Intrepid Travel, founded 35 years ago in Australia, has now gone global, with 30 offices worldwide, including one in India. Starting small with a group tour of 47 customers on a trip to Thailand in their first year, Intrepid now aims to take over 300,000 travellers on adventures by the end of 2023. Contributing to this aim is India as well which is in their top priority markets, according to Natalie Kidd, MD of Intrepid Travel Asia.
“India consistently ranks among our top five countries out of the 112 we serve,” revealed Kidd. Pre-pandemic, Intrepid was bringing in 12,000 customers annually into India, and while they haven’t quite reached those numbers this year, they’ve witnessed a resurgence in many Asian regions, approaching pre-pandemic figures. “Our global goal is to carry around 300,000 customers by the end of this year, and India plays a pivotal role in this vision,” she shared.
“In India, while we haven’t quite returned to pre-pandemic numbers in 2023, we are confident that the growth trajectory will continue. Some of the challenges we faced this year, including limited visa accessibility, impacted our targeted growth in India. However, we anticipate resolving these issues by next year, and we’re poised to return to our 2019 performance levels,” she told ETTravelWorld.
The company identifies July to November as key travel planning and sales periods, particularly in the UK market and the northern hemisphere, anticipating strong demand for India during this time.
“Looking ahead to 2030, we envision having 30,000 customers exploring India with us annually. India offers not just one-time experiences but also the potential for combining different trips and extended stays, encouraging repeat visits,” she added.
Post-pandemic recovery and expansion beyond touring
In terms of business and revenue, Intrepid is making a strong recovery in 2023, with expectations to reach pre-pandemic levels, reaffirmed Kidd.
“The year 2022 marked the beginning of our recovery at a global level. By the end of 2023, we are on track to reach revenue levels comparable to those of 2019. By the close of this year, we will have served a total of 300,000 customers worldwide, amounting to 600 million Australian dollars in revenue,” she told ETTravelWorld, hinting towards the company’s significant rebound.
Looking ahead to 2024, the company anticipates a resurgence with a projected 20 per cent compound average growth rate. “Achieving such growth for a 35-year-old company is a noteworthy achievement and underscores the revival of tourism,” she said.
As the company also closely looks at the longer term plans, it is looking beyond the traditional touring business, as brand Intrepid continues gaining global recognition.
“We’re actively exploring opportunities beyond tour operations, particularly in the space of experiential accommodation. This involves creating spaces where the accommodation itself is an integral part of the travel experience, firmly rooted in the local culture and surroundings. In this regard, we believe India holds immense potential as a prime location for such ventures, and we’re enthusiastic about the opportunities that lie ahead in this space,” she informed, adding that Intrepid is actively looking out for new avenues for investment.
India, an adventure travel hub
According to a recent report, India’s adventure tourism sector is experiencing rapid growth and is poised to surpass the USD 2.0 billion mark by 2028. Additionally, India is emerging as a sought-after adventure travel destination for Intrepid’s global clientele, hailing from countries such as Australia, the USA, North America, the UK, and various European nations, as per Kidd.
Reiterating that India holds a prominent position in Intrepid’s vision and its abundant business prospects, Kidd revealed that pre-pandemic, the country was said to have a 17 per cent share of global travel within the broader industry. “However, our experience at Intrepid Travel tells a slightly different story. India’s performance in the adventure and experiential travel segment surpasses this statistic significantly,” said Kidd.
“It’s performing exceptionally well. The depth of culture and the sheer size of the country further make it an ideal destination for travellers seeking immersive experiences. From an adventure perspective, India is yielding positive results for the company,” shared Kidd.
She added that the first-time travellers to the country prefer exploring the classic destinations like Rajasthan, Agra but on subsequent visits, Intrepid has seen a growing interest in South India and other regions, including the northeast.
“In terms of experiences, we’ve observed an increase in demand for more outdoor activities, such as trekking, cycling, and other active pursuits. After a period of confinement due to the pandemic, there’s a heightened interest in getting outdoors and exploring smaller destinations, villages, and natural settings, since people want to immerse in a destination, forge connections with local communities, and create lasting memories beyond the typical tourist attractions,” she added.
As for India, she shared that Intrepid has recently introduced new wildlife-focused trips in their itineraries, with places like Bandhavgarh and Kanha in mind, which is set to gain traction for next year. “This trip will offer travellers more time outdoors in national parks, providing an opportunity to connect with nature.”
Sustainability: A core value
Intrepid is acutely aware of the environmental and social impacts of travel and has been giving back to the local communities, which Kidd says, is an absolute mandate for the other travel companies to follow. While she believes that travel can be a force for good, Kidd also acknowledges the negative consequences it can have.
In their efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of their trips, Intrepid looks for ways to eliminate unnecessary flights, opting for more sustainable modes of transport and routing itineraries to minimise environmental impact as well as decarbonisation, especially for interstate travel in India. “In our case, we work closely with our supply chain, including smaller operators and hoteliers, to encourage sustainability practices. We believe in collaboration rather than competition when it comes to sustainability.”
Adding that sustainability is of paramount importance for the future of the travel industry, Kidd continued, “Every aspect of tourism should be examined through a sustainability lens. While sustainability may pose challenges for some, particularly smaller operators, it’s also an area where smaller businesses can be more nimble and adaptable to change. We all share a responsibility to address sustainability issues in the travel industry.”
In addition to environmental sustainability, Intrepid also addresses social issues. They have made efforts in promoting gender diversity in tourism by actively encouraging women to apply for roles as tour leaders and providing support to ensure their safety and success in these positions.
Today, 70 per cent of Intrepid’s staff in India are female, Kidd shared with pride.