As in years past, the 2019 FTA Summit benefited from insightful and inspiring speakers who were able to frame the event with their stories about their businesses, the destinations they open their clients to, and how they have helped families discover the possibilities of travel.
On Tuesday, attendees learned from founder Bruce Poon Tip about how G Adventures both delivers amazing immersive experiences, while helping home-grown businesses employ more locals.
Poon Tip started off his keynote address talking about how the Internet and smartphones challenge travel companies to keep vacations exciting because consumers can do so much of their travel planning on their own, experiencing their vacation before they even book it.
That takes away the element of surprise, which challenges companies like G Adventures to work harder to delight its clients. “Today, more and more people are looking to you to know what options are there for them to travel,” Poon Tip said. “And the challenge that we have is… to put the impossible in front of people.”
Poon Tip also described how his company is trying to promote more sustainable solutions for travel through a concept called “social enterprise,” making vacations more connected and supportive of the destinations G Adventures’ clients visit by promoting local travel entrepreneurs.
“Imagine if holidays were your opportunity to give back?” he asked attendees, talking about his company’s “G for Good” initiative, which helps G Adventures differentiate and develop a global brand.
For example, to deliver more money directly into Peru’s economy, G Adventures offers its clients the option of riding with a small, locally-owned train company, Inca Rail, typically used by Peruvians, versus the larger, more popular train line owned by a company from outside the country. In Hoi An, Vietnam, his company partners with STREETS International (a hospitality-training program that works with at-risk youth in Vietnam), to develop an exclusive Oodles of Noodles Tour.
The tour allows youth to practice their English language and presentation skills, and the students lead a noodle-making class with travelers.
On Wednesday, Dan Austin, in a Q&A format with FTA Communications Director Richard D’Ambrosio, talked about how his company “goes over every single detail” of his family-friendly itineraries, to ensure that accommodations, hiking trails and other activities, “have elements for everybody.”
“You’re looking for those opportunities for families to be families, and for adults to be adults,” Austin said, describing one itinerary that incorporates a pizza party night for kids while parents have the ability to relax with adult beverages.
So much of what Austin Adventures produces today for its clients is based on Dan Austin’s personal experiences as a father. “I’ve been dragging my kids on these trips since they could walk,” said Austin, who led his first trip with his then 5-year-old daughter to Yellowstone National Park in 1996. “That was the foundation for determining what is the secret sauce for what makes a family trip.”
With 80 programs on seven continents, Austin Adventures has to work hard to keep up the consistent level of service its clients expect. In the U.S., the company employs all of its own guides – and works diligently to recruit the right ones – while it looks for the right DMC overseas “that matches our ethos… for our level of high-touch customer service.”
Building on the “glamping” and multi-gen travel trends revealed earlier that week, Austin invited attendees to think about how parents and grandparents are staying healthier longer, and as a result, are opening up multi-generational travel opportunities. Austin said older travelers are part of the biggest and fastest growing segments of Austin Adventures’ clientele.
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