In pursuit of a dream – building a world-class adventure travel company.
The history of Austin Adventures is really the history of founder Dan Austin’s passion to create the world’s best travel company. Dan wasn’t born into travel. In fact, he got his start in construction management in places like Alaska and Hawaii.
But along the way he became enamored with global travel and the personal transformation it brings. Dan first cut his teeth in the adventure world as a commercial rafting outfitter in the mid-1970s, learning firsthand how to (and how not to) put a smile on a customer’s face.
With a taste for success, Dan continued his wanderlust for business building and active travel. A major epiphany took place for Dan during the 1990s that would set him on the path he is still forging today. It was a group bike trip in Wyoming that he took with Bozeman, Montana-based Backcountry Tours.
After his trip, Dan was sold on adventure travel. He leveraged his knack for business and customer service, and with the help of a few friends willing to invest, purchased Backcountry Tours. He had a vision and a talent for it and in his first season increased bookings by nearly 50%. Three years later he had the know-how and capital to launch a new concept of his own, a “higher-end” active tour company he named Adventures Plus offering both biking tours and multi-sport adventures.
Then fate arrived at Dan’s door. At a travel show Dan met Paul Lehman and immediately struck up a friendship. They quickly found out that they both shared the vision of creating the preeminent active travel company. Change was in the air. It was 2000, a new millennium, and Austin-Lehman Adventures was born from Adventures Plus. Headquarters were established in Billings, Montana, Backcountry Tours was soon acquired, and the dream was under way.
With a new vision to carefully expand the ALA brand of all-inclusive, upscale, active and culturally rewarding vacations throughout the world, new programs were developed in Central and South America (starting in 2003) and Southern Africa (launching in 2008). In the fall of 2008 ALA acquired the distinctive 34-year legacy of Euro-Bike & Walking Tours and for the 2009 season, added 26 new European biking and family programs to their portfolio. Future years saw the addition of tours to Morocco, Israel, Greece, New Zealand, and Slovenia among others.
In 2010, Lehman left ALA to pursue personal interests, but essentially, everything stayed the same, from the guides to the staff and the trips and even the company’s name! With hard work, innovation and the support of an exceptional staff and loyal following of alumni travelers it did not take long for Austin-Lehman Adventures to get noticed. Within two years of inception, major publications such as National Geographic Traveler, Chicago Tribune, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Outside and the New York Times were all taking note and singing praises of ALA’s unique style of travel. In 2009 the readers of Travel + Leisure named Austin-Lehman Adventures the World’s Best Tour Operator, an accomplishment that was repeated again in 2010.
In 2012, Travel + Leisure awarded ALA with the title of Top Tour Operator and Safari Outfitter for Families. The same year, National Geographic Traveler recognized ALA trips in its list of 50 Tours of a Lifetime and the company received a Hall of Fame Travel Award from Outside Magazine. For a more comprehensive list of awards that the company has won throughout the years, see here.
In September of 2013, Austin-Lehman Adventures became Austin Adventures when the company was acquired by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a diversified global hospitality company with a storied history and operations on the sea, rails and land.
Dan stayed on as president of Austin Adventures, and there were no changes made to the company’s management, staff or location. But as a result of the acquisition, Austin Adventures is able to take advantage of relationships with other properties in the Xanterra portfolio. For example, Austin Adventures added two Windstar Cruises to its 2014 catalog.
Stay tuned or contact [email protected] to learn about the exciting things that are in store for 2015!
In late 2017 our Founder and President Dan Austin purchased Xanterra’s shares of Austin Adventures back and Austin Adventures is now a completely family owned company.