can have a positive or a negative impact. It is our responsibility to respect local social, economic, and environmental issues and contribute in the most positive way.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
Life is not about money and material possessions. Life is about experiences and memories and unforgettable moments. We only go around once so we aim to make the absolute most of it.
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