Intrepid Travel is investing $1m in its Urban Adventures community tourism brand to turbo-charge the day-tours initiative, which this year will host 130,000 customers on 600 different tours.
Now it’s time to “put the hammer down – we want to see how far we can take this,” says GM Tony Carne, who will be speaking at TRAVELtech on Sept 27.
Founded seven years ago, Urban Adventures is a day tours company which partners with prospective tourism operators all over the world, helping them set up a business by providing tools, support, expertise and distribution, and then sharing in the profits.
The partnership model reduces risk and fosters entrepreneurship while ensuring travellers’ dollars go into the communities they visit. All tours are led by locals and incorporate independent shops, bars, and cafes.
Urban Adventures passed break-even last year when it hit 95,000 pax and this week announced it had reached 150 destinations with new tours in Timor-Leste and Bangladesh.
“Developing countries like East Timor often lack the skills and tools that are essential for the generation of wealth and opportunity,” says Darrell Wade, Co-founder and CEO of Intrepid.
“Intrepid was born out of the principle of purpose beyond profit, and we firmly believe that tourism can play a significant role in poverty alleviation when we choose to focus on real and practical business-based solutions.”
Buoyed by the strog growth and community benefits, Intrepid will invested a further $1m into Urban Adventures, which to this point has been operating on a shoe-string budget, to scale the business with the goal of reaching one million pax over the next few years.
Much of the extra funds will be devoted to marketing. “We’re going to put the hammer down. Now we can really invest in the marketing side of things,” said Mr Carne.
He says the business model is working well for both parties with a partnership attrition rate of “next to zero”.
“If they weren’t making money they’d be gone,” he says. “Another good sign is that some of the guys who started with us in the early days are branching into new cities and destinations.
“Each year we also ask our operators is they are profitable and the the overwhelming answer is yes.”