Renaissance Tours is Australia’s leading operator of special interest and cultural tours and cruises in the fields of opera, music, ballet, art, architecture and gardens. The company prides itself on offering Australia’s finest collection of unique, meticulously designed and operated expert-led cultural experiences for the discerning traveller.
The company was founded in 1996 by Hugh Hallard with a tour to the Chicago Lyric Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle for the Patrons and Friends of Opera Australia. Since then, a long-term association has developed between Opera Australia and Renaissance Tours, with well over 120 opera tours arranged to date.
In 1999, the company introduced ballet tours, designed to introduce ballet lovers to the world’s great ballet and dance companies, followed shortly afterwards by a program of music lovers’ tours, featuring performances by the great orchestras, conductors and soloists of the world – all in the company of music experts.
Since 2002, Renaissance Tours has also developed, in partnership with the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales, a very successful specialised program of art, architecture and cultural tours, led by academics from Australian and international universities, curators and staff of the Art Gallery of NSW, and some of the country’s leading art critics.
The company’s tour collection is made complete with a series of garden and short break tours, as well as a number of exclusive river and sea cruises.
Evan Petrelis – Managing Director
Evan joined Renaissance Tours in May 2016 following a long-standing interest in special interest and cultural travel. In October 2017, he acquired the business from founder Hugh Hallard.
Prior to joining Renaissance Tours, he had a successful 20-year career in communications and public relations consulting, including roles in organisations including Airbus, McKinsey & Company and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and with agencies including Sefiani Communications Group and BWD.
Born and raised in South Africa, he has a Masters degree in translation and interpreting. Apart from his mother tongue, English, he speaks German, French, Portuguese, Greek and Afrikaans.
Catherine Griffiths – Head of Product
Hailing from Melbourne, Catherine plans and creates new tour concepts to different countries, while negotiating with suppliers, to create tours of uniqueness and exclusivity. She enjoys bushwalking and has also initiated ongoing support for a community village in Uganda.
David J. Townsend – Product Manger
David graduated from the University of Sydney in law and languages before working as a lawyer, and then moving to the UK to study at the University of Oxford. While in Oxford, he was president of his college’s student government for two years and was then elected as the president of the Student Union for the whole university. He has travelled extensively and is currently studying Hindi.
Catherine de Prinse – Product Manager
As a pianist and violinist, Catherine spent her university years curating, conducting and performing in multiple ensembles around Adelaide. Following graduation, Catherine moved to Beijing as Musical Director of China’s largest local English theatre. Now back home, she is an advocate for youth engagement with classical music, of learning Asian languages, and of taking country Australia road trips.
Fanny Gibert – Product Manger
A French native speaker from Paris, Fanny has been passionate about travel ever since she started travelling with her family as a young child. Since then, she has lived in many different countries and explored every continent except Antarctica (so far). She holds an undergraduate degree in languages and a Master’s degree in tourism. She worked in India as a Branch Office Manager for a travel company for several years and loves traveling in this ‘incredible’ country. Before moving to Australia, she returned to her native France and worked for five years as Asia Product Manager for France’s largest travel group, organising tours throughout Central Asia, the Himalayas and the Indian subcontinent. She likes hiking, experiencing different cultures and tasting exotic new foods.
Filomena Maio – Client Services Manager
Filomena manages our Client Services team and Customer Service ensuring clients request are handled efficiently and accurately. Filomena enjoys cruising holidays, loves exploring new cultures and is a self-confessed gym-junkie.
Elise Hudson – Client Services Consultant
Elise has worked in Operations and Management in Tourism, Hospitality and the Music Industry, for most of her career. She has a BA in Music (Contemporary Performance), Cert. III in Travel, Cert III in Entertainment (technical operations) and is completing a BA in Modern History. Her passions are nature, the outdoors, music and cooking.
Rebecca Kitlinska – Head of Operations
Born and raised in Sydney, Rebecca has over 13 years’ experience working in the tourism industry, both within reservations and operations. She lived overseas for 4 years, volunteering with an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, working as an English teacher in Italy for 3 years, with a brief stint in Poland, before returning home to the beaches of Australia which she loves. Rebecca is passionate about all things travel and her favourite destination is Laos.
James Cao – Operations Manager
Born in Inner Mongolia, James works in our Operations Department, creating and operating special interest tours to mainland China and beyond. He spent his childhood travelling, with his doctor mother, to remote areas of the Mongolian countryside, developing a love for nature and animals, having no playmates around. He has a BA in Hospitality and an MBA in Tourism Management and is able to communicate in many local Chinese dialects. He was trained as a dancer and swimmer from a young age, and is knowledgeable in Chinese ballet, Beijing Opera and Chinese classical literature.
Carles Gil Pujals – Operations Manager
A bilingual Spanish and Catalan native speaker from Barcelona, Carles worked as a holiday representative in Mallorca and Jamaica, offering sightseeing advice, organising excursions and ensuring holidays ran smoothly. He also liaised with accommodation owners, agents, restaurants and coach companies. Before moving to Australia he returned to his homeland to work as an Incoming Operations Agent. He is passionate about life, enjoying all types of music as well as Caribbean rhythms, and loves living next to the sea.
Bryan Griffin – Operations Manager
Bryan, from Papua New Guinea, moved to Australia in the late 70s to complete his education. He is as passionate about travel as he is about entertainment – in the past combining performing on cruises as a Cabaret dancer with travelling to exotic destinations. Bryan is well-versed in the South Pacific region, having worked at Hoot Holidays (formerly Specialist Holidays) for over thirteen years. He enjoys art, cooking, sports, experiencing different cultures and having a good laugh.
Kirsty Archer – Operations Manager
Kirsty has worked in the tourism and events industries all her professional life, except for a period of two years when she taught English Conversation to high school students in Japan. The wonderful experience of living in Japan fostered an enduring love of all things Japanese. While travelling and experiencing new cultures is her greatest passion, Kirsten is an enthusiastic participant in all of the arts and is a keen gardener.
Sheridan Packer – Graphic Designer
With over 20 years’ experience in publishing and graphic design, Sheridan loves Flamenco dancing, soccer and archaeology – her interests in the Byzantine Empire piqued after a trip to Turkey. She has snorkelled with sting rays in the Great Barrier Reef, surfed in Biarritz and flown over Cappadocia in a hot air balloon. Inspired by street fashion in New York, Paris and Milan, she enjoys artisan coffee and is happiest with bare feet and salty hair.
Daniel Gao – Finance Manager
Born in China, Daniel arrived in Australia at age 16, where he studied and graduated from UNSW. He started with Renaissance Tours as an intern, and was later offered a permanent position with us – his very first job. He loves to travel, and his favourite sport is Soccer.
Annie Chen – Accounts Assistant
Born in China, Annie studied in Brisbane before moving to Sydney, where she completed Bachelor and Master degrees at the University of New South Wales. She has since worked in public practice, assisting companies and individuals with financial and tax matters. Annie loves baking, travelling and photography. She is currently studying Korean and is looking forward to learning more languages in the future to further her travel experience.