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APT's secret to being fabulous at 90

This year APT celebrates 90 years in business, having remained a family-owned company since its creation in the 1920s – an amazing feat in this age of big corporations.

This year APT celebrates 90 years in business, having remained a family-owned company since its creation in the 1920s – an amazing feat in this age of big corporations.

So how has it weathered the seismic shifts that have rocked Australia’s travel industry?

By continually surveying the opportunities and staying on top of the trends, according to managing director Chris Hall.

“We know that there is really tough competition out there and we need to stay ahead of the game, keep thinking and reinventing,” he tells KarryOn.

“It doesn’t have to always be different. Sometimes just doing the same old same old gets better results.

“But where there are opportunities to improve, I think we’re really good at embracing that.”

Of course, staying ahead of the pack in a competitive industry amid turbulent times remains an ongoing struggle, executive general manager global marketing and sales Debra Fox admits.

“World events are always a challenge in this industry and, like all travel operators, the more global our business has become, the more exposed we are to them,” she tells KarryOn.

As a result, APT has diversified, expanding its offering into multiple brands, products, destinations and modes of transport.

“Being flexible, adaptable and ensuring that we put our guests at the centre of our decision-making helps us overcome all challenges,” Fox says.

“The diversit of our product and destination portfolio means that clients can still travel with APT when an event occurs that causes them to reconsider their original travel plans, and perhaps come back to their original choice later.”


Thanks to the family-owned nature of the company, any issues of this nature, or even those on the customer service front, can be swiftly dealt with and changes put in place.

So what does the immediate future hold for the industry stalwart?

APT expects 2017 will be “huge”.

“Our Celebration Sale  is in full swing and we will be highly visible in the next few weeks as we are once again a broadcast sponsor of Channel Seven’s ‘Summer of Tennis’, and for the first time this year, we’re an advertising partner for the Summer of Cricket on Nine,” Fox reveals. In addition, there will be a travel special feature on Better Homes and Gardens.

Beyond that, expect more destinations, more experiences and new ways of doing things.

“Geoff McGeary has instilled in the company a continuous improvement and development ethos,” Fox says.


A trip down memory lane


Let’s turn back time and take a look at the company’s humble beginnings, when 24-year-old mechanic Bill McGeary saw an opportunity during a tram strike in Melbourne, building a bus body on a tray truck to ferry stranded commuters from Northcote to Clifton Hill.

The next 20 years saw him buy more routes and more buses off the back of that one gamble.

Ever in search of opportunity, McGeary then secured school run contracts for a number of private schools as well as running trips to greyhound and harness racing events.

But when Bill’s health began to suffer in the mid-1950s, that of the business did too prompting his son, Geoff who was then only 19, to step in to save it.

Entrepreneurial and hungry to discover the world, Geoff had ideas of his own.

Image credit: APT

Image credit: APT

And his big idea was domestic tourism. At the time, there was growing interest in travel around Australia, making it the perfect time to launch camping holidays to Queensland and Central Australia.

By the 1970s, McGeary’s Parlour Coaches had become Australian Pacific Coaches now operating day tours and themed getaways.

The name changed again in the mid-70s to Australian Pacific Touring (APT). It wasn’t only a name change, now the company offered international itineraries too. First to be added to the program was New Zealand, followed by Canada and Alaska in 1991.


Its next move was to incorporate luxury rail and cruise to its growing repertoire.

In 2005, Geoff spotted another opportunity, creating of APT’s Europe River Cruise business. The program has gone from strength to strength over the years with the addition of plenty of new ships and destinations. Now it sails in Asia, the US and South America as well as Europe.

To cap it all off, Geoff was also honoured with the Order of Australia Medal for his services to Australian tourism in 2014. Just two years later, he was named an Australian Tourism Legend at the 2015 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.

APT also walked away from the 2016 National Travel Industry Awards with trophies for Best River Cruise Operator and Best Domestic Tour Operator.


Exciting times indeed. Happy anniversary APT.


Are you travelling with APT in its 90th anniversary year?