History of Abercrombie & Kent
April 30, 2010
Abercrombie & Kent pioneered luxury adventure travel with the first African photographic safaris in 1962. Today its award-winning travel services extend around the globe to more than 100 countries on all seven continents. A&K’s custom itineraries and small-group journeys offer one-of-a-kind inspiring experiences, while 52 on-site offices ensure invitation-only access to the people and places that make every destination unique.
In recognition of Abercrombie & Kent’s 50th Anniversary in 2012, Geoffrey Kent was inducted into the British Travel and Hospitality Industry Hall of Fame on April 17, 2012.
The secret of the company’s success begins with its history. Geoffrey Kent’s life began, much as he continues to live it today, amidst excitement and adventure in an exotic location.He was born while his parents, Colonel John and Valerie Kent, were on safari in Northern Rhodesia, which is now Zambia. Growing up on the family farm in the Aberdare Highlands of Kenya, Kent's childhood was spent in the wilds untamed Africa. He attended the then-new Duke of York School in Nairobi, which would ultimately produce many of Kenya's business and science leaders.
At the tender age of 16, he undertook an initial solitary exploration of the African continent that would in many ways come to define the course of his life. On a momentous two-month trek, Kent became the first to travel by motorbike the 5,000 often-treacherous miles between Nairobi, Kenya, and Cape Town, South Africa.
After attending the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, he saw service in such far-flung countries as Bahrain, Kuwait and Malta. His distinguished armed forces career was cut relatively short as a result of hearing damage from years spent in heavy tanks.
Back in Kenya, the irrepressible Kent joined his parents in founding Abercrombie & Kent.Using experience gained in the British military, he repositioned the safari experience as “hunt with a camera, not with a gun” and introduced the first mobile tented safaris with refrigeration that made it possible to have fresh meat, fruit, vegetables and ice in the bush.
By 1967 his parents had retired and he moved full bore into turning Abercrombie & Kent into the internationally renowned luxury travel powerhouse that it is today. With the innate skill of a consummate businessman and the relentless curiosity of a born explorer, Kent created a company that enables travelers to literally discover the world around them - and to do it in a uniquely stylish manner.
In the 1970s, he entered into partnership with Jorie Ford Butler of Oak Brook, Illinois, to expand Abercrombie & Kent.To this day, they continue to travel the world in search of the kinds of adventures that will surprise and thrill their guests. Under their passionate and visionary guidance -- Geoffrey Kent serves as Chairman and CEO, Jorie Butler Kent as Vice Chairman -- Abercrombie & Kent represents the uncompromising best at every turn in the road.
Abercrombie & Kent offers its guests unrivaled service, with more experts in more places than any other travel company. It was the first to focus on “experiential” travel, beginning with safaris in Africa, then as the first international tour operator in China and finally by turning adventure cruising into a luxury pursuit. Further distinguishing A&K is the fact that the company owns luxury safari lodges in pristine wilderness areas, including Sanctuary Chief's Camp and Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero in Botswana (featured in Architectural Digest, Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure); exclusive rights to camps with some of Africa's finest game-viewing; a fleet of well-maintained ground transport vehicles; the Sanctuary Sun Boats on the Nile, considered by Opinionated Traveler as “Cadillacs of the waterways, offering cleanliness, comfort and excellent food and service," in addition to the finest boutique cruise ship in China, Sanctuary ‘Yangzi Explorer’ and the most luxurious river cruiser in Myanmar, Sanctuary ‘Ananda.’ A&K also creates memorable travel experiences built around ‘Le Boreal,’ the only all-balcony expedition ship in Antarctica and the Arctic, in addition to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and Royal Scotsman luxury trains, and more than 30 canal and river cruisers in Europe, Asia and the Amazon.
The Kent formula of providing a "luxury cocoon" from which to explore the world attracts prominent guests as diverse as James Brolin, Kristin Davis, Bill Gates, John Grisham, Tom Hanks, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Goldie Hawn, Lauren Hutton, Sharon Lawrence, Liam Neeson, Rachael Ray, Diane Sawyer, Jane Seymour, Barbara Walters, Denzel Washington and Oprah Winfrey.These high-profile travellers are among the literally thousands of well-known people who have journeyed to the wildest and most remote corners of the globe with A&K.
A keen and abiding passion for wildlife has been the centerpiece of both the careers and personal lives of Geoffrey Kent and Jorie Butler Kent. In 1982 they founded Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy (AKP), an award-winning nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting ecosystems and wildlife, while supporting indigenous communities. Working through A&K offices around the globe, AKP makes it possible for A&K guests to give back to the places they visit.These efforts were recognized by the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards for sustainable tourism, Condé Nast Traveler with theirWorld Savers Award for leadership in social responsibility and by Travel + Leisure with their Global Vision Award for Leadership in Philanthropic Travel.Find more information this legacy of philanthropy at www.akphilanthropy.org.
The U.S. headquarters for Abercrombie & Kent are just outside Chicago in Downers Grove, Illinois. The Abercrombie & Kent Group of Companies has 52 offices around the world employing more than 2,500 travel professionals.
Abercrombie & Kent has long been the choice of travel agents, voted “World’s Leading Luxury Tour Operator” at the World Travel Awards, “Best Luxury Tour Operator” by Travel Weekly, “Best Luxury Tour Operator” by Luxury Travel Advisor, “Best Worldwide Tour Operator” by Porthole, along with “Best Tour Operator Africa/Middle East” by readers of TravelAge West, Recommend and Agent@Home.
Destination guides -- with suggested day-by-day itineraries, maps, weather charts, visa and health requirements – are available at www.abercrombiekent.com or by calling 800 554 7094. Learn more about the world of A&K on Facebook (facebook.com/abercrombiekent) and Twitter: @AKTravel_USA.