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The day tour revolution is gathering momentum

Travellers are increasingly looking to get under the skin of destinations in the space of just a few hours, with Intrepid's Urban Adventures leading the experiential day tour trend.

Travellers are increasingly looking to get under the skin of destinations in the space of just a few hours, with Intrepid’s Urban Adventures leading the experiential day tour trend.

Think immersive experiences like market tours, food journeys, street art discoveries – sightseeing beyond simply the major landmarks and museums – that last three, five or seven hours.

This week Urban Adventures confirmed Guangzhou as its 150th destination, revealing strong growth and ambitious plans for the future.

The operator will take more than 130,000 passengers on its immersive experiences this year, up from 95,000 last year – not bad for a company that has only been in operation for three years.

With the brand currently operating tours in 91 countries, general manager Tony Carne told KarryOn that its global range is rapidly growing, along with its passenger tally. And neither show any signs of slowing down.

“Our goal is to take it to 250,000 passengers next – another significant jump,” he said.

Tony Carne Headshot_Med

Carne attributed the brand’s success to the absence of serious competition in the experiential tourism space. Existing day tour operators are “playing to slightly different markets” and those operating in the experiential space tend to be smaller.

“We’ve basically taken what Intrepid has been doing for 27 years – trading on people, place, food and transport – and brought that into the day tour market,” he said.

“People relate really well to it.”

Food is “easily” the biggest selling theme for the business, Carne revealed.

“Not everyone has to do a tour, but everyone has to eat three times a day,” he said.

“It can be a stressful thing when you’re in a foreign country, you can’t speak the language and don’t know what some of the food is.”

Urban Adventures’s local guides take their clients on a tour of several food spots, explain how to order food, help them out with the money and give them a feel for the prices. They can then return to those places during the rest of their stay and feel more comfortable about the whole experience.

“That’s a really pleasing thing for us, if we can help people along their travel journey and set them up to explore for themselves,” Carne said.

Many customers have their own ideas about what they want to do with the result that the company is doing a lot more private tours catering to clients’ specific requests. Tokyo and India in particular have become very popular for bespoke touring.


Opportunities also lie in combining its “modular” style of product with other industry offerings – for example hotels and cruise lines.

“At the moment, if we look at what’s available in terms of shore excursions, it’s not dissimilar to what was available in normal day tours before we started,” Carne said.

Meanwhile, Intrepid Travel Group managing director James Thornton identified Urban Adventures as the “fastest growing” brand within the organisation and revealed that Intrepid is investing $1 million in Urban Adventures over the next three years with the aim of getting it to the one million passenger mark in four years.

“The great thing about Urban Adventures is that only 10% of its passengers are already Intrepid Group passengers,” Thornton told KarryOn.

“So 90% are coming from completely new sources, so it’s a great introduction to other brands in the group.”

Have you tried one of Urban Adventures tours yet?