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Offering More Than Just a TourSeptember 24, 2010 By: Meagan Drillinger Travel Agent
Backpacker Concierge can arrange Jeep safaris or horseback rides around the pyramids in Egypt.
While backpacking is often thought of as a ragged and unstructured way to travel, Middle East tour operator Backpacker Concierge is looking to do away with that stereotype for travelers in Egypt and surrounding regions.
Travel Agent sat down with Eric Monkaba, founder of Backpacker Concierge, who told us that the company mantra is to provide clients a unique backpacker experience without having to sacrifice a certain level of luxury.
Monkaba and his team work one-on-one with clients to get to know them on a personal basis and tailor the perfect itinerary for an in-depth exploration of Egypt and Jordan. His clients are discerning adventurers who travel in style but seek memorable experiences that also could benefit a local community.
“The program is more than just tours,” Monkaba says. “It’s about ecological and social initiatives as well.” For example, the company partners up with international and local nongovernment organizations, fair-trade and micro- finance startups, eco-friendly transportation providers and eco-lodges with personalized service. One initiative takes guests to Amman, Jordan, where they get an opportunity to partake in an immersion program. Guests spend the day as an inhabitant of Ghor Mazraa would and learn to prepare a local meal or make traditional products.
Other initiatives include environmental efforts in Cairo’s Garbage City or providing veterinary assistance in Luxor.
Backpacker Concierge travelers will stay in boutique hotels, ranging from mid-level to uber-luxe, depending on the client. Monkaba makes sure he knows his clients as well as the destination to be sure each experience is flawless. He can also customize trips to include extras such as Jeep safaris or horseback rides around the pyramids. Travelers are also provided with a cell phone for use 24/7. Monkaba relays real-time updates on any sites guests may want to see so that each trip still has a certain level of spontaneity, unlike a prepackaged itinerary.
Monkaba tells us his company has only seen success in the last two years. His client base is mostly American, Canadian and British. He hopes to expand the program to Libya or Iran as part of the company’s plan to set up operations in off-the-beaten-path destinations where it isn’t easy for people to travel on their own. In order to expand, however, Monkaba needs to know a destination inside and out so that he doesn’t compromise on the level of service. It will be a while before new destinations spring up, but the plan is out there.