After a year in “hibernation mode,” there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel said G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip. Citing the ongoing vaccine rollout and the European Commission’s Digital Green Certificate as an example of the positive steps that are underway, Poon Tip said countries and companies in the travel industry are hopeful to have a summer season.
“We’re trying to get trips off in the summer this year… a lot of countries are pushing for July 1. We’re hearing every day countries are pushing more and more to open to get a piece of summer,” Poon Tip said during a global press briefing yesterday, March 18. “September 1 is probably when we anticipate there will be larger numbers, more meaningful numbers for operators like ourselves.”
On a much smaller scale, G Adventures already started operating in select destinations in September 2020, with over 100 tours undertaken since then.
“We started with Europe in September, Costa Rica was open in November, Tanzania opened in December,” he said, adding that more destinations are continuing to open up. “The customers are loving the trips, loving the experience, it’s a bit different, we’re following local protocols as well as creating our own standards for safety, but the responses have been off the charts.”
Although he’s not one to shy away from competition, Poon Tip feels that tour operators shouldn’t be using safety as a way to differentiate their brands in an attempt to attract travellers.
“We are all going to follow global standards, we’re all going to do similar things, we are all going to make our customers as safe as possible. Ultimately, we have a unified goal to get people travelling again and this is not an area where we should compete,” he said. “We should all agree that we will do whatever is possible to keep our customers safe.”
Other positive signs are the fact that bookings are returning, including through agency sales.
“Longer booking windows, but we’re seeing record numbers of people booking trips finally. They started last November, so Cyber Month for us, we saw a huge spike in people willing to commit to travel, but with now eight-to-nine month booking windows,” he said.
As for what types of trips are appealing to travellers, an interesting trend is an increase in bucket list trips and active trips in the great outdoors. According to a recent traveller survey, 41% of respondents want outdoor experiences for the first time.
“Active, bucket list trips. One of the most interesting statistics for us is that we saw a spike in Everest Base Camp inquiries on our website, and Kilimanjaro climbs, and Inca Trail climbs,” he said. “We thought it was maybe people using our website to do book reports or school projects, but when we actually dug into the data we found that more and more people are booking active type experiences, but they’re also booking bucket list trips. This is significant because more and more people are trying to do milestone type travel.”