Published: Monday, August 16, 2010 by The Oakland Press
Karen Hardy-Hodgson — a corporate wife armed with a green card and a passion for her homeland — has developed a thriving international boutique cottage travel business.
When she isn’t jumping out of planes, the Sydney native and Australia 2000 Travel founder can be found going on a walkabout or perched above the downtown Birmingham street scene where she creates “trip of a lifetime” adventures for her diverse client-base of honeymooners, retirees and adventure-seeking world travelers.”
“The trip of a lifetime starts with the sparkle of a dream and a sprinkle of magic,” said Hardy-Hodgson. “Each trip is custom-built to tap into the traveler’s dreams.
For example, a recent trip featured two couples who are self-professed food and wine snobs and hobby beekeepers.
They arrived at a beach house by sea plane where they were hosted by a wine connoisseur. The trip featured a private lunch with vintner Peter Lehman at his vineyard and culminated with a personal tour lead by the apiarists at Clifford’s Honey Farm who harvest honey from 130 year old descendants of Italian Liguarian Bees on little Kangaroo Island.
“When I started this business 18 years ago, I had no database, no clients, no computer nor business skills,” said Hardy-Hodgson. “My first iteration aimed to educate travel agents about Australia, but when I responded to a several month old listing in an Australian Catalog Company looking for Aussies and Kiwis to help promote travel to their homelands Australia 2000 Travel was born.”
Hardy-Hodgson regularly attends tourist conventions in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji to cultivate relationships with owners of private yachts, boutique hotels and guest houses and to stay current on all the local tours from the Outback and Great Barrier Reef, to custom culinary and winery tours. Karen also shares a passion for New Zealand which boasts more landform varieties than anywhere else in the world from live volcanoes, caves and glaciers to thermal springs.
“New Zealand is home to 4 million people and about 70 million sheep. I tend to agree when the Kiwis affectionately describe The North Island as beautiful and the South Island as spectacular,” said the Aussie tour operator.