Redefining the Backpacker Rep

Backpack travel has received a negative reputation in the luxury community, based on the assumption that backpackers lead a ragged, rugged and nomadic existence. That may be true of many who take to the backpacking way of life, but there is something to be said of the mindset of backpackers± the love of insider access, the freedom to create an itinerary and the want to give back to those less fortunate.

Travel Agent sat down with Eric Monkaba, founder of Middle East tour operator, Backpacker Concierge. The Backpacker Concierge's mantra is providing the backpacker mentality (unique experiences) 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 seek memorable experiences that also work to benefit a local community while still traveling in style.

"The program is more than just tours," Monkaba tells us. "It's about ecological and social initiatives, as well." For example, the company partners up with International and local non-government organizations, fair trade and microfinance start-ups, eco-friendly transportation providers and eco-lodges with personalized service. One eco-initiative takes guests to Amman, Jordan, where travelers are given the opportunity to partake in an immersion program. Guests spend the day in the life of an inhabitant of Ghor Mazraa, where they will 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 he knows Egypt and Jordan to be sure each experience is flawless. He can also customize trips to include memorable extras such as jeep safaris or horseback rides around the pyramids. Travelers are also equipped with a 24-hour cell phone. Monkaba provides real-time updates with any potential sites that guests may want to see, so that each trip still has a certain level of spontaneity, rather than a pre-packaged itinerary.

Founded in 2008, Monkaba tells us that his company has only seen success in the last two years. His clients mostly consist of Americans, Canadians and Brits. Monkaba tells us that the hope is to expand the program, maybe to Libya or Iran. The company wants off-the-beaten-path destinations where it isn't easy for people to travel on their own. But in order to expand, Monkaba needs to know a destination inside and out so that he doesn't compromise the level of service. It will be a while before new destinations spring up, but the plan is out there.



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