COVID-19 gives travel an “opportunity for change” as consumer values shift, says Bruce Poon Tip – Travel Weekly


From flights with no destination to vaccine certificates a lot has changed in the travel space over the past two years, but one thing is for sure – travellers want change.

Lockdowns and major global events have given consumers the opportunity to reflect on what really matters to them and will bring new values with them as they begin to travel again.

To provide more scope on what this means for the travel industry, G Adventures has consulted with its panel of avid adventurers to identify the top 10 trends for travelling in 2022 providing insights into how people want to travel and where they want to go.

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, said the trends clearly reveal the pandemic has produced a more conscious traveller and has presented operators with a huge opportunity for change.

“This pandemic has woken travellers up and given them a chance to reflect on how they were travelling before,” he said.

“The data tells us people have become more purposeful and intentional about how and why they are travelling, and where they are going, and that they are recognising the positive impact travel can have on local communities when decisions are made wisely.

“These trends point towards a seismic shift in travellers’ habits. It only takes a small number of people to make a huge difference, and travellers are finally seeing how smart choices can positively benefit local people, and deliver a richer travel experience at the same time.”

Here’s a rundown of what G Adventures uncovered:

  1. Community tourism is the solution to responsible travel

Bhutan Punakha Dzong (supplied)

According to G Adventures’ latest panel research, close to a third (28 per cent*) of Aussie and Kiwi respondents said they will place more focus on travelling responsibly in 2022.

With the increased focus on community and support of locally-owned businesses fostered during the pandemic, it makes sense that this mindset carries over into international travel plans.

Travellers are looking for adventures that support community tourism, and trails are a great way for tourists to spread wealth through multiple smaller villages.

Destination: In April 2022, following two years of extensive restoration, the Kingdom of Bhutan will reopen its historic and sacred Trans Bhutan Trail for the first time in 60 years, supporting remote communities through community tourism.

Serendipitously, bookings to Bhutan are up 60 per cent globally for 2022.

  1. Travellers care most about supporting local people

The most important factor for Aussies and Kiwis when they travel is that their money benefits local people, at 68 per cent.

This trend has been intensified by the impact of the pandemic on countries that rely on tourism for their economic survival and came in well ahead of other important considerations such as minimising one’s carbon footprint and/or reducing plastics consumption (both at 15 per cent globally).

Egypt Pyramids Carriage (supplied)

Destination: Egypt’s tourism industry was devastated by the Arab Spring and again by the pandemic, but it was one of the first to reopen to tourism this year.

In 2022, Egypt has increased its share of bookings by 22 per cent globally and with the reopening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, the opening of the Pyramid of Dozer, the reopening of Luxor’s Avenue of Sphinxes, and the release of Kenneth Branagh’s rebooted Death on the Nile film, it’ll continue to be firmly in the media spotlight.

  1. Travellers will have a bit more cash to splash 

With staying in spurring a savings boom, 24 per cent of travel-starved Aussies and Kiwis said they had increased their travel budget for their next international holiday, which means their travel dollars are likely to take them on bigger adventures than they might have thought possible before.

Destination: Japan was expecting a huge tourist boom as a result of the summer Olympics, and had been heavily spotlighted before COVID closed the country’s borders.

Although it remains closed, there is pent up demand, and those with a little extra savings may turn their attention to a dream trip to Japan as restrictions are lifted.

  1. ‘Workations’ increase in popularity 

As the world shifted to remote working, companies realised office confines were no longer required to ensure productivity. Previously the domain of the digital nomad, ‘workations’ have hit the mainstream.

Costa Rica Nosara Selina Deck (supplied)

20 per cent of respondents to G Adventures’ most recent survey said they are able to ‘work from anywhere’ – with that number rising to 46 per cent for those aged 18-34.

An increasing number of people plan to combine work with travel in future at 20 per cent, up from 14 per cent in December 2020.

