Geoffrey JW Kent, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
March 12, 2012Geoffrey Kent’s life began much as he lives 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 (now Zambia). He grew up on the family farm in the Aberdare Highlands of Kenya and attended the then-new Duke of York School in Nairobi, which produced many of Kenya’s business and science leaders, including Richard Leakey.
At the tender age of 16, he undertook an initial solitary exploration of the African continent that would in many ways define the course of his life. On this momentous two-month trek, he became the first individual to travel by motorbike the 5,000 often treacherous miles between Kenya and Cape Town, South Africa.
After attending the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, he saw service in such far-flung countries as Bahrain, Aden, Oman, Yemen, Cyprus, Libya and Malta. After his last posting as Aide-de-Camp to General John Frost, of ‘A Bridge Too Far’ fame, his armed forces career was cut short as a result of hearing damage from years spent in heavy tanks.
While still serving in the British Army Geoffrey joined his parents in founding Abercrombie & Kent in Kenya. By 1967, the elder Kent retired and Geoffrey moved full bore into turning A&K into the internationally renowned luxury travel powerhouse it is today with 52 offices around the world and 2500 employees.
He also became a world-class polo player, winning the US Open twice, the US Gold Cup, the Cartier International and the World Cup. He served as captain of the Windsor Park polo team, on which he played with HRH The Prince of Wales.
With the innate skill of an entrepreneur and the relentless curiosity of a born explorer, he built a company that enables travelers to literally discover the world around them—and to do it in a uniquely stylish manner. A&K offered its first Royal Air Tour in 1989 and was the first to feature the supersonic Concorde from British Airways. Geoffrey recently returned from hosting a trip around-the-world -- the first with fully lie-flat seats – that included Easter Island, Samoa, Komodo, Sri Lanka and Madagascar.
Abercrombie & Kent designs many of its own luxury products, such as the award-winning Sanctuary Retreats camps and lodges in Africa, three Sun Boats on the Nile, the Yangzi Explorer in China, and the new Sanctuary Ananda on the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar.
The Kent formula of providing a “luxury cocoon” from which to explore the world has attracted more than 250,000 clients per year. A host of prominent personalities have travelled with A&K: Bill Gates, David Rockefeller, Ted Turner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Henry Kissinger, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, pop singer ‘Sting’, Robert De Niro, Hugh Jackman, Ben Stiller, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Cameron Diaz, Elle Macpherson, President Jimmy Carter and First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush are among those who have journeyed to the most remote corners of the globe.
A keen and abiding passion for wildlife preservation has marked both Geoffrey Kent’s career and personal life. He is a member of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Leadership Council for Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The Los Angeles Times described A&K as "a highly respected company dedicated to conservation and environmentally intelligent tourism.” His commitment to sustainable tourism has been recognized by Travel + Leisure with the Global Vision Award and by Conde Nast Traveler at the World Savers Congress.
He was also a founding member of the World Travel & Tourism Council and is its Immediate Past Chairman. Bill Marriott credited his leadership with taking the organization beyond its focus on the economic impact of travel and tourism to the vital contribution it makes to social and cultural sustainability.
When Geoffrey Kent was inducted into the UK Travel Hall of Fame, he was lauded for creating ‘Experiential Travel’ by bringing the same sense of adventure found on safari to destinations around the world.