Bruce Poon Tip is a busy man. Over the next 10 days he’s travelling to Rio, London, Edinburgh, Tokyo and Chicago. So CT gets in quick with some questions to find out all the latest news from G Adventures
All images: G Adventures
What’s new at G Adventures?
Our Local Living program which we’ve recently expanded. The brand is a game-changer for us, taking people to various parts of the world where they can live locally. That could be a Masai village in Kenya, Quichua family in the Amazon jungle, nomadic tribe in Mongolia, farm villa in Croatia or at an agriturismo in Southern Tuscany.
Why do you think this kind of travel is a big hit with Canadians?
The world is changing in terms of what people want from travel. They don’t want just a week on the beach; they want more. And travel agents are selling more experiential travel and adventure holidays.
We are promoting the travel agent because our travellers really need to speak to a travel professional. Our product is not a commodity product, where they’re trying to sell last-minute capacity. It’s a product where the client needs someone to sit in front of them and provide a service; to provide travel advice. At some point they want contact with someone to talk about the shoes they’ll need, what kind of bug repellent they should take and what kind luggage to carry.
What other travel trends are you seeing at the moment?
People are going to more remote areas; they want to be more disconnected than ever before. 10 years ago they wanted to go to towns for the hustle and bustle—the markets in Marrakesh or traveller’s towns like Cusco where there’s a lot of action and lively nightlife. We’re now seeing people wanting to go to Mongolia, Tibet, Antarctica or Galapagos; areas where they can truly disconnect.
We’re in such a wired world right now, so the idea of getting away is being completely redefined. These days, if you go on a cruise, you are still connected, so people are looking to totally disconnect in more remote areas. I mean, look at Antarctica. Who would have thought about the number of people who are now going to Antarctica?
How can travel agents connect with that target market?
I think the first thing is not to be afraid of it. When a customer comes into your office and they say they want something different, in that magical moment you can be a true professional and offer all the options. Sure you could offer them a resort holiday; sure you could offer them a cruise or a coach tour… But then you could offer them something totally different, like taking their family to Costa Rica or Egypt.
It’s easier now than it’s ever been to book a life-changing adventure. 15 years ago, if someone came into your office and said: I want to book an African safari, it involved a lot of work—not like booking a resort. But now you can pick and choose brand styles and seem like a real hero. And when the customer comes back you’ll be a real hero. Our passengers are brand-loyal and they go back to their agent and repeat-book. That’s how agents have to look at it, because it’s building their business long term.
What marketing support is in place for agents?
There’s lots. We have online training and reps on the road who will come into your office and do training. We’ll even do seminars and shows with your customers. We have an endless amount of support to help travel agents grow.
What’s the latest with your sustainable project, Planeterra?
We’ve just built five community projects in Latin America. There are two home-stay programs in small villages that we’re taking a couple of thousand travellers a year to. Then there’s the organic coffee co-op in Costa Rica where we built facilities for them to have their visitors stay for lunch. We take eight thousand travellers a year there for lunch and it’s sustaining the whole community. But the biggest one is in the Sacred Valley in Peru, where we built a kitchen and a training facility in an area that had zero employment. All of our groups—that’s 20,000 people a year—go there for lunches and dinners.
Our main promise to our customers is wealth-distribution and we are creating jobs and local benefits. You can change the world by just going on holiday.