By Ensemble Travel Group · April 2022
Our new partnership with Intrepid Travel has us ready to pack up and head out on our next adventure. With a company mission to create positive change through travel, any Intrepid trip you take is sure to be impactful and life changing. We sat down with the Intrepid Travel team to learn more about what the company offers and how it makes a difference.
Q: Tell us a little bit about Intrepid Travel and the type of travel the company offers.
Intrepid Travel is a world leader in sustainable, experience-rich travel, and we have been taking travelers to discover the world's most amazing places for more than 30 years. Our mission is to create positive change through the joy of travel. We offer more than 1,150 trips on every continent, and every trip is designed to truly experience local culture. With our own network of destination management companies in 23 countries, we have unique local expertise and perspectives. We are globally renowned as a leader in responsible travel, and we’re the only global tour operator with verified science-based carbon reduction targets.
Q: The company’s mission is to create positive change through travel. How does Intrepid do this?
Our founders, Darrell Wade and Geoff ‘Manch’ Manchester, didn’t start out with a plan to create the world’s largest purpose-led adventure travel brand. In 1989, they had just returned from traveling with a group of friends through Africa in a converted rubbish truck. During their adventure, they had an idea for a new style of small group travel.
From the start, they believed travel could benefit both travelers and the communities they visited. Using local accommodations and transportation, eating in neighborhood restaurants, and traveling with local leaders ensured more authentic experiences for the traveler, and it also meant more money generated through tourism stayed where it belonged: in local pockets.
We exist to inspire, create, share, and lead the best travel experiences ever — for both people and the planet. The world is filled with so many incredible places, but so many travelers go to the same ones. At Intrepid, we want to take the path less traveled, not just to avoid the crowds, but to empower the local people. We want travelers to do and see incredible things, and we want those experiences to have positive social and economic impacts within the host communities visited. From giving back to local communities to positively affecting the environment, equality, animal welfare, reconciliation and more, we are dedicated to sustainability in all its forms. Over the years we’ve advocated on issues such as climate action, vaccine equity, human rights, animal welfare, child protection, and gender equality.
Additionally, Intrepid Travel has been on its carbon journey for more than 15 years. In 2008, we became a signatory of the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, the United Nations Global Compact. Two years later, we became a carbon neutral travel company. However, we realized in 2019 that being carbon neutral simply was no longer enough. At the start of 2020, we declared a Climate Emergency as a founding member of Tourism Declares, a collective of businesses, organizations, and individuals who are concerned about the climate crisis. As part of that, we adopted our seven-point climate commitment plan, which includes setting science-based carbon emission targets and becoming climate positive by actually creating an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Q: As travel begins to recover from the pandemic, what types of changes are you hoping to see in the industry?
We have seen a lot of challenges in the world over the past 30+ years — global recessions, natural disasters, political conflicts, etc. — but the impacts of COVID-19 are unlike anything we’ve seen before. In these moments, it’s important to remember who we are, what our values are, and why we do what we do. We will not be immune to the economic impacts of a global pandemic, but as a travel community, we are using this moment to rebuild responsibly, and we hope to set the example for others in the industry.
Q: How would you describe “purpose-led adventure”?
We believe that with great travel comes great responsibility. We truly want to be the best travel company, not just in the world but for the world. Our responsible travel policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. To be purpose-led means we make decisions with people, planet, and profit in mind. Purpose for us is not a buzzword; it is the lens in which we approach everything in our business. From community-based tourism to experiences that support First Nations and Indigenous communities, we want to create an experience that is meaningful for everyone and that brings just as much joy to the hosts as it does to our travelers. We're genuinely connected to and invested in the places we go, the people we meet along the way, and the communities at the heart of each experience we provide.
Q: What are the best types of travel for an immersive experience?
Community-based tourism (CBT) is important because it is owned and managed by the community, for the community. CBT contributes to community wellbeing by creating jobs, preserving cultural heritage, and protecting the environment. It also spreads the benefits of tourism away from the center and out into rural areas, allowing people to make a living where their family and friends are located. It not only gives travelers a real insight into local lives, it also ensures travel experiences make a genuine impact on local people. It’s an amazing opportunity for visitors to see how their travel can be a force for good.
Here’s one story to demonstrate:
In 2016, Intrepid established our first Myanmar CBT as a joint project with Action Aid Myanmar and four villages around Myaing: SuLae Pan, Inn Yaung, and two communities in KanGyi Taw. Around 1,150 people live here, eking out a tough living on ya crops like sesame, sunflower, pigeon pea, and maize. These crops are enough to support the villages during harvest season, but year-round income has always been a struggle. In the last ten years, many young people from the villages have left to find jobs in urban centers like Yangon or across the border in Bangkok, sending money back home to support their families. Myaing doesn’t have the flashy tourism drawcards, but it is an authentic snapshot of rural Myanmar life. Plus, it had some of the warmest and most welcoming people we found anywhere in the country.
Q: BONUS: For travelers wanting to truly use travel as a force for good, which Intrepid trip(s) do you recommend?
We recently announced a new collection of trips in North America. Each trip is designed to provide opportunities to forge meaningful connections between travelers and the people who make the U.S. and Canada so rich in culture, showcasing them through a more authentic and diverse lens. These trips offer people the chance to see the most iconic sites and cities, but they also celebrate the lesser-known places, communities, and highlights. From enjoying local delicacies and going on active adventures, to spending time with First Nations tribes, each trip will provide a unique take on the destination. Here are a few examples:
Travelers will visit iconic sites like Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and Yellowstone to watch Old Faithful erupt, but they’ll also make an intimate visit to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument where they will join a Crow Nation Guide for a tour which provides an Apsaalooke perspective on the conflict. With a tribal historian at their side, they will traverse the battlefield and learn how Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors defeated the US Army on the Greasy Grass at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
This tour takes travelers between two cities known for their outstanding culinary scenes through food-minded adventurers, but they will also enjoy traveling down the coast to Bend to explore the town’s lesser-known but thriving food scene. Guests will enjoy a meal with the First Nations people of Warm Springs for a river-to-table native experience with a picnic lunch that acknowledges the role salmon played in tribal history, and they’ll shuck oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co., a fellow B Corp certified company. The itinerary also includes highlights such as viewing the deepest lake in the U.S. located at Crater Lake National Park and the tallest living things in the world at Muir Woods National Monument.
Visitors will experience the seaside charm of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick on this Maritimes trip from Charlottetown to Saint John. They’ll start at the birthplace of the Canadian Confederation, then visit the home of Anne of Green Gables, enjoy dinner on board a working lobster boat, and meet with a local Knowledge Keeper from the Abegweit Mi’kmaq First Nation. Visitors will also stop at the iconic Hopewell Rocks for a stroll along the Bay of Fundy’s ocean floor at low tide before finishing up in Canada’s oldest city.