Mike Gooley, CBE (b. 1936) is the former SAS-officer who after leaving the army founded the tailor-made travel business Trailfinders, the largest independently owned travel company in the UK, and continues to serve as its Chairman.
Mike was born in Sheffield and attended St George’s College in Weybridge, Surrey before joining the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He served as an army officer for the Staffordshire Regiment and Special Air Service from 1955–1969. In 1970, having left the army and with no qualifications, he looked for a way to earn a living. Gold prospecting in Guyana quickly floundered, and Mike considered leading holiday expeditions in Africa but found that there was already a large market to compete against. However, on discovering that high street travel agencies did not go in for arranging such expeditions, Mike identified a niche in the market he felt well suited to.
Trailfinders was founded in 1970 with a staff of four. The early years were tough despite the agency securing repeat business and becoming the number one choice for those interested in long distance overland trips. It was seven years before Trailfinders made its first profit, but it soon turned a corner. Mike was able to exploit discounted seat prices as airlines started using bigger aircraft, and Trailfinders gained a reputation for good value without hidden costs. Thirty years after the business took its tenuous first steps, staff numbers had increased to over 950 and travel arrangements had been made for over 11 million clients.
Mike was awarded a CBE in 2007 for services to the Travel Industry and his charity work through the Mike Gooley Trailfinders Charity, founded in 1995. Mike was honoured by the Hall of Fame in 2001.