European Tour Operators Association bids final farewell to John Boon


John Boon was a vibrant product of an era when inbound tourism, and inbound group tourism in particular, dominated tourism. He was one of the major forces in that industry.

Like so many who later become prominent in travel, John started his career in Global Tours. In his mid-twenties he moved to American Express as a regional contracts manager for UK and Ireland where his role was soon expanded to cover Scandinavia. In the early seventies, Amex, then the biggest deliverer of American clients in Europe, was as much a major tour operator and travel agency as it was a charge card. Here John developed a formidable reputation for companionable cunning in negotiations, a reputation that he carried with him throughout his career.

John’s ability to engage with people, and his detailed knowledge of the product, helped him in his subsequent position in charge of sales and operations for the entire inbound division of American Express UK. This role, which incorporated both corporate and leisure business, made him one of the leaders of tourism in Britain. He was thus a natural chairman of the then British Incoming Tour Operators Association (now UKinbound).

The lure of being in charge of a business drew him to become managing director of Sovereign Tourism. This he led through the stormy business years between 1986 and 1991, before leaving for Anglo World (which he helped sell to Trina Tours) and subsequently Select Travel. It was during this period, he was appointed as chairman of the International Chapters of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). This was a role he relished: representing over 2,000 international ASTA members at conferences, he conducted seminars throughout the world. Subsequent to this, his career at JAC Travel saw him rise to become head of contracts and operations in 2008.

At JAC, and throughout his career, John taught by example: there are hundreds of travel industry managers who learned from him how to cost, contract, and operate tours.

In January 2010, John joined the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) as head of membership services, a role which was made for him. He was proving to be created for that role: his unrivaled experience and range of contacts were put to hourly use. Each day he displayed a youthful zest that amazed his younger colleagues. In the three months he was at ETOA, his bonhomie, stamina, and edge made an enormous impact.

In February, John was delighted to receive a Lifetime Achievement award from UKinbound at their annual conference.

John was working hard on forging new alliances for ETOA when he was diagnosed with cancer in mid-April. While seemingly recovering well from a subsequent operation and in excellent spirits, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

He is survived by a daughter, Georgia, from his marriage to Vivienne, which ended in divorce.

John Boon; tour operator; born May 16, 1943; died April 22, 2010.