Big news for the global tour operator scene: Independent small group adventure operator G Adventures has announced that all of its trips will be 100 percent guaranteed to depart as of January 1, 2013.
The move is reportedly a first in adventure travel, and founder Bruce Poon Tip says that it shows confidence in selling its program of trips, which has been expanded for 2013. “This will create a better customer experience,” he told Travel Agent. “The adventure travel industry has traditionally played a numbers game, with a minimum number of bookings required for a trip to depart…[Agents] can’t book airfares while they wait and then airfares go up, so someone gets disappointed.” With all departures guaranteed, agents can book airfare immediately and secure better pricing and/or better seats.
While popular trips would rarely be canceled due to insufficient numbers, Poon Tip says that as travelers become better educated, they want unique destinations. “We needed to guarantee that so they could book their flights and know they’re going and not have to check back each month,” he says. “It’s strictly a decision to take that hassle out. When we do customer feedback, the only complaints [were about] the booking experience—not about our service, but about things we can’t control.”
G Adventures runs about 20,000 trips per year worldwide, Poon Tip added, and they have already been testing guaranteed departures for the last six months to make sure the commitment was feasible. During that half-year, nearly 80 percent of the departures operated as planned. “This is our final push,” he says. “When a customer books a [top-selling trip], we can guarantee it, because 30 percent of the trips get 80 percent of the volume. Now we have to guarantee all of them.”
This is not the first time G Adventures has taken a risky initiative, however. Several years ago, they launched their “Lifetime Deposit” program, in which a deposit for a trip that did not happen (for any reason) could be held for a future tour or donated to someone else’s journey. “This is the next step,” Poon Tip says, noting that the deposits have become a commodity bought and sold on eBay. “There’s so much hide-and-seek in booking a trip, and then you can still be disappointed.”
The new initiative will most likely take the better part of a year to master, Poon Tip says, even though it’s been in the testing phase for several months already.
New Tours Down Under
G Adventures’ expanded program of trips for 2013 including new destinations was also just launched this week, including new tours to Australia and New Zealand. “We developed community tourism projects, which take a while to put together,” Poon Tip explained. “We didn’t want buses driving along the coast, so we did some community development.”
The program consists of four major routes: Sydney to Cairns and Melbourne to Darwin in Australia and the North Island and South Island in New Zealand. Travelers can focus on one entire route or combine sections to create a customized itinerary. Tours vary from three to 21 days and are available in Yolo and G-Plus trip styles.
On the three-day Northern Aboriginal Experience, travelers learn about Aboriginal history, culture and contemporary life straight from the indigenous people themselves with opportunities to study ancient traditions, make native artwork, learn how to hunt and cook, wander the beaches and valleys along the Daintree River, and embark on a rainforest walk.
Travelers on the six-day Best of the North Island adventure take the back road to a remote conservation farm, kayak to a secluded harbor for a picnic lunch, stay at a coastal eco-camp in native bush land in the surf and arts town of Raglan, visit the geothermal area of Rotorua to witness boiling mud pools and geysers, and enjoy a traditional Maori dinner. Guests also have the opportunity to take bone-carving lessons from local Maori and experience New Zealand’s best one-day walk – Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
On the five-day Going Ghan tour, guests travel on the famous Ghan train through the remote outback, spot crocs in the wetlands of Corroboree Billabong, explore the waterfalls and swimming holes of Kakadu National Park, visit an aboriginal art and craft centre, and witness sandstone cliffs and giant termite mounds.
Departures for all Australia and New Zealand tours begin January 2013.
For more information, visit www.gadventures.com.