Head of trade and partnerships Vicky Billing (in red) and guests celebrate. Credit Riviera Travel

Riviera Travel celebrates 40 years in style

Author: Kaye Holland

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In 1984, Midlands entrepreneur Michael Wright founded travel company Riviera Travel the Burton-based outfit that pioneered coach tours to Paris before taking over the world. Kaye Holland joins in the brand’s 40th birthday celebrations

Forty years ago, Burton-based businessman Michael Wright launched Riviera Travel with just a handful of tents on a campsite in the south of France. The success of this initial foray led Wright to run the first Riviera Travel coach tour to Paris on March 8, 2024 in conjunction with the Burton Mail.

The promotion worked, and, in 1985, Riviera Travel expanded to the Loire Valley before launching a Paris tour with tastings at Ruinart – the oldest champagne house in France – followed by a four-course dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant.

And while the operator has had to upscale a couple of times over the years, their head office very much remains in Burton-upon-Trent.

Over time, Riviera Travel established itself as the UK’s leading operator of not only curated tours but also river cruises – it now operates on the Rhine, Moselle, Danube, Rhône ,Seine, Main, Dutch Waterways, the Douro, the Nile and the Mekong – and glamorous tall-ship voyages.

But some things never change. Case in point? The company’s head office remains firmly in Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, while its values have never wavered. Make no mistake: Riviera Travel’s mission remains as it did in 1984 – to curate an exceptional holiday experience for every guest, exploring the places you can't wait to see with people you can't wait to see again.

Riviera Travel's 40th birthday cake. Credit: Kaye Holland

Indeed Riviera Travel is so sure you’ll be satisfied by its tours that it offers a Happiness Guarantee – so that, in the unlikely event you’re not 100 per cent happy by day two of your trip, you can return home and still be refunded.

With such service, it’s little wonder that Riviera Travel has not only survived but thrived for 40 years – weathering an economic recession, Brexit and a global pandemic.

To mark its milestone birthday, Riviera Travel returned to Paris – where it all began – at the end of last month to throw the ultimate party.

And World of Cruising’s senior digital editor, Kaye Holland, print editor Sarah Riches, chief executive officer Chris Pitchford, and chief operating officer Lina Slater were delighted to receive an invitation to take part in the celebrations – and only to happy to accept!

As part of the memorable birthday bash, the company’s 140-passenger Jane Austen – an identical sister to Lord Byron – made two short cruises on the Seine. During this time, we relished the chance to catch the Eiffel Tower’s dazzling evening light.

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Meanwhile on land, we were whisked to the Atelier des Lumières digital art centre – Paris first digital museum of fine art that’s housed in a former foundry in the eastern part of the city – to catch the Egyptian Pharaohs exhibition.

Back onboard Jane Austen, gala dinners, break dancers, silhouette artists and magicians entertained us all until the early hours. We did, however take a break from partying, to compose our Happy Birthday messages which we’ll share with you, dear reader, here:

“Forty years is a huge achievement for any business so, on behalf of the whole team at World of Cruising, I would like to wish Riviera Travel a very Happy 40th Birthday. It is a huge milestone – and they are a travel company we have been immensely proud to be involved with.”
Kaye Holland

“Riviera Travel has a strong relationship with World of Cruising – that’s been the case for many years. The company we know is a supporter of our publication, but the people working within the organisation are too. Here’s to the next 40 years.”
Chris Pitchford

World of Cruising's Kaye and Lina enjoyed the lavish celebrations. Credit: Lina Slater

“Over the last 40 years, Riviera Travel has been at the heart of the cruise and travel industry. Congratulations to Riviera Travel and everyone associated with the company, on reaching this fantastic milestone.”
Lina Slater

“Happy 40th Birthday Riviera Travel. Congratulations to all at the company, both past and present, on such a big anniversary. It’s quite the achievement.”
Sarah Riches

But don’t just take our word for it. After a difficult few years, we reckon everyone could all do with experiencing a dose of Riviera Travel magic. Find and book your Riviera Travel holiday at www.rivieratravel.co.uk

Riviera Travel's CEO, Phil Hullah, thanks guests for 40 years of support. Credit Riviera Travel
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About Kaye Holland

Kaye is a London-based wordsmith who has written for a range of publications including The Times, The Independent, The I, Culture Trip, The Sun, and ABTA among others. In June 2022, Kaye joined the Real Response Media where she looks – together with Lucy Abbott – after the World of Cruising website. Want to get in touch? Kaye can be reached at: [email protected]