Destination: Only one of four countries to lift all restrictions for travel according to the UNWTO, Costa Rica has firmly positioned itself as open to travel.

Keen to attract young digital nomads, the country passed a bill to allow remote workers and digital nomads to stay for up to one year.

To support this trend, G Adventures to partner with Hostelworld to launch the Roamies programme of tours in late-2021, which are all ideal as a way for digital nomads to take a few days to get to know a destination before settling in at the beach for a few weeks of remote work.

  1. Hostels will make a big comeback 

The need for social connection amongst young travellers is strong with 55 per cent of Aussies and Kiwis aged 18-34 saying they were likely to try a hostel experience following the pandemic, and 50 per cent of those expressing that meeting people to socialise at the hostel, and possibly travel with, is the most important factor when selecting a hostel.

Mexico Merida Cenote Visit (supplied)

Destination: Mexico is super hot right now and another new ‘Roamies’ trip designed to maximise social connection and build community, both in the handpicked-hostels and on the road, is this new six-day trip travelling from Mérida to Tulum which packed with highlights.

  1. Travellers want to disconnect from their devices 

Ecuador Galapagos Sea Lion Pup (supplied)

Workationers aside, while travellers want to reconnect with people and places, they are desperate to disconnect from the online world while on holiday.

47 per cent of respondents want to take time out from their devices and social media, with 26 per cent saying socialising and meeting new people is their top wellbeing priority when booking their next holiday.

Destination: G Adventures will debut its new build boat, Reina Silvia Voyager, in 2022 for sailings to Galapagos Islands. Accommodating 16 passengers, with two solo cabins, she is purpose-built for comfortable small-group touring.

Travellers will also be the first to visit a new G for Good project developed in partnership with Planeterra – Galapagos Coffee in Puerto Ayora – a community-owned organic coffee farm educating visitors about sustainable coffee production while providing income for 59 local families.

  1. The staycation is over – travellers want to go further afield

The domestic holiday appeal is wearing off as the pandemic rolls on.

Only 17 per cent of respondents said they would prefer to stay closer to home as opposed to heading further afield on their next international holiday, with close to a third – 30 per cent – saying they were less likely to take a ‘staycation’ in 2022.

Uzbekistan Bukhara Kaylan Mosque (supplied)

Destination: Uzbekistan was a rising star pre-pandemic, and looking ahead to 2022 travel, with the trend for more remote destinations, the country has increased its share of sales by 24 per cent.

2021 marked Uzbekistan’s 30th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union, and a new airport opened in Samarkand. 2022 will also see the opening of the Silk Road Samarkand Complex which will host the inaugural Silk Road Literary Festival, bringing even more attention to this lesser-visited nation.

  1. Lockdown life has led to a desire to be more active 

Grand Canyon Sunset, Arizona (supplied)

67 per cent of those surveyed want to be physically active on their next holiday and with 63 per cent of travellers polled saying their physical and mental wellbeing is a top consideration when booking a holiday, taking a hike never sounded more appealing.

Destination: The US increased its share of bookings for 2022 by 58 per cent when compared to pre-pandemic booking levels.

This led G Adventures to launch a new programme of ‘United States of Adventures’ trips that are perfectly positioned to cater to active travellers looking to exert a little more energy on their next holiday.

  1. Travellers are prioritising wellbeing and mental health 

With an overwhelming 93 per cent of people saying travel is important to their wellbeing and mental health, travellers are also looking to take their next holiday in a way that not only helps them to reconnect but optimises travel as a means of revitalisation, too.

Sanur Garden Statue, Bali, Indonesia (supplied)

Destination: Indonesia has been dormant for the duration of the pandemic so there will be a tonne of pent up demand when it reopens.

What better way to experience it than with this Wellness trip full of rest, relaxation and revitalisation moments, including an organic cooking class and healing ceremony in Tabanan?

