Thornton to succeed Wade at Intrepid

It’s the end of an era at Intrepid Group, with co-founder Darrell Wade appointing James Thornton as his successor last month. Wade will become executive chairman of the company, which is now seeing “record sales” about 20 months after the dissolution of its former PEAK Adventure Travel Group joint venture with European travel giant TUI. Thornton is aged 35, and will head up the organisation which now has more than 1,600 staff in 27 offices, making it the world’s largest provider of adventure travel experiences.

Wade said Thornton had been instrumental in the growth of the business since he and co-founder Geoff Manchester split with TUI. Sales are up 15%, Intrepid has relocated to new offices in Melbourne and London and there have been company-wide bonuses along with more than $1 million raised for charity. While Thornton takes over day-to-day operations, Wade won’t be resting on his laurels, with a vision to pursue new opportunities including developing the Chinese market and further expansion of the group’s new small-ship adventure cruise product.

“We’ve learnt that it’s crucial to find people who share your vision and values, which is why the time is now right to hand over the reins for the next generation. I have every confidence that James will build on what we’ve created,” Wade said.

Thornton joined Intrepid twelve years ago as its UK Sales & Marketing Coordinator, and has progressed through a range of roles to become Managing Director of Intrepid Travel in 2012 and then md of the newly-formed Intrepid Group the following year. Other brands in the organisation include Geckos Adventures, Peregrine Adventures, Adventure Tours Australia and Urban Adventures. There are also 19 in-country destination management companies and the not-for-profit The Intrepid Foundation which is chaired by Intrepid co-founder and owner Geoff Manchester.

The new small ship product is being sold under the Peregrine brand, with vessels carrying a maximum of 50 passengers on itineraries in Croatia, Cuba, Iceland, Portugal, Panama and the Greek Islands. Thornton said the company believed the cruise market was “ripe for disruption because the big companies had not responded quickly enough to demand for genuine local experiences that benefitted both travellers and the places and people they visit”.

He added that currently there was no real option on water for Peregrine clients, who preferred small hotels and local authenticity, “and would never think of themselves as traditional cruise customers”.