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Intrepid travel embraces new risks

INTREPID Group and UK-based TUI have filed for divorce, but the split also marks the beginning of a new venture for Intrepid as the travel company looks to embrace its entrepreneurial spirit and delve deeper into philanthropic projects.

Darrell_headshotINTREPID Group and UK-based TUI have filed for divorce, but the split also marks the beginning of a new venture for Intrepid as the travel company looks to embrace its entrepreneurial spirit and delve deeper into philanthropic projects.

Intrepid and TUI Group parted ways last month, marking the end to the PEAK Adventure Travel Group which was formed almost five years ago with the hope of becoming the largest adventure travel seller on the planet.

Discussing the move in more detail, Intrepid co-founder Darrell Wade explained that the split first came to a head nine months ago when both shareholders realised they had “different strategic ventures and philosophies on travel”. Wade stressed that the split was amicable, describing it as a natural evolution for Intrepid as publicly listed TUI turned its focus to turning a profit for shareholders.

“It’s been a stressful nine months, but there were a few different strains for us as a company. TUI has a legal obligation to maximise returns for shareholders, and I respect that. But from a personal perspective, it doesn’t sit with me that well.

“We have a more entrepreneurial spirit. We enjoy getting out there, testing new products, markets and destinations. Some things work and some things don’t, and we’re happy to embrace that risk.

“If you don’t do that, you don’t grow and challenge yourself. It’s worked well for us for 25 years; we’re used to working that way and it sits well with us.”

With the split to see both companies take full ownership of their own brands, Wade said there was still a complicated process ahead for both companies to “unwind” over the next six to eight months.

Intrepid will continue to do business with “different parts” of TUI, but Wade said the split now gives Intrepid free rein to forge ahead with its own ventures, particularly new philanthropic projects.

“We’ve got a long heritage in responsible business and ‘purpose beyond profit’, and we want to take that considerably further,” he said. “Tour operators can play a much bigger role in responsible tourism in the future, and the split [from TUI] is a great opportunity for us to move forward on this.”

Using the Nepal earthquake as an example, Wade said Intrepid responded quickly with a series of fundraising campaigns to pour money back into the local economy, rebuild schools, and to eventually encourage travellers to return to the region. “We can do more, and we really want the philanthropic side of our business to become a bigger part,” Wade told travelBulletin.

While the finer details of Intrepid’s new strategy are yet to be confirmed, the company plans to use The Intrepid Foundation as a vehicle to build on philanthropic projects with strategic partners, and to help preserve local habitats and work with local communities.

Unlike voluntourism, Wade said the focus was not on having travellers on the ground for individual projects, but instead about encouraging travellers to support local communities by travelling to destinations that would benefit most from tourism.

“We’re not very big on voluntourism because we don’t want to lock travellers down – there are a lot of people who can do the work on the ground – but travellers are active players in the end product.

“For example, if we want to support orangutans in Indonesia, we encourage tourists to visit those areas which supports communities – but all the traveller is doing is going on a holiday.”

For now, Intrepid is “regrouping and deciding on the company’s new philosophy”, but Wade is confident that the company will have greater flexibility to move forward in the years ahead. “We’ve had a great response so far and we’re excited about looking back to the old days where we were more innovative and again making that a central part of what we do,” he concluded.

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