  1. Revenge travel is out, reconnection travel is in 

Consumers are hungry for new experiences and connections. Although the term ‘revenge travel’ – the urge to travel to make up for lost time in lockdown – gained popularity over the course of the pandemic, reconnection travel is the top reason for travelling at 40 per cent, with revenge travel – booking a trip to make up for lost time – coming in at just 16 per cent.

Iceland landscape (supplied)

Destination: A high pandemic performer, Iceland’s bookings are up 317 per cent globally for 2022, and what better way to experience it than with this Active trip which enables travellers to connect with the local community on hikes, walks and visits to local businesses. The owner of the guest house leads this trip so it really is all about reconnecting with the planet and its people.


Featured image: Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto (supplied)



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Russia-Ukraine updates from Collette, Holland America & Bruce Poon Tip


On Feb. 27, the Government of Canada also announced the closure of airspace to all Russian aircraft.


COLLETTE

Collette is ceasing tours in Russia and withdrawing from all other business interests in Russia in support of “freedom and a peaceful resolution.” Noting that the majority of its European tours operate at a distance from where the conflict is, the company does not expect any significant impact on tour operations in 2022.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and we stand with them in support of freedom, a sincere hope for peace and a rapid de-escalation of this conflict,” said Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, President of Collette. “We are committed to taking care of the places where we travel and will be announcing a commitment through our philanthropic arm to support humanitarian organizations on the ground to help those impacted by the crisis in Ukraine.”


HOLLAND AMERICA LINE

The cruise line is modifying six cruise itineraries that were originally scheduled to visit Russian ports this year. “We stand for peace and our thoughts are with those who are in harm’s way,” reads a company statement.

Replacement ports vary by itinerary. The five sailings that would have visited St. Petersburg, Russia will instead call on Baltic ports such as Riga, Latvia; Klaipeda, Lithuania; and Visby, Sweden, while also adding an overnight stay in Stockholm, Sweden.

The cruise that was scheduled to visit Vladivostok, Russia will instead visit Busan (Pusan), South Korea.

Booked guests and their travel advisors will receive notice of the changes as soon as that process is complete. Holland America will continue to monitor the situation and make additional changes, if needed.


PRINCESS CRUISES

Princess is modifying itineraries on 24 cruises that call in St. Petersburg, Russia with alternative ports. Replacement ports will vary by itinerary, including popular destinations such as Stockholm, Sweden (overnight call); Visby, Sweden; and Gdansk (Gydnia), Poland.

“The safety and security of guests is the company’s highest priority, and Princess will continue updating impacted guests and travel advisors as more information is available,” reads a company statement.

Princess will protect travel agent commission on bookings that were paid in full.

For the most up-to-date information for booked guests affected by these changed, click here.


SABRE & REACTION FROM BRUCE POON TIP

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, issued a statement following the news that Sabre has removed Aeroflot, Russia’s national carrier, from its reservations system. Here is his statement in full:

“The power to have the most dramatic impact in travel right now lies in the hands of one company, and yesterday they stepped up and did the right thing. That company is Sabre, the reservations system for Russia’s national carrier, Aeroflot. Without Sabre, Aeroflot is unable to issue tickets, which will cause mass disruption for domestic travel in Russia.

“All across the travel industry, businesses are uniting and cancelling tours to Russia and, in the case of G Adventures, banning resident Russian nationals from trips in order to apply internal pressure and invoke change. This is exactly what we need to come together in travel to embrace our ability to be a transformational industry.

“No less than a few hours before the announcement, I was set to click send on an appeal to Sabre, asking them to stop their support of Aeroflot and realize their potential as a key player in the travel industry’s fight against this unjust war.

“Russia has a thriving domestic travel market, serving leisure and corporate travellers and carrying people to do business as well as on vacation. Having already been cut off from the world of international travel, it is at home that the Russian people will feel the most pressure and become increasingly frustrated with this regime.

