Antony Barton has worked in the travel industry for 16 years, and spent more than ten of those working for tour operators. As head of Groups and School Adventures at The Adventure Company, Antony and his team tailor-make tours that take groups off the beaten track in more than 100 countries.
The best group trip you have ever been on:
I’ve been on so many fantastic group trips, but if I had to pick just one it would be an Adventure Company trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal, in March 2008. Over the nine days we encountered some challenging conditions as there was incredibly high snowfall, but the views from the saddle were spectacular. When we reached base camp, we were the first group there for five days and the teahouse had to be dug out of the snow. Our tour leader was highly experienced and very patient, which is so important. There was also a great sense of camaraderie among our small group of 16.
And the worst?
I’ve never been on a bad group tour, but there are a couple of times that I’ve been on trips with a lot of driving from A to B, and as an active person that can be a little frustrating as I want to be out and about experiencing the destination. It’s really important that you recognise what you want to get out of your trip, and then work with the person organising the itinerary to ensure it suits your needs.
What’s your favourite UK destination for a group day out?
At The Adventure Company, we take schools and other groups all over the world, but we shouldn’t forget that there are some amazing places right on our doorstep. Edinburgh is a compact city that can be explored in a day, and offers culture, history and a taste of the great outdoors if you take a hike up Arthur’s Seat.
What makes a good group trip?
It’s important to recognise that everyone has their own needs and interests, so a good group trip accommodates this. When we’re putting together an itinerary for a group, we take time to meet the travel organiser and try to really understand the dynamics of the group and what they are looking to get out of the experience – rather than just offering them an off-the-shelf package. I think a good group trip has a finely-tuned itinerary and an experienced tour leader who can help the group get the most out of their destination.
What do you always pack?
A pillow for overnight flights, and my iPad – I couldn’t travel without it.
And what do you leave out?
I like to travel light, particularly if I’m going to be touring a country. But it’s not always possible when you have two young children!
What was your favourite trip last year?
Iceland was incredible – stunning landscapes and unique experiences, such as hiking on a glacier and snorkelling in the fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which meet in Thingvellir National Park. We were there in July, and it was surreal to see the sun at midnight.