Intrepid Travel -one of the world’s largest adventure travel companies – is changing the way we see and impact the world. With over 1,000 tours in 120 countries, Intrepid has done wonders to promote responsible tourism and help make a positive impact on where they travel. As part of the Intrepid Group which includes fellow tour operators Urban Adventures, Peregrine, and Adventure Tours Australia and runs The Intrepid Foundation, Intrepid is on a mission to change the way people see the world by delivering sustainable experience-rich travel products while also harnessing the power of travel to benefit the places and people they visit.
As a global leader in sustainability within the travel industry and a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, Intrepid is dedicated to being a company committed to purpose beyond profit. Some of Intrepid’s accomplishments in responsible travel include becoming a carbon neutral business in 2010 and becoming the first global travel company to ban elephant rides on its tours in 2014. By 2016, Intrepid’s philanthropic fund distributed more than AU $6 million towards healthcare, human rights, child welfare and environmental and wildlife protection programs in the communities in which it operates. In June 2018, the company launched vegan tours and most recently, in August 2018, Intrepid became a certified B Corporation making Intrepid the largest Travel B Corp in the world.
I heard about Intrepid Travel by fellow travel blogger Alison Armstrong, the beautiful mind behind Adventures in Wonderland who has written about her own experiences traveling with Intrepid to China last year. Wanting to learn more, I reached out to Rebecca Shapiro, the Senior Editorial Manager of Intrepid Group North America. We talked for over an hour about all the amazing work that Intrepid is doing to change the face of travel and improve the world. Here is what she had to say.
When were you founded and why?
Intrepid Travel was founded by two Australians, Darrell Wade and Geoff Manchester in 1989 after an adventurous road trip to Africa. During the trip, they realized that they wanted to share their amazing love for adventure travel with others and do it in a life-changing yet responsible way. Hence Intrepid was born. They chose the name “Intrepid” as it perfectly encapsulates the type of adventures they wanted to create. The name stuck.
Since the very first days as a tour operator, responsible business has been at the heart of what they do. Intrepid is committed not just to treading lightly, but to making a real difference – by investing in local communities, human rights initiatives, wildlife conservation projects and the environment. Intrepid is all about operating in a responsible manner and incorporating principles of sustainable tourism and development into the way they provide our travelers with real life experiences. These values are more than just words; they’re ingrained in the culture and daily operations of every Intrepid office and trip.
Where do you travel to?
Today, Intrepid sends over 100,000 travelers across the globe each year and employs more than 1,000 staff. Intrepid is still adding to their list of over 1000 different itineraries in over 120 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, North & South America, the Middle East, Australia and both the Arctic and Antarctica.
What kind of travel styles and markets do you target?
Intrepid Travel offers a broad breadth of special interest ranges, to cater to all travelers’ passions and preferred travel styles. Besides their regular tours, Intrepid offers trips to families, for foodies, 18-29 year olds, and also cycling trips.
Why travel with Intrepid?
Of course Intrepid loves what they do and they do it well. However, Intrepid has six reasons why they feel their trips are special and unique.
- Real Life Experiences All itineraries are specifically crafted to include as much time as possible doing local things with local people. Intrepid offers the local knowledge and experience to help you get behind the scenes of a culture and understand what makes that destination tick. These are unique and authentic insights into local life that have been facilitated specifically for Intrepid groups.
- Connected by Travel: The beauty of small group travel isn’t just new places, it’s new perspectives. It’s the stories you hear and the friendships you forge, the ones that stick around long after the tan has faded. Intrepid travelers come from all walks of life; what unites them is where they’re going.
- Travel Works Best When It’s Balanced: Time is your most precious resource, especially on a holiday. That’s why all Intrepid trips are built with balance in mind. A little group time, a little you time – the way it should be. And because Intrepid tours have an average of just 10 people, there’s more of the world to go round.
