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Intrepid Travel Co-Founder inspires future experience curators

Intrepid Travel Co-Founder Geoff Manchester co-hosted a lecture with Tourism Lecturer and Former Young Tourism Network Chair, Jess Derham about the future of the tourism industry focusing on the work Intrepid does in ethical animal tourism and climate change.

From the very beginning, Intrepid has always been about authentic travel adventure. "Traveller by traveller, destination by destination, Intrepid's vision is to change the way people see the world," eloquently stated in the Intrepid website.

Geoff kicked off his lecture with a discussion around the relationship between tourism and animals. In 2012, Intrepid began work with World Animal Protection to investigate the use of animals in tourism. As a result of this work, in 2014, Intrepid became the first global tour operator to remove elephant riding from its itineraries. Since that time more than 100 travel companies have followed suit. Understanding that elephants still need to be occupied and that travellers love elephants, Intrepid has moved to support establishments that allow elephants more freedom, such as The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand to set an example of how travellers can not only enjoy their adventure but also not harm any animals in the process.


Protection of Elephants in Thailand - Intrepid Travel

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This momentous decision kicked off two other initiatives, The Coalition for Ethical Wildlife Tourism and the 'Wildlife. Not Entertainers' campaign, where they address the treatment of all animals that are often exploited in the tourism industry.

"This new style of elephant sanctuary has begun to take off. So hopefully it'll one day become the norm. It all comes down to demand. If demand for elephants riding stops, it'll gradually cease to exist" said Geoff.

Geoff understands that it's not an easy flip. As long as there's a demand for these types of activities, local operators will make this available. During the lecture, Jess conducted a live poll where they discovered 50 per cent of participants have, at some point, participated in animal tourism such as touching, riding or bathing an elephant.

"The goal is not to be perfect, but to continue to educate ourselves - and our customers - about what are the current best practices and slowly and surely commit to making these changes," he said.

Intrepid has taken this COVID period to further develop its educational material (Animal Welfare Policy Toolkit) around animal welfare and climate change.

Intrepid is working with businesses on how to elevate travel experiences and become more carbon neutral in the future - a clever way to remain top of mind during this quiet period with customers and in the industry.

"Keeping in mind Intrepid's main goals, delivering unique and authentic travel experience, we are now set to grow our mission by centreing the word 'purpose'.The company is exploring new ways on how to fix global issues and become experts on being part of the solution," Geoff said.

"By being a leader in this realm (animal tourism and climate change), it has given us media coverage that companies could not pay for. This is part of the plan to grow from a $450 million dollar business to a billion-dollar business.

Jess invited Geoff to share Intrepid's story with Higher Education students as part of the unit People and Place. In the subject, students reflect on the ideas of authenticity and the implications of commodification. The aim is to empower students to make informed decisions and act as future change-makers in the industry.

If you would like to learn more about regenerative tourism and how the pandemic has impacted animal tourism in different parts of the world such as Uganda, you can watch the recording here.