“This maneuver from Sabre is vital, as we need everyday people to rise up and fight for their everyday freedoms. Without Sabre, internal travel becomes extremely difficult and this is an incredible example of the leadership our industry needs to apply essential pressure internally.

“The Russian government needs to know that every industry, including travel and tourism, stands against its actions and will support any and all sanctions that seek to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty, freedom and independence.

“SWIFT has banned Russian banks, historically neutral Switzerland has frozen Russian assets and even FIFA has stepped up. Industries all around us are fighting in their own way, wielding their individual power and influence. It is so important that travel plays its part alongside these movements to drive transformative change.

“I’m acutely aware that sanctions impact everyday people, and as heartbreaking as it is to implement them – we must, we have to. The only solution now is to apply pressure within Russia and force its citizens to demand the kind of comfort and convenience travel provides, above the atrocities of war and the propaganda designed to justify these unthinkable acts.

“As you may have read, earlier this week I sent a heartfelt message informing our travellers, partners and international media of the actions we have taken to support Ukraine. We have cancelled all trips to Russia and are no longer allowing Russian nationals residing inside the country on our tours, nor are we taking bookings from Russian travel agencies. The show of love and support for our stance has been overwhelming so thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to me personally. It is incredibly encouraging and motivating to know so many people stand behind these kinds of decisions and want to help us fight for what is right.

“Will we do enough? Only history will tell. What I do know is we all need to be part of the solution to a faster, more peaceful resolution.”



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Bruce Poon Tip weighs in on Ukraine invasion as G Adventures cancels Russia trips – Travel Weekly


The CEO of G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip has condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and gone on to cancel all tours in Russia.

Poon Tip began his condemnation with a reflection on the struggle that people have faced during the global pandemic.

“The past two years we have been living through a global pandemic that has caused physical separation for millions around the world. For the first time in our lifetime, we faced a common enemy, which gave us the opportunity to bring humanity together in a shared mission to eradicate the virus,” Poon Tip said.

“We should have emerged shoulder to shoulder, more unified, compassionate and empathetic than ever before. And yet, here we are, on the precipice of a more dangerous chapter of our civilised history, driven purely by the need to divide.”

He goes on to announce his stance alongside people in Ukraine: “I stand with Ukraine. I stand for freedom and democracy.”

“We are living in dangerous times, where people are divided and looking for division and this just shows us we still have a long way to go. We owe it to future generations to do whatever we can to bridge these divides.”

Poon Tip said that G Adventures will no longer service Russia and those who are booked on tours in Russia will receive a refund.

“As a company, G Adventures has cancelled all tours in Russia and travellers booked on forward departures will be refunded. We will no longer accept Russian nationals residing inside Russia on our trips, nor will we take bookings from Russian agencies,” he said.

“Unfortunately, these sanctions and forced global isolation will impact everyday people who may not agree with — and who may even be brave enough to protest — their country’s politics. However, these sanctions are essential in order to apply pressure on the entire country and to invoke change.

“There are many fine people in Russia who are now forced to become part of the solution. At this advanced stage where war has already commenced, there are only three options: deposed leadership, a complete regime change, or retreat from actions already taken. All of these come back to an internal solution created by global pressure and unfortunately, good people become an important part of the story.”

He then went on to comment on how this will impact travel, both within G Adventures and the whole industry.

“I have always said travel can be the fastest path to peace, so it breaks my heart that it has come to this. If you are reading this and have the privilege to do so, please continue to be the shining light and get back out there and travel.

“It’s only by connecting with other cultures that we can foster connection and understanding between different countries and communities. This cultural exchange is the backbone of what I built this company on 32 years ago and it must continue.

“Our travellers, partners and team members continue to show extraordinary resilience in our commitment to delivering these life-changing experiences, even when faced with the most challenging of situations. Thank you to everyone who has stood by us and who continues to be passionate about changing the world through travel.”

