David Crossland (b. 1947) is the Lancashire-born businessman who took two small travel agencies and from them built the Airtours package tour empire that was in its day one of the world’s largest holiday companies.
Educated at Burnley Grammar School, David left school in 1963 to become a tea boy at a travel agency, where he quickly showed an adeptness at selling holidays. Nine years later, he borrowed money from his brother-in-law and the bank to buy Pendle Travel Services. Over the course of the 1970s and early 1980s, he acquired 20 more agencies which collectively sold holidays to more than 250,000 people each year. As a result of this, in 1990 he founded Airtours International Airways and with the purchase of the International Leisure Group after its collapse a year later, increased Airtours’ capacity to around 600,000 packages per year. David also bought the Pickfords and Hogg Robinson agency chains, which he transformed into the 800-strong Going Places chain.
Airtours continued to expand, with major operations in 19 countries, rebranding to become MyTravel Group plc in 2002, the same year that Harry announced his retirement. By this time, the number of staff was 27,000-strong and annual profits the preceding year amounted to £147m. Five years later, with David then a nominal shareholder, the company merged with Thomas Cook AG.
Since retiring, David has sold his stake in US cruise operator Carnival for £113m, and owns a private jet, with homes in Jersey in the Channel Islands and Aspen, Colorado.
David Crossland was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 1997.