Were you impressed by the Intrepid Group’s numerous achievements in 2018 – B Corp, fighting human trafficking, NTIA win, Adventure Travel Index, etc.? Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

With 2019 fast approaching, the Intrepid Group’s Chief Executive, James Thornton, can already see how “big” the next 12 months will be for the adventure travel company as growth plans coincide with exciting ‘dirty 30’ celebrations.

In a Q&A with KARRYON, Thornton revealed that exciting developments for 2019 include an expansion of Peregrine’s Adventure Cruising, which has seen “incredible growth” over the last two years, and the release of more Mystery Getaways to follow up on the success of the first highly successful Uncharted Expedition that “sold out virtually overnight”.

Fans of Intrepid’s Urban Adventures (🙋) will be happy to hear that carefully created day tours will be expanding into new cities such as Dublin, Milan, Munich, as well as other key cities across the US.

As a leader in sustainable tourism, the Intrepid Group will continue to focus on environmentally friendly practices in 2019, while also working with Ndevr Environmental Consultants to develop a carbon management plan that goes beyond offsetting.

That’s just the start! Read on for more of our chat with Intrepid’s boss below:

 

2018 has been quite a busy year for the Intrepid Group, which development are you most proud of & why?

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Gaining B Corp Certification was an achievement that I am especially proud of this year, and it was a much longer journey than we anticipated; it took three-years altogether, and a lot of work behind the scenes but has certainly paid off.

B Corp certification is a bit like Fair Trade Certification, but for a whole business. To become certified companies have to meet rigorous standards of social & environmental performance, accountability & public transparency.

Intrepid Group met a rigorous set of standards across the globe- from our Global Head Office in Melbourne, right through to offices in Colombo, Marrakech and beyond. To see the excitement from our team across the globe after we gained certification was fantastic and demonstrates the passion of the Intrepid team around the worldwide and something I am really proud of.

The B Corp Certification provides us with a platform from which to expand our ‘Growing with Purpose’ agenda and proves that business can be a force for good, benefiting all stakeholders; customers, communities and our staff. The movement is really taking off globally, and we expect to see more businesses in Australia join the B Corp community.

 

How do you plan on topping all of Intrepid’s 2018 achievements in 2019?

2019 is a big year for us- it’s the 30-year anniversary of Intrepid, but in many ways, we feel like we are just getting started.

The past few years have shown us that customers no longer view sustainable, experience rich travel as a niche product. In fact, this style of travel is increasingly becoming the preferred type of travel for socially conscious travellers. It’s no longer enough to offer a great product; consumers want to know how they are impacting the places and people that they visit. In 2019 we will be continuing to grow this type of sustainable travel.

We will also be expanding Peregrine’s Adventure Cruising range, which has seen incredible growth in just two years since we first launched, so stay tuned for announcements on this front.

 

Over the last year, Intrepid Travel has introduced all sorts of new tours such as Vegan-based trips, a Mystery Trip, solo-parent trips, etc. what trends do you believe will shape new journeys in 2019?

Our first Uncharted Expedition sold out virtually overnight- it was so fast even we were surprised! It shows us that customers are looking for a true ‘Intrepid-style’ trip off-the-beaten path into the unknown, so we’ll be releasing even more extreme mystery getaways in 2019 to cater to this demand.

With overtourism being a real issue in travel, it’s becoming more valuable to benefit local economies by spreading the tourist dollar over the year. This is why we have recently released new winter itineraries in popular destinations, which include visiting the north east of Turkey in the winter where travellers can drink cinnamon-infused Salep in the streets of Istanbul and see Cappadocia’s chimneys covered in snow- minus the crowds.

Next year, we predict that travellers will demonstrate an even greater resilience to media reports, news, propaganda and fear mongering to make their own minds up on countries like Iran, Egypt and Turkey.

We have seen a rise in travellers visiting the Middle East by 121 per cent and predict that 2019 will see Africa and the Middle East on the rise in a big way. Turkey had a few tough years, but thankfully we have seen a 132 per cent increase in Aussies travelling to the region in September 2018 compared to the same time last year.

 

2018 also saw Intrepid shelve Geckos Adventures, how has this impacted Intrepid Travel’s youth tours?

Our youth travellers have responded really positively to the change, and we saw a surge in sales to trips for travellers aged 18-29 just after the announcement, with sales up 50% globally year on year.

We knew there was an appetite for sustainable and responsible travel experiences for youth travellers. The recent Deloitte Millennials survey reflects this with almost 40% of those surveyed believing that the goal of business should be to ‘improve society.’ Intrepid has long been committed to doing just this, and our customers expect this from us.

 

I had the chance this year to experience my first Urban Adventures, absolutely loved it, but I noticed the brand is missing in certain cities, are there any plans to expand in 2019?

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Urban Adventures is Intrepid Group’s fastest-growing tour operator brand, and we’re creating new trips in new destinations all the time. Just yesterday, we’ve launched our first trip in Scotland, in Edinburgh.

Next year, we’ll add Ireland to the list; with our first-ever day tour in Dublin, and we’ll expand into a range of key cities across the US and Europe, including Milan and Munich.

 

Sustainable travel is high on the list every year for Intrepid, how will you build on your existing initiatives over the next 12 months?

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Intrepid has been a carbon neutral business since 2010 – we offset all our trips, and the emissions from each of our global offices.

It is becoming increasingly important that the tourism industry proactively addresses carbon management solutions, so a key focus for us next year will be how we take this further. We’re working with Ndevr Environmental Consultants on developing a carbon management plan that goes beyond just offsetting.

 

What are some steps travellers or Travel Agents can take to ensure the brands they’re working with are acting responsibly?

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Ask to see their responsible tourism policies. It shows them that customers care and helps to make real change.

Ask how the company supports local communities. What are their policies on animal welfare and child protection?

There is a lot of greenwashing within business these days, and it’s important for travel companies to be truly honest with customers and walk the walk, as well as talking the talk.

 

Have you travelled with Intrepid? Tell us about your experience below.