Poon Tip concluded: “Travel is the most powerful way we can open our hearts, minds, and eyes to the beauty of the world, especially in the darkest of times.”



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A Message From G Adventures Founder Bruce Poon Tip On Ukraine


In a message titled “There are none so blind as those who will not see,” G Adventures founder and travel industry leader Bruce Poon Tip has taken a strong stance against the invasion of Ukraine.

The company has taken tangible actions too, announcing the cancellation of all tours in Russia, and G Adventures will no longer accept Russian nationals residing inside Russia on its trips or take bookings from Russian agencies.

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Here’s a transcript of Poon Tip’s message, which we believe will resonate with the members of an industry dedicated to helping people connect with other cultures and to breaking down the kind of barriers that lead to armed conflict:

“It’s as though we’ve learned nothing in the past 75 years – I would have hoped we had learned from our collective experience. The past two years we have been living through a global pandemic that has caused physical separation for millions around the world. For the first time in our lifetime, we faced a common enemy, which gave us the opportunity to bring humanity together in a shared mission to eradicate the virus.

We should have emerged shoulder to shoulder, more unified, compassionate and empathetic than ever before. And yet, here we are, on the precipice of a more dangerous chapter of our civilized history, driven purely by the need to divide.

For our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, the nightmare is already very real. It is unthinkable that we are faced with a scenario where a sovereign European nation has been invaded, unprovoked and without justified cause.


Hiroshima Peace Memorial
PHOTO: Hiroshima Peace Memorial. (photo via TommL/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

I stand with Ukraine. I stand for freedom and democracy. We are living in dangerous times, where people are divided and looking for division and this just shows us we still have a long way to go. We owe it to future generations to do whatever we can to bridge these divides.

As a company, G Adventures has cancelled all tours in Russia and travellers booked on forward departures will be refunded. We will no longer accept Russian nationals residing inside Russia on our trips, nor will we take bookings from Russian agencies.

Unfortunately, these sanctions and forced global isolation will impact everyday people who may not agree with — and who may even be brave enough to protest — their country’s politics.

However, these sanctions are essential in order to apply pressure on the entire country and to invoke change. There are many fine people in Russia who are now forced to become part of the solution.

At this advanced stage where war has already commenced, there are only three options: deposed leadership, a complete regime change, or retreat from actions already taken. All of these come back to an internal solution created by global pressure and unfortunately good people become an important part of the story.

I have always said travel can be the fastest path to peace, so it breaks my heart that it has come to this. If you are reading this and have the privilege to do so, please continue to be the shining light and get back out there and travel. It’s only by connecting with other cultures that we can foster connection and understanding between different countries and communities. This cultural exchange is the backbone of what I built this company on 32 years ago and it must continue.

Our travellers, partners and team members continue to show extraordinary resilience in our commitment to delivering these life-changing experiences, even when faced with the most challenging of situations. Thank you to everyone who has stood by us and who continues to be passionate about changing the world through travel.

Travel is the most powerful way we can open our hearts, minds, and eyes to the beauty of the world, especially in the darkest of times.

Let us continue to stand together, for peace.”





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Bruce Pearl trying to maximize offense before matchup with Arkansas


Auburn has won 19 games in a row and is the No. 1 team in the country for the third week in a row. The Tigers will put that all on the line when they travel to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas.

After losing five out of six games from mid-December to early January, the Razorbacks have since been one of the hottest teams in the country as they have won eight straight games since their mid-season slump.

“The key to their eight-game winning streak has been their defense,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “They make it really difficult to run your offense… Bud Walton will be on fire, so we know we’ve got a great opportunity.”

Freshman star Jabari Smith only attempted seven shots against the Bulldogs on Saturday and coach Pearl took responsibility for that.

“If he had a better coach, he’d get more shots, but he’s got to overcome me,” Pearl said. “That’s on me that he only got seven shots.”

Auburn forward Allen Flanigan has been back for 10 games now and he is slowly starting to progress and become more comfortable with this new team. 

