Rough Guides founder joins

Martin Dunford, one of the founders of the Rough Guides series of travel guides and reference books, has joined forces with the learning holidays specialist

Started by Vanessa Lenssen, specialize in selling high quality learning holidays and experiences online, including language courses, cookery weekends, painting holidays, surf breaks and much more. Vanessa has over 20 years experience in the travel industry, working across a number of sectors, and was previously a Managing Director at STA Travel and MyTravel.

Dunford believes that there’s huge potential in the learning holidays sector.

‘Vanessa has established a great business, and I feel that together we can raise it to the next level. Our ambition for is massive: to become the principal portal for learning and experience-based holidays on the web, with an inspirational and content-rich site that is the last word on this new kind of travel.

It’s a great opportunity. The sector is bigger than most people think, and getting bigger all the time. ’

The numbers bear this out. Just over three million adults attended a course while on holiday over the past three years, and over the past five years the number of consumers swapping beach holidays for trips that educate and provide new experiences has grown by 66%. Society is changing: a zeitgeist culture is driving the need for self-fulfillment, self-expression and status –holidays that satisfy the need to show off a new skill when you get home.

There is also growing interest in travel that can act as a fast-track catalyst for career changes, career progression and major ‘life-shifts’, and significant growth in the singles population and the ‘active retired’, both of which are key markets for  According to National Statistics projections, the singles population in England and Wales is set to grow by almost a third by 2031, when it’s estimated around 45% of the adult population will live in single households.

Dunford continues: ‘Travel is in a relatively mature phase in the UK. For a huge number of people it’s just not enough to fly and flop anymore.  They either want to give something back – hence the rise in volunteering and gap year experiences – or they’re looking for some aspect of self-improvement, hence the rise in activity breaks and in particular learning holidays, which are expected to be the number one growth niche market in travel in the next five years.’

Vanessa Lenssen comments: ‘I’m delighted to have Martin on board at He has a proven track record in building a fantastic brand at Rough Guides, and his experience, expertise and drive to succeed will be a fantastic asset in taking to the next level.’

Martin Dunford