Tour operator profile - Audley Travel (UK and USA)
Updated: May 20
First established in 1996 (and originally called ‘Asian Journeys), Audley Travel are now one of the UK’s largest and most respected tour operators. Having cemented themselves as one of the main players in the UK luxury travel market, they then also opened an office in the USA in 2013 to create a presence in North America. They sell tailor-made (FIT) holidays only, each itinerary uniquely designed around the client’s preferences and requirements. Audley sell holidays to destinations across the globe - including Africa, Arabia, Latin America and South East Asia. Japan is one of their most important destinations (by volume), along with Vietnam & Indochina, Peru, New Zealand, Southern Africa and the USA.
Typically, Audley clients are in their 40’s – 60’s and have travelled extensively to many countries with Audley Travel. Their market is mid-market and upwards to luxury, staying in a range of hotels and ryokans; preferably with Japanese character. Most Audley clients travel as married couples, though they also create tailor-made itineraries for families and small groups of friends travelling together. Audley clients are often very independent and travel around Japan using a Japan Rail Pass and then either self-guiding in each destination (supporting travel documents are very comprehensive) or using local guides for daily excursions and activities. They enjoy cultural sights, soft-adventure, local cuisine and insights in to every-day life.
How they sell Japan
The team of ‘Japan Specialists’ – of which there are about 25-30 across their 3 offices – are focused on Japan only, and have been employed because they have either lived in or travelled around Japan extensively. Many are ex-JET participants. Once working at Audley Travel they then spend at least 3 to 6 weeks every year in Japan, travelling on educational and research trips. They know Japan very well indeed and will have first-hand experience of all the destinations, hotels and experiences they sell. It is this first-hand product knowledge of the Japan Specialist which makes them successful.
A client will either email or call a ‘Japan Specialist’ in the Audley Travel office. The goal is then always to have a long, exploratory telephone conversion with the client about Japan, what they want to do, what they like and what they don’t like whilst on holiday. The Japan specialist then creates a tailor-made itinerary for the client, usually approximately 2 weeks long and often including the main sights, plus some enhancements to make it unique.
Their DMC partner in Japan then makes the reservations and operates the itinerary, though with the Audley Japan Specialist remaining the sole point of contact for the client before and after their travel. The DMC only provides support whilst the client is in Japan.
Based on publicly available accounts and company records. However, we have made estimates about the performance of Japan specifically. The following figures are pre-Covid (i.e. 2019).
Company annual turnover: circa $300 million - $400 million (USD) per annum
Japan annual turnover (estimated): $25 million - $40 million (USD) per annum (¥2.73 billion - ¥4.37 billion JPY)
Pax numbers to Japan per annum (estimated): 2,500 – 3,800
Key Competitors: Inside Japan / Steppes Travel / Japan Holiday Architects / Bamboo Travel / Regent Holidays / Selective Asia
Offices: Three offices; Oxfordshire, UK (Head Office) / London, UK / Boston, USA
Working with Audley Travel
Audley work in close partnership with one, sometimes two, DMC partners in Japan. Therefore, to get product included to their portfolio it is essential that you collaborate and contract with this DMC partner for inclusion, and then promote your product / region directly to Audley sta
The ‘Japan Specialists’ who work at Audley Travel are often very knowledgable and passionate about Japan. Many have lived in Japan previously for many years and all have travelled extensively around the country. Audley sends them on in-depth and extended familiarisation / research trips to Japan. They are usually in their late 20’s or 30’s. They only recommend and sell what they have seen /experienced themselves (or something a colleague has seen / experienced). It is therefore essential that Audley staff stay at or experience a product / region. This is achieved by co-operating with the DMC partner and providing complimentary access (without any charge).
Where possible Audley prefer to use hotels and ryokans with local character, Japanese-flavor and ‘boutique’ charm. Their clients want to feel that they are in the ‘real Japan’ and actively seek tatami floors, futon beds and onsen baths.
Most Audley clients are visiting Japan for the first, and only, time as they work through a tick-list of countries they want to visit. (China, Ecuador, South Africa, New Zealand…etc). Because most have only two-weeks (max 17 days) to holiday in Japan, the itinerary will usually need to include Tokyo (2/3 days), Kyoto (2/3/4 days) and often Hiroshima / Miyajima (2/3 days). Therefore, anything they see and do additionally needs to be restricted to 3 or 4 days maximum and easily accessible (using the JR network) from Kanto / Kansai.
Audley are very keen on creating ‘proprietorial’ product – i.e. something they can include on their itineraries which differentiates Audley from their competitors in the UK and USA. If a client can stay somewhere, eat somewhere, experience something available only through Audley Travel, then they will be enthusiastic partners.