Art Tours

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Art Tours's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Art Tours is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Founder James McDonaugh
Cultured adventures for
those seeking inspiration
Established in 2008 by James McDonaugh, Art Tours pride
themselves on providing top-level experiences that simply
cannot be Googled. Creating custom-made trips with a
focus on art education, the company provides “meticulously
researched, designed and executed” adventures for their
clients. Focusing primarily on Europe, James and his team hope
to expand their reach in the coming years. He discusses the
importance of hiring passionate staff and Art Tours’ work at
greater length with
The Parliamentary Review
We are the UK’s leading designer of personally tailored cultural travel in Europe. Each
trip is unique and is designed for a specific client, be they a private client, patron group
or corporation. We create once-in-a-lifetime experiences – you cannot find our trips in
brochures or on the internet and you certainly can’t Google our top-level experiences.
Bringing it to life
Our job is to make art and culture come to life and give clients a sense of place. We
do this by engaging brilliant guides, who have the gift of being able to teach and to
inspire. Our deeply passionate and engaging guides are at the heart of eachjourney.
Our trips include once-in-a-lifetime private visits: to museums, private collections,
private homes and gardens. Our clients cannot find these experiences anywhere
else and we believe this makes their experience all the more precious. We
are professionals and passionate about detail; our itineraries are meticulously
researched, designed and executed to allow for the best possible trips for ourclients.
»Founder: JamesMcDonaugh
»Founded in 2008
»Located in London
»Services: Cultural travel
»No. of employees: 8
»Our major destinations are
Italy, UK, France, Germany,
Spain, Portugal, Greece,
Scandinavia, Eastern Europe
and Russia
Art Tours
Highlighting best practice
The rest is (art) history
Since founding the company in 2008,
inspired by my degree in art history,
turnover has grown by roughly 20
per cent on average year on year. Our
annual turnover is roughly £3 million,
and we maintain healthy margins. We
aim to double the size of our business
in the next five years.
We have funded our own growth and
continue to invest in the team – hiring
the most talented travel designers
in the business – and our specifically
tailored back-office systems. Travel is
all about the loose ends and we have
developed ruthlessly efficient systems
to manage the large volume detail that
makes up our day-to-day work.
We have grown organically,
through word of mouth and more
recently through a select network
of international travel agents. After
12 years in the business we have an
established brand and are recognised
as leaders in our field.
Working from the art
We love what we do. We are all
passionate travellers and our mission
is to teach, educate and inspire. We
believe in what we do; travel can
change people’s lives, especially the
young. We relish designing trips for
families and encouraging the next
generation to get interested in history,
art, music, food, archaeology and
the many other subjects covered on
ourtours. We think of our trips as
“cultured adventures”: they are about
culture in the broadest sense, not just
art, and learning while travelling is an
Teamwork is everything. We are lucky
to work on some large and highly
complex trips, and this often means
drawing on the experience of several
team members to solve a single brief.
When we hire a new team member,
we are looking for a range of qualities.
These are not easy to find, and it
can sometimes take us six months to
recruit someone.
We get to know our clients and
experience has taught us to ask
them the right questions. Most travel
companies essentially want to sell
many packages of the same kind
as this makes most sense for their
business models. We are the opposite;
we create unique journeys.
A marble bust on the
Amalfi Coast
We create
Providing a unique, high-
quality product
We have few competitors when it
comes to our depth of knowledge and
unique product. Yet the industry is
very crowded, and this means it can
be a challenging market to penetrate.
It can also be expensive to acquire
One of the reasons for this is that
everyone thinks they can do travel,
whether it is a concierge company,
someone arranging travel for their
friends or even other tour operators
starting up. Travel has a low barrier
to entry both in economic terms
Probably the single biggest threat to
our business is a political one: Brexit.
We currently operate in countries
across Europe but only pay VAT in
the UK. If the UK does not manage
a deal, we may be forced to declare
VAT in over 20 countries, which
means employing accountants in
each of those countries and declaring
accounts in each of them. For a small
company like ours, this would be a
nightmare and may even put us out
Looking ahead
While most of our clients are British, our
growth is coming from international
clients who have large budgets. We have
been moving away from the UK market
over the past eight years and building
networks in America and Europe. We
are now focused on looking after only
the top-level international museum
patron groups and corporations and
high net worth private clients.
We also hope to invest more in
technology in the future, in the
understanding that every business
is a technology business. We have
designed and built our own CRM
as nothing in the market could do
what we needed it to. This has
brought enormous efficiencies and
we hope to continue investing in
improvements. Finessing where we
invest money in our team ensures
that new development can occur
and we will continue to expand both
geographically and in terms of the
specific services we offer.
We have few
when it comes
to our depth
of knowledge
and unique
Villa la Rotonda, near
Vicenza, northern Italy

This article was sponsored by Art Tours. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development