Pearl noted that he has had to change roles completely as he said that he asked Flanigan to do everything last season, but now he doesn’t have to do that.


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While Flanigan’s offense has come along slowly his defense has still been very solid.

“Every day [he’s] getting more and more comfortable,” Pearl said. “He’s still not back to last season’s form…When he’s healthy, he’s as good a defensive big guard as there is.”

Arkansas is a versatile team that will be able to switch everything defensively while also having the size to match up with the Tigers.

“Arkansas is probably as big and as athletic as any team in our league,” Pearl said “Really big, physical guards. Statistically, they’re playing as well defensively as anyone in the league. Stanley Umude, JD Notae, and Jaylin Williams have been really good for them.”

Against Georgia, Auburn was without its starting point guard Zep Jasper due to an illness. Jasper is still recovering as he was not able to practice on Sunday and is questionable for the game on Tuesday.

The Tigers and Razorbacks will tip-off on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CST. The game will air on ESPN2.


Henry Patton | Sports Writer

Henry is a sophomore from Dallas, Texas. This is his second year with The Auburn Plainsman. 

Twitter: @Henry_Patton23






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“You’re not going to keep it out”: Bruce Poon Tip on global reaction to omicron


When asked what governments could have done differently upon learning about omicron, other than restrict air access from South Africa (where it was first discovered) and neighbouring countries, shut down borders and, in the case of Canada, implement mandatory COVID-19 testing for all air travellers (except from the U.S.) and self-isolation until test results become known, Poon Tip says a wait-and-see approach would have been best.

“In general, I think it’s a mistake to react so quickly. In two weeks’ time when news comes out that omicron is less transmissible or it has less symptoms, are governments going to reverse their decision to shut down? I just don’t think they will,” he says.

“I’m not coming down on government, not at all. It’s about being prepared. The lack of forward thinking and planning is unfortunate. We’ve had 19, 20 months to prepare for this, we essentially had a two-year rehearsal. But we didn’t learn anything with Delta because we’re doing the same thing.”

Shutting borders is not the answer, he adds, emphasizing the enormous socio-economic impact travel has on global communities. Prior to the pandemic, Travel & Tourism accounted for 1 in 4 of all new jobs in the world and 10.4% of global GDP. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the sector suffered a staggering loss of nearly $4.5 trillion in 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic.

“Once someone’s vaccinated and tested, which is what’s been happening, that should open up some doors and create some freedoms for them to travel,” says Poon Tip. “This should be a global policy but right now, everyone’s working individually.”

As the WTTC and other organizations like the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have repeatedly advocated throughout the pandemic, a more unified global approach is key for the safe resumption of travel. Poon Tip, however, notes how the global response to omicron has been “very uneven” thus far, with several countries, including Canada and the United States, banning flights from South Africa and other African nations, while others like Japan and Israel have gone so far as to close borders entirely to all foreigners.

“It’s been proven once again, as much as you shut down borders, you’re not going to keep it out. We’re already seeing it in every country around the world, including here in Ontario,” says Poon Tip. “We have a miracle vaccine. We should focus on vaccine equity because that’s the best way to slow down variants. Hoarding vaccines is not helping anybody.”

According to Our World in Data, only 7.5% of the 1.3 billion people living on the African continent is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In comparison, 29.1 million Canadians are fully vaccinated, which is approximately 76% of Canada’s population.

“It certainly doesn’t help that one country’s 90% vaccinated while others are only at 5%,” adds Poon Tip. “We need each other to get out of this. It’s just a shame that after the 20 months we’ve been in this, we still aren’t working together.”

 


To read the full article, including whether G Adventures will implement new safety measures and what Poon Tip’s advice is to travel agents, click here for the Dec. 9 issue of Travelweek.



