Shaper: Alastair Sawday

Show aired on 14th May 2016


Founded in 1994, Sawday’s is celebrating its 20th birthday this year.

In the early nineties, Alastair Sawday’s Tours led travel groups to the hidden delights of France, to B&Bs, farmers and small privately-owned hotels. In 1994, Alastair brought together his favourite discoveries into his first book, French Bed & Breakfast. It was a bestseller. Startled by his success, he did the same for Britain, and then for Spain, Italy and other European countries, and an award-winning publishing house was born. Over the past 20 years Sawday’s has grown organically and entered the digital era, but its gentle campaign against mass tourism and chain hotels continues. What began as one man’s campaign against the grimmer aspects of mass tourism now has 47 staff, over 100 inspectors and 5,000 owner-members, all sharing that vision.

Alastair has had an eclectic career taking him to many parts of the world: he read Law, headed up a VSO programme in Papua New Guinea, taught as a VSO in St Lucia, ran a disaster relief team for Oxfam in Turkey, taught French in the UK, ran as a Green Party candidate and was founder-Chairman of Avon Friends of the Earth.

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“In a way, it has never been a business because I’ve enjoyed doing it too much.”

“…once we start losing track of what it is that drives us I think we have had it.”

“We don’t mind people being eccentric, in fact we love it.”

“I go and stay with Sawday people and they guide and shape my days, and it works beautifully. It’s these relationships which are at the very core of what we do.”

“We’ve turned down sponsorship from countless companies so we are quite focused on doing things ethically. If it costs us our business, well…so be it. Life is too short to do bad business.”

“My long-term plan is to sell most of the company to the employees because we think that’s the right way to run business.”

“I am still bursting to do new things, bring in new ideas, develop the brand.”

“What is going to keep us going and enable us to survive in the long-term is that people trust us. We have complete brand loyalty.”

“…for me, the biggest issue of our time is without any doubt at all: the survival of our planet, climate change. These things, I am entirely passionate and ragingly angry about.”