George Bales (d. 1998) was the founder of independent family run tour operator Bales Tours, now Bales Worldwide, provider of luxury tailor-made holidays and still going strong in the industry after more than 65 years of diversification.
An RAF wing commander during the Second World War, George began working for an air broker in 1947, a job he lasted in for only three days before deciding to go it alone, and subsequently making his first deal from a telephone box. He went on to work from a friend’s flat before finding an office in London’s Piccadilly, from which he launched British Air Brokers. The company initially specialised in chartering planes from mainland Europe to London, transporting then scarce fruit for sale to the post-war public in Covent Garden.
Over the years that followed, the business expanded to facilitate European air travel for scout groups attending jamborees, and concert tours of renowned orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic. It was in 1960 that George renamed the business Bales Tours and organised the first of his well-received luxury tours, a 16 day excursion to ancient sites around the Middle East. George’s spirit of adventure led to further successful tours of places as wide-reaching as India, Tanzania, Tibet, Borneo, Canada, and the Galapagos. Bales Tours blazed a trail in 1965 as the first tour operator to make headway in China, where visiting tour parties were then an unusual and much commented upon sight.
Molly Hammond, who would later become Mrs Bales, joined the business as George’s secretary in 1948, and continued to play an active part in it along with other members of the Bales family following his death in 1998.
George was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 1995.