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Taking the Trip of a Lifetime With Bruce Poon Tip



By channeling tourism dollars back into the communities being visited, G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip has not only created a better way to travel, but he also has built a circular economic system that benefits underserved communities all over the world.


Photo courtesy of G Adventures

Companies, along with the people who run them, the products they make and the faces who represent them, need to stand for something good. Otherwise, the critical, woke millennials won’t work for you or consume your products—and they sure won’t be shy about shaming you on the socials. In other words, nowadays corporate values need to align with consumer values if a company is to succeed. Or so the prevailing wisdom goes.

Of course, the prevailing wisdom of our times was not a popular theory in 1990, when a young Bruce Poon Tip maxed out two credit cards to launch his tour operator travel company, G Adventures in Toronto. 

But mixing passion with purpose to turn a profit is the only way Bruce knows how to work. 

He developed his winning formula early: Find a hole in the market—preferably one driven by passion and purpose—and invent an innovative way to meet the demand.

When he was one of seven children living with his immigrant family in Calgary, his love of animals led him to learn about dwarf rabbits, a Dutch breed that he suspected could satisfy a growing craze for pet bunnies and solve the disappointment pet owners felt when other rabbits grew larger and not-so-cute. Bruce found an Alberta farmer who agreed to sell him two dwarf rabbits, then convinced his parents to let him put their cages in the backyard. As the male and female did what rabbits do, he biked his way around town, introducing himself and his bunnies to pet store and drugstore managers (remember when drugstores sold pets?), forging personal relationships with his vendors—and he was in business. One of the first things he did was exhibit the rabbits at a 4-H Club show (he biked there, too), where they caused a sensation and won best in show—and let him brand his pets as “award-winning.” 

He was 12 years old. This was the second of three businesses he launched before graduating high school.

Bruce learned the importance of purpose-driven selling at 14 during his third entrepreneurial endeavor: a bookmark business. He was selling student-made bookmarks at the drugstores where the managers already knew him, but the business didn’t take off until he changed the story, adding purpose and meaning with new marketing. “If you buy these, you are helping students,” he added to the displays. The bookmarks started flying off the counters.

Less than a decade later at 22, his passion was travel, and the hole in the market was the wide gap that existed between the two prevailing modes of travel at the time: mainstream travel, where guests were cosseted at Western-style, all-inclusive resorts and shielded from the local community, and backpacking, which required a lot of DIY resourcefulness and a willingness to rough it. There had to be a better way, he thought. One where travelers could interact in meaningful ways with locals to get a true flavor of a destination, where transportation—by canoe, tuk-tuk, local trains—could be an interesting part of the journey, and where the tourism dollars spent wouldn’t end up in a corporate office across the globe but rather would remain within the local community, helping to sustain and develop it. And that’s what he created with G Adventures.

For his first trip, he took six people to Ecuador. For his second, six more to Belize. Why these destinations? In practical terms, they were close to Canada. In travel terms, they offered variety—mountains, the Amazon, the Galapagos. In philosophical terms, “I wanted to go where other people weren’t going yet.”

Along the way, he developed relationships with locals, who agreed to welcome G Adventure travelers. In return, the revenue they received went back into their communities—resulting in new schools and health centers and improved economic prospects and giving people an alternative to having to move from their villages to seek employment in cities. 

One of the first people he met in the Ecuadoran Amazon was a man called Delfin. He didn’t speak English, couldn’t understand why people would want to visit his community and had no interest in money. But Bruce is beguiling. And with a handshake, Delfin agreed to host travelers in his home and share his way of life. Three decades later, Delfin is still a partner, and proceeds from tourism have helped him build a local school, fight the government when they wanted to confiscate his land for oil and preserve his way of life and his culture. His son, who Bruce met as a newborn, recently graduated from university in Moscow. 

G Adventures has developed thousands of partnerships all over the world. “We were helping someone start a local business in order to create more business for us,” he wrote in his bestselling 2013 book, Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business. “And our passengers reported high rates of satisfaction with these close-to-the-community experiences. They would rave about having the opportunity to take part in their trip, as though it was a privilege, rather than something they paid for.”

