Austin-Lehman expands into Europe

By Michelle Baran

Austin-Lehman Adventures has entered into an agreement to acquire Euro-Bike and Walking Tours, marking Austin-Lehman's foray into the European market.

The deal is expected to close on Nov. 3, when all of Euro-Bike's assets will be acquired by the Billings, Mont.-based Austin-Lehman. Euro-Bike will be rebranded with the Austin-Lehman name.

Austin-Lehman, run by founders and partners Dan Austin and Paul Lehman, offer itineraries in North and South America and Africa (launched this year).

The acquisition expands Austin-Lehman's destination offerings by 30%. Italy, France, Holland, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic have been added to the Austin-Lehman lineup. In 2009, Austin-Lehman will be offering 26 new Europe itineraries to its existing portfolio of 40 trips.

Euro-Bike and Walking Tours was founded by Hendrick and Ellen Hoeve and Wim van Dijk in 1974, as a U.S.-based bike tour company for Americans traveling in Europe. The company now offers bike and walking trips in 22 destinations throughout Europe.

Austin-Lehman recruited Ron van Dijk, the second-generation director of operations for Euro-Bike, to help run the new business. Kathy Guyer, Euro-Bike's head of U.S. sales based in DeKalb, Ill., will be relocating to the Austin-Lehman office in Billings.

Austin and Lehman said in a joint statement that they decided to go forward with the acquisition despite the current economic environment, because it was something the company had been working toward for two years.

"We operate in a very competitive environment, and we are constantly challenged to work more efficiently -- especially during slow economic times," Austin and Lehman said.

This is Austin-Lehman's second acquisition in the last eight years. In 2000, the operator acquired Backcountry Tours and Adventures Plus.

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