Anne Majumdar

Growing demand for sustainable travel has seen the Intrepid Group report a 29% sales spike in January, hot on the heels of a record 17% revenue growth in 2017.

The carbon-neutral travel company saw revenue hit $350m last year – its second year of record growth following its 2015 split from TUI.

Chief executive James Thornton told KarryOn that the business is in a “pretty sweet spot”.


So what exactly is Intrepid doing so right?

According to Thornton, it comes down to two key points – having the business back under private ownership and its focus on operating a business that has “purpose beyond profit”.

“The irony is, having a purpose beyond profit is actually turning out to be quite profitable,” he said.

That purpose includes banning elephant rides, bringing an end to orphanage tourism, speaking out on climate change, Trump’s travel ban and same sex marriage.


“The thing we learnt this year is if we share our purpose with our customers, do the right thing and clearly communicate why we’re doing it then our customers who’ve always supported us will continue to do so. But more than that, we will find new customers that share our vision,” Thornton said.

“There’s real business value in doing the right thing.”

The strong desire among travellers for experiences is also working in the company’s favour.

Intrepid Travel Cycling Tours - Cambodia

Intrepid Travel Cycling Tours – Cambodia

That growing demand is the result of people trying to make sense of the polarised world we currently inhabit, according to Thornton.

“We’ve seen some pretty poor politics in some parts of world like the US,” he expanded.

“People want to really understand what is going on and get under the skin of a destination.”

That’s done through meeting local people, trying local food, staying in local accommodation and just generally getting off the beaten track – all things which Intrepid has offered since its inception.

Intrepid food 2

“As a result, they get a deeper understanding of what’s going on in the world – beyond what we’ve seen in the headlines over the last year or so,” he said.

Another important part of Intrepid’s formula, according to Thornton, is its ownership of the destination management companies that operate the tours in 20 different destinations.

In 2017, it opened operations in Japan, Iceland and Central America working its way towards a goal of 30.

“It just gives us greater control of the product and greater control of delivering quality experiences,” he said.


Did you travel with the Intrepid Group in 2017?