- With Great Travel Comes Responsibility: The world’s a pretty amazing place and it is our responsibility to protect it. And all it takes is a little dash of self-awareness, a slightly softer tread. Sustainable travel doesn’t mean no fun. It means that fun can be used to benefit others. Respect.
- Adventure Should Be For Everyone: Age, pillow preference, budget, travelling solo or together – it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what matters is where you’d like to go. Intrepid’s mission is to deliver the best travel experiences to anyone who’s up for them. So no matter if you favour a soft landing or a wild take-off, Intrepid stands for you.
- Intrepid Leaders are the Greatest: Intrepid realised early on that the best folks to show you the heart of a destination are, funnily enough, the ones that live there. These are Intrepid’s leaders: travel experts and friendly locals who know their countries back to front, from every backstreet bar to every hidden gallery.
What makes you unique in the travel industry?
Intrepid Travel is the largest adventure travel company in the world and is a leader in sustainable travel. Sustainable travel is defined by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.” Sustainable tourism done well looks at how innovation in tourism can have a positive, lasting impact on our world by following the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Intrepid has led the industry on animal welfare by being the first global tour operator to end elephant rides and by bringing awareness to the cruelty of lion walks. Intrepid has also taken a leadership position on child protection by removing orphanage visits from their itineraries. Intrepid Travel also abides by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Launched by the UN in 2015, the 17 SDGs outline a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, strengthen universal peace, and fix climate change. They are aimed at all countries and stakeholders, asking them to act in a collaborative partnership to implement this plan.
As a global leaders in sustainability within the travel industry, Intrepid has identified nine of 17 SDGs that they can contribute most to as a tourism business. By focusing on these, Intrepid is ensuring a strong commitment to the global agenda and to being a company with a purpose beyond profit. To simplify things, Intrepid has categorized them under five themes known as the ‘5 P’s’: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships.
Intrepid’s 9 Sustainable Goals:
Certified B Corp
In 2018, Intrepid became a Certified B Corporation. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are a global movement of people using businesses as a force for good. Intrepid has joined more than 2,500 B Corps in around 150 industries around the world, including Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Danone. This means that current and future travelers have a guarantee that Intrepid is committed to benefitting people and the planet.
Intrepid has been a carbon-neutral business since 2010; Intrepid now has 42 carbon-neutral offices and offer over 2000 carbon-offset trips. Through Intrepid’s not-for-profit arm, The Intrepid Foundation, Intrepid has invested over AU $6 million into grassroots projects around the world – projects addressing issues such as healthcare, education, community development and animal welfare – including over AU $750,000 for their Namaste Nepal earthquake relief campaign in 2016. Intrepid also recently launched their goal to be the first travel company that is climate positive by 2020.
Fighting for Gender Equality
Intrepid is committed to promoting gender equality, both within our business and without, which is why Intrepid is striving to double their number of female leaders by 2020. From Zina in Morocco,to Channa in Cambodia, Nadia in Iran, and Sana in India, Intrepid is paving the way to empower women tour leaders.
Like Becky, the first leader to be employed as a truck driver in East Africa, Intrepid hopes to create new opportunities the world over. Watch the video below to learn more about Becky’s journey with Intrepid Travel.
What is the Intrepid Foundation
The Intrepid Foundation is Intrepid Group’s not-for-profit. As an instrumental part of the Group’s ‘purpose beyond profit’ ambitions, the Foundation provides a transparent and trusted way for all Intrepid Group brands and their travelers to support the destinations and communities they visit. Established in 2002, The Intrepid Foundation has raised more than AU $7.5 million dollars and supported over 125 non-government organizations in 38 countries; including Action Aid Australia, KOTO – Know One, Teach One, and Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation.
Travel with Intrepid
Thanks to Rebecca Shapiro of Intrepid Group for providing this information for the interview and blog post! If you want to learn more about Intrepid and their trips, you can check out Intrepid Travel’s amazing list of adventure destinations for small-group sustainable travel. Also feel free to follow Intrepid Travel on Facebook, Instagram , YouTube and Twitter.
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