Hall of Fame… Peter Kerkar
On Monday 13th April 2015, Cox & Kings’ chief executive, Peter Kerkar, had the honour of being inducted into the Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in a sparkling ceremony at the Dorchester Hotel.
The awards are presented by the industry publications Travel Weekly
and The Caterer
to celebrate outstanding business achievement in the travel, hospitality, leisure and tourism.
Peter Kerkar first joined Cox & Kings as General Manager of its London head office in October 1996, fresh from university at the age of just 23. He had been brought up in Mumbai, India, son of hotelier Ajit Kerkar, who was the driving force behind the growth of the Taj group of luxury hotels, and the interior designer Elizabeth Kerkar who created many of the great interiors for which the Taj hotels are renowned. Prior to moving to London, Peter had graduated from Stanford University, USA, with a BA in Anthropology, but he had precious little business experience.
Cox & Kings has a long history at the heart of the British establishment – its roots stretching all the way back to 1758 when Richard Cox was appointed as agent to the Footguards infantry regiment. The company’s heritage included involvement in banking and shipping, largely related to the military and the administration of the British Empire. Leisure travel, however, was a relatively recent strand of business which had emerged out of the shipping company, and when Peter joined Cox & Kings Travel Ltd it was a relatively small, niche tour operator, predominantly known as specialists in travel to the Indian subcontinent and special interest natural history tours. Under his tenure, Cox & Kings soon diversified to sell Latin America, Middle East, Africa, the Far East and beyond.
Right from the start Peter brought a pioneering, innovative spirit to the company, as seen in initiatives such as the promotion of travel through publication reader-offers, the development of a luxury train in Russia and the introduction of holidays in support of environmental conservation initiatives. The same spirit and energy continues to drive the business almost thirty years on.
Whilst growing the UK business, Peter also oversaw the development of Cox & Kings in the USA, Japan and Australia. Then, in 1997, Cox & Kings took advantage of the relaxation of the India’s foreign exchange rules and burgeoning economy to start organising travel out of India and within the country for the Indian market. In time, through the leadership of Peter and his sister Urrshila, Cox & Kings became the travel market leader in India and the company’s head office moved to Mumbai.
Building on this success, in 2009 Cox & Kings started trading shares on the Mumbai Stock Exchange, which, in turn, enabled the 2011 acquisition of the UK-based Holidaybreak Plc, an education and activity travel group that includes successful and widely recognised brands such as PGL, NST, Explore, Superbreak and Meininger Hotels.
Outside travel, Peter was a founder of the Asian Music Circuit in UK and the company is associated with Magic Bus, an India based charitable institution that takes care of underprivileged children. Cox & Kings is also the travel partner of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in India, through which the wishes of children with life threatening diseases are being fulfilled.
Based in London, Peter is married with two daughters. In his spare time he enjoys golf, painting, photography and cooking.
For almost 30 years Peter Kerkar has been the driving force behind the growth of Cox & Kings from niche tour operator in 1986 to major global travel company in 2015. Today, based in the UK, as the group CEO he is responsible for the overall leadership, strategy and international growth of Cox & Kings and its subsidiaries. And despite the distraction of the Cox & Kings group around the world, Peter retains a particular interest in Cox & Kings’ UK business, where his professional odyssey began.