Obituary Derek Moore – ‘the brightest of guiding lights’

Industry colleagues pay tribute to Explore co-founder and Aito stalwart

Derek Moore made an impression on most people he met.

Many recall his ability to combine professionalism with humour. Others cite his destination knowledge, organisational skills and passion for travel. Almostall remember him as a travel legend.

Not all, however, will be aware how much Derek achieved in his career, from his early days as a geography teacher and overland tour guide to co-founding Explore Worldwide, becoming chairman of Aito, The Specialist Travel Association and, latterly, creating a charity.

All are testament to Derek’s work ethic and outgoing personality.

‘Grand plan’

His entrepreneurial spirit was evident as a student when he rented a 50-seat coach to take people to a Bob Dylan concert and sold seats in his van to get to London.

By 25, Derek already had a ‘grand plan’ to travel the globe; he would go on to visit more than 100 countries.

His first foray in the industry was in 1968 when he bought a Ford Transit minibus to drive 12 tourists to Morocco and back for operator Oasis Safaris. This was followed by a similar role at operator Minitrek, until it went into administration in 1973.

He later joined Penn Overland (later PennWorld) as a tour guide, travelling on buses to Kathmandu. It was there he met Travers Cox and Derek Cook, with whom he set up Explore Worldwide in 1981 after PennWorld’s closure as a result of the impact of the 1979 revolution in Iran.

His 14 years as a tour leader were over but a new chapter involving the running of tours was about to begin.

Those who worked with Derek remember him as a shrewd businessman and operations expert.

At Explore, where he was director of operations and for some time aviation, he was known as a tough taskmaster. Former Explore managing director Ashley Toft, who joined as a tour leader in 1988, recalls a three-hour job interview grilling that ended with a flight ticket for Morocco two days later.

“I had to find the Explore group in Marrakech and Derek set up an incident where someone went missing for me to deal with; he liked to test you!” says Toft.

Toft, who recalls Derek’s vast travel knowledge and business sense, adds: “He was a ‘detail’ guy with a passion for travel. He was very shrewd and worldly; he understood different cultures and the challenges we faced as tour leaders. It was a privilege to have worked with him in those early Explore days.”

John Telfer, non-executive director at Explore parent Hotelplan, remembers Derek as an “incredible negotiator” and “great mentor” during his days as a tour leader.

His contribution to this industry is immeasurable – I’m proud to have known him

“He had high standards but you learnt from that. He taught me to plan, have fallback plans, deal with disasters, train people and work with groups,” says Telfer.

In 1998, Derek handled operations when 12 Explore customers were kidnapped in Yemen, three of whom were killed. He and Cox fielded questions at a 150-strong press conference after the remaining hostages were released a week later.

Telfer recalls Derek was “front and centre” in dealing with the crisis, “putting all his mastery of logistics, planning and media liaison into practice”.

The incident is believed to have been one of the first Al-Qaeda hostage operations. In the wake of this, Explore put together a company crisis manual, written by Derek.

Explore sale

In 2000, Explore was sold to Holidaybreak, reaping Derek around £6 million for his 21.5% stake. He continued as consultant for the brand until 2008 and set up Tailor-Made Groups Company.

As chairman of Aito from 2006 to 2020, and deputy up to his death aged 77, he regularly fought the case for independent specialists.

Former Aito and Abta chairman Noel Josephides recalls him as an “excellent frontman for Aito” thanks to his “brilliant turn of phrase” and “sharp mind”, adding: “We’ll all miss his sound counsel and sense of humour.”

Chris Crampton, chairman, Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) UK & Ireland, credits Derek with inspiring and influencing many generations of travel professionals. “He was an exceptional person who always made you feel like the most important person in the room when you spoke with him. The industry has lost a true travel pioneer, we owe him a great deal,” he says.

For former Aito executive director Kate Kenward, Derek was “the brightest of guiding lights”.

“His contribution to this industry is immeasurable. I’m proud to have known him,” she says, adding: “It was a joy to work for and with Derek and he taught me so much. Such a brilliant mind, a talented, loyal friend and just so much fun to be with.”

Alastair Donnelly, co-founder of Aito member Inside Travel Group, is one of many to describe Derek as a “legend of travel”. He says this was complemented by an “easygoing charm, sound advice – and staying power at the bar.”

Derek’s determination to give back was evident in his creation of The Derek Moore Foundation, which he set up in 2019. It funded small community projects worldwide.

In true Derek style, he did not tell many of his battle with cancer in recent years, and continued to attend industry events.

“He didn’t want pity,” says Kenward. “He wanted people to remember him as he was.”

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