Meet Giles Hawke of Cosmos

Travel Talk

Giles HawkeGiles Hawke, CEO of Cosmos and Avalon, Chair of ATAS and Deputy Chair of CLIA, spoke to Jennie Carr about touring and adventure holidays, changes in travel and the challenges ahead.      

With a foot in both camps, Giles is the ideal person to ask about the difference between touring and cruising. He admits there certainly is one, with touring holidays offering more time at destinations, allowing customers to travel deep into a country’s culture, with local guides providing unique knowledge and arranging priority access to museums and art galleries – it’s the VIP experience in a group. For older visitors, there’s the joy of a tour director who covertly manages logistics and hosts the holiday, which adds security and confidence, should a trip to new places be a slight concern. Giles points out that as most touring travellers are not heading for a sunbed, rather places of interest, cooler spring or autumn weather is often better as it means a less crowded, more personal trip all round. 

I’m interested in the second ‘A’ of ATAS (Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers), which Giles chairs. Rather than Benedict Allen style daring feats, Cosmos provides adventures which create a gentle adrenalin boost and are jolly good fun. Guests do something different to their normal daily life: experiencing new cultures, cooking and eating with a local family, even leisurely white-water rafting. The emphasis is on what you do when you arrive at the destination: in France picking grapes, shopping in food markets and then helping to create a gastronomic meal. Customers, Giles stresses, are experience hungry and this is where touring scores so highly – it is indeed an experience from start to finish. 

Where I ask, are these folks wanting to go on their adventures? Borneo for the orangutan visits, Jordan, Israel, Lourdes for religious tours, South America right down to the tip of Patagonia and Iceland. And he says, some are wanting bolder adventures – Iran and Palestine for example. Cosmos treads a careful line here, between fulfilling requests and sticking closely to the FCO advice. 


Giles is absolutely clear that the most significant developments in travel are the rise of the no frills airlines, which has opened up the world at a very reasonable cost, and technology in cruise ships, which has allowed ships to become vastly bigger, with extraordinary facilities and for cruises to become more affordable.  

Challenges ahead may include over-tourism, he forecasts. There will be restrictions on numbers of visitors in certain destinations, Venice for sure. The reason for travelling to a beautiful place can be instantly removed if all you see are coachloads of other tourists. Tours to the far reaches of Chile will ensure, for now at least, that Giles’ guests should not suffer this fate.   

For escorted tours and leisurely adventures, visit

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Cosmos.

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