Xanterra Parks & Resorts announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Austin Adventures. Formerly called Austin-Lehman Adventures, this Billings, Mont.-based tour company offers upscale, active adventures throughout the world. The transaction is expected to close in October.
“Austin Adventures is one of the best adventure travel companies on the planet and shares Xanterra’s deep commitment to offering inspirational travel experiences in some of the world’s most beautiful places,” said Andrew N. Todd, president and CEO of Xanterra Parks & Resorts. “We are especially pleased to welcome Dan Austin, who will remain in his current role as president of Austin Adventures, to the Xanterra team. Dan is known throughout the travel industry for his passion for outstanding customer service, and this is one of the reasons he was successful in building Austin Adventures into the award-winning, world-renowned company it is today.”
With a legacy going back nearly 40 years, Austin Adventures offers tours in more than 30 countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa, the South Pacific and the Middle East. The company’s guided adventures include biking, hiking, paddling, safaris, horseback, small ships and snorkeling/swimming while focusing on themes such as culture, gourmet food and wellness.
“With years of offering adventures in national parks, I am personally familiar with the high level of customer service and the serious commitment to sustainability that defines Xanterra, and it is a privilege to join this company,” said Dan Austin. “This announcement comes during one of Austin Adventures’ best years ever, and we expect to see double-digit growth next year. Joining the Xanterra family will help make us stronger, and our customers can expect to see not only the same robust attention to service, but also exciting new offerings in 2014.”
Austin Adventures’ operations will remain in Billings, and there will be no change to current management and staff. Additionally, Austin Adventures will take advantage of synergies with other Xanterra companies. Austin Adventures already added two Windstar Cruises to its 2014 catalog and plans to expand its offerings in national parks where Xanterra operates, including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Glacier National Parks.
Austin Adventures is known for offering high-end family-friendly adventures, and the company’s offerings complement its new sister adventure travel company, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, which is especially popular with active empty nesters.
Consistently rated as one of the world’s top tour operators, Austin Adventures received numerous awards in 2012. Travel + Leisure named the company as the “Top Tour Operator and Safari Outfitter for Families,” the number two “Tour Operator in the World” and a “World's Best Value for Tour Operators and Safari Outfitters." National Geographic Traveler recognized the company’s offerings in its list of 50 Tours of a Lifetime, and Outside Magazine named Austin Adventures a “Hall of Fame Travel Awards Recipient.”
This is the latest of several Xanterra expansion announcements this year, including the acquisition of three cruise ships from Seabourn and the 20-year contract renewal to operate concessions at Yellowstone National Park. In mid-August, the National Park Service announced that Xanterra was awarded the Glacier National Park concession contract beginning in 2014. Other recent Xanterra acquisitions include Kingsmill Resort in 2010; Windstar Cruises in 2011; and VBT Walking and Bicycling Vacations and The Grand Hotel in 2012 and Kingsmill Realty in 2013.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts has grown into a diversified global hospitality company with offerings on the sea, rails and land. The company has expanded its revenue base by more than 50 percent in the last three years alone and continues to look for new opportunities to build on its diverse leisure travel portfolio.
A Brief History of Xanterra
Like many U.S. companies with a long and significant history, Xanterra Parks & Resorts’ corporate family tree has many branches. Xanterra traces its roots to 1876 when visionary Fred Harvey partnered with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway to fill the need for high-quality food for rail travelers. Harvey Houses built at stops along the railroad provided good food served quickly, a new experience for train passengers who previously had only poor-quality food available during their trips to destinations across the American West. In the early part of the 20th century, the Fred Harvey Company began expanding operations to include concessions in national parks as well as other tourism businesses nationwide. Xanterra purchased the Fred Harvey Company in 1968 and with the acquisition of TW Recreational Services in 1995, became the largest national and state park operator in the U.S. Denver-based Anschutz Company acquired Xanterra in 2008.
Xanterra strives to provide legendary hospitality with a softer footprint. For example, following the 2007 acquisition of the 112-year-old Grand Canyon Railway (GCR), Xanterra converted the train to an all-diesel fleet for environmental reasons. But in a nod to the historic appeal of the steam train, GCR developed a way to power an occasional steam train run to the park using recycled vegetable oil from the company’s restaurant kitchens.
Xanterra will continue to seek acquisition opportunities to grow its leisure tourism portfolio. The company will also take advantage of synergies within its operations, including developing across-the-board environmental management practices and launching health and wellness initiatives encouraging employees and guests to enjoy the great outdoors in these unique and spectacular destinations.
Known for its “Legendary Hospitality with a Softer Footprint,” Xanterra Parks & Resorts® entities include lodges, restaurants, tours and activities in national and state parks and resorts as well as a cruise line, railway and tour operator. Xanterra Parks & Resorts has operations in the Grand Canyon, including Grand Canyon Railway and The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz.; Yellowstone; Zion; Crater Lake; Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., Windstar Cruises and VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.