Winter Experiences Feature in WhereverFamilySeptember 20, 2019
Our feature in the Express OnlineSeptember 21, 2019
'One To Watch' Business Feature
in BathLife Magazine
“We take the idea of what a day tour experience should be and turn it on its head” – Jules Mittra
Any local resident will tell you that BathLife magazine is just as central to the heritage of Bath as our ancient Abbey or Roman Baths… We are, therefore, absolutely delighted to feature in its current issue.
BathLife magazine likes ‘to get under the skin of the city we live in, see the sights and get out and meet people, offering an insightful, authoritative take on everything from restaurants to culture, property to fashion, architecture to education and everything in between’.
Jules was honoured to be asked to discuss the company, its pioneering new approach and how that sets us apart from any other tour company… Oh, and he reveals a few personal gems as well!
The Full Article
You’re a specialist day tour company – in a nutshell, can you tell us a bit more about what Around And About Bath does?
Good question. Around and About Bath is taking the idea of what a day tour or local travel experience should be and turning it on its head. We’re pioneering a completely new approach focused entirely on providing our guests with a truly extraordinary, unhurried and engaging experience by creating immersive in-depth journeys of discovery into the ‘England’ we as passionate locals know and love, yet few others, even other locals, encounter or experience.
Tell Us More…
Each ‘Curated Experience’ (day tour) or ‘Historical Dining Experience’ (dining tour) is a chocolate-box adventure for 2-8 guests and shares the must-sees, but also the gems, forgotten stories, remarkable connections, history, food, drink, people, places, routes & experiences that delight & amaze, but are well away from the well-worn and well-known… We cover every cost and are door-to-door so our guests can focus on the experience. We don’t share our itineraries because the surprises & discoveries are part of the ‘Wow!’ factor. Also, we’re keen to protect the communities & environments we visit from over-exposure and mass-tourism.
You’re the founder of the company – when and why did you start it up?
We’ve just turned two – our first tour was in August 2016. My wife and I had been teaching & setting up schools in Zambia for several years but decided to come back in 2016. I’ve never known what I wanted to do with my life but I had wanted to change careers for some time. After years of agonising about what to do, I had an epiphany – stop thinking about what I should do, and think about what I enjoy. I love to travel, history, the local region, meeting people, exchanging thoughts & ideas and exploring. Suddenly, it seemed obvious…
You’re a former history teacher – why did you change careers?
Because I have to believe in what I do. I’m passionate about education, but education should be about building young people to have the confidence, skills and self-awareness to carve their own, meaningful path through life. That’s not the philosophy that governs education today in my opinion.
What sets AAAB apart?
Everything. Our approach, our staff, our commitment to our guests, our structure, our depth. Our passion.
How’s business at the moment?
Tough but encouraging! Just over two years ago, I was launching my very first tour with no idea whether the concept would even work, and now we’re a team of five. We’ve grown quickly because the feedback we’ve had has been so consistently outstanding, but I’m having to learn fast and making lots of mistakes in the process. However, my prime concern is always that our guests’ experience is exceptional every time, and I’m so proud of how our fabulous team continues to ensure we get this right every time!
What sort of tour packages do you offer?
We offer day ‘tours’ such as our ‘Stonehenge & Secret Somerset’ or ‘Hidden Cotswolds & Kings’ Experiences which offer much more than simply sightseeing and include unique insights into culture, history, literature, places, food and drink. We also offer evening dining packages that include transport to and from Bath, outstanding dining, drinks in unique locations but also share some of the most incredible but often unknown local stories, revelations and discoveries… and of course great conversation and a lot of laughter! Finally, we’ve launched some great on-foot city tours this year that offer so much more than a ‘walking tour’ and include encounters with some of Bath’s most intriguing hidden gems, world-renowned specialists, forgotten stories and refreshments in tucked away gems.
What might a typical Bath tour entail?
All of the above!
Generally speaking, what is it that makes Bath special, do you think?
Hmmn. Tough question. Perhaps it’s Bath’s paradoxical nature. It has some of the most spectacular history, attractions and architecture in the UK but also interspersed with some of the worst examples of city planning you’ll find anywhere. It is both serene yet frustratingly it is its unique but very disparate history, its intimate yet intimidating nature, its incredible cultural and historical attractions, its incredible architecture, but most of all to me is its location. There really is nowhere else in England that has such a breadth of landscapes, history, gardens, architecture and experiences so densely packed around it. It is the perfect base from which to discover the essence of England.
Favourite part of Bath?
Larkhall. It’s part of Bath yet it seems so separate as if it has a different pace.
Why is it such a good place to work?
Two things. The people. There are so many interesting, creative and warm people here. Also, the beauty. If I stand almost anywhere in central Bath, it is almost impossible not to be awed by the breathtaking beauty of the architecture, itself set in relief by the stunning natural beauty of the hills behind. It’s truly extraordinary.
Your new winter tours sound exciting – briefly, tell us more about those….
We’re passionate about sharing our passion for our city and beyond with visitors but also our fellow Bathonians! Traditionally, tourism has always been about sight-seeing and visitor numbers tend to dry up in winter. We believe that Bath is a fabulous place to visit throughout the year and want to share the unique seasonal experiences, local artisans, food and drink, heritage and attractions that make it a fabulous place to visit even when its cold and dark. Our winter tours do just that. We spend less time outdoors and more time meeting artisans, discovering fascinating history and enjoying mulled wine and mince pies by the fire of historic country inns whilst sharing intriguing tales of the past.
I’m really excited to see how people respond to them. I’m also especially keen to see more locals join us. We’re getting more and more Brits joining our tours partly because the experience is such an escape it’s like being on holiday, but also because our approach reconnects us so powerfully to our own culture, history and places.
You must have quite a diverse clientele – what sort of people tend to book onto your tours?
We have a hugely diverse clientele; From billionaires and government ministers to overseas students staying in youth hostels. We host a lot of American and Australian guests but are excited to be attracting more British guests and are enjoying a more diverse audience from all over the world. The thing that unites almost all our guests is that they curious, inquisitive thinkers looking for a more meaningful, engaging experience than the typical offering.
Favourite/most interesting aspects of your job?
The relationships and connections with people it brings. I feel truly blessed to have such an amazing team around me and we work with some fabulous partners too. Most of all though, I get so much pleasure from seeing the delight our guests experience as a result of our hard work and care. It’s a great feeling.
Plans for the future?
The plan is to establish the ‘Around and About’ model in Bath, and then, once proven, expand. Out of the blue, a guest on a tour made an offer to invest just two weeks shy of our second birthday, which is hugely encouraging. One step at a time though!
Surprise us with a little-known fact about yourself/the company…
I never intended to set up a business and only came up with the idea just weeks earlier in Cusco, Peru. We were travelling in South America before taking up new posts at a school in the Alps, but Henny wanted to come home. We agreed on the basis that she’d allow me to risk setting up a business. We shook hands on it just before touching down at Heathrow.