In 2003, Bruce launched a nonprofit arm of G Adventures called the Planeterra Foundation, which was designed to leverage the tourism economy to benefit underserved communities all over the world. To date, Planeterra has completed more than 100 projects all over the world, such as Oodles of Noodles, a program in Vietnam that teaches at-risk street kids how to run restaurants, a partnership with Streets International. 

Bruce is especially proud of SASANE, the nonprofit founded with a $25,000 grant from G Adventures and the Planeterra Foundation to benefit Nepalese women who are victims of human trafficking. The women learn to become paralegals and then help themselves and other women. “They help police officers identify other women who are trafficked and train the police to ask the right questions,” Bruce explains. “They help women get off the street.” G Adventures travelers to Nepal get to spend time with the women, learning about their lives during cooking classes.

In India, G travelers are picked up by Women on Wheels, a fleet driven by formerly homeless and abused women who received 18 month of training and a car through G Adventures. This in a country where women rarely drive. G trips often include a first-day city tour led by teenagers who were found in shelters and taught to be tour guides. Bruce speaks of “amazing stories of kids found at train stations when they were two or three years old. I know six of these kids who are studying through scholarships in the United States.”

Bruce doesn’t use trendy terms like ecotourism or sustainable tourism to define his work and his mission. He likes “community tourism” as a better descriptor for the circular economic system he’s created, where tourism dollars are channeled back into the communities. He’s also aware that “the world has changed in our favor. The mindset of people, the sustainability movement, the way people live at home. We have always thought for 30 years that people will match their values with their holiday time.” His gut instinct paid off. 

It all sounds almost hopelessly feel-good and kumbaya, doesn’t it? It is, but it works: Bruce leveraged those handshake agreements into a nine-figure business that has had double-digit growth for three decades. Some 200,000 travelers take more than 750 tours to 100 countries on every continent. G Adventures tours have a “G for Good” community-minded element in the trip. The pandemic took its toll, but tours have resumed in the countries where they can travel, and 2022 Looks strong. G Adventures has five headquarters around the world, in Berlin, London, Melbourne, Boston and Toronto; each has won a “best places to work” award.

Bruce’s other accolades are almost an embarrassment of riches: Social Venture Network Hall of Fame (2012), Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, EY Entrepreneur of the Year (2002, 2006, 2016), British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame (2018), #10 on Glassdoor’s Top CEOs list (2019).

And he’s the only person to have ever had a business book endorsed by a living god, the Dalai Lama. In the foreword to Looptail, His Holiness wrote, “Not only in his business but also in this account of his adventures, Bruce Poon Tip is making an active contribution to creating a more peaceful and happier world, while at the same time creating a model from which others can learn.”

How does he find the right balance between purpose and profits? “There’s no real way to balance it,” he says. “I can honestly say that in 30 years, I have never had to make a decision based on money. I believe that if we do everything right, we’re profitable. Profit can be organic, and we have proven that. Double-digit growth, getting the best people—it all comes if we get the community right. It’s esoteric for some people to believe, but it’s true.” 

Asked what he would advise other CEOs, he says, “Put the right things in place for people to achieve human happiness. Focus on sustained human happiness. Happy people drive performance.”





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“You become the authority”: Here’s what Bruce Poon Tip is saying about selling travel in these next few months


 

Expert advice, the kind that comes from a real, live travel agent, is something the online travel agencies (OTAs )just can’t match right now, adds Poon Tip. And expert advice is exactly what travellers are looking for for post-pandemic travel.

“All this complaining the travel industry has done for so long, about OTAs stealing business, going direct … this is the perfect opportunity for travel agents to engage customers with information and create a conversation. You know people who are starting to travel to destinations that are opening faster, you become an authority, and you give people that confidence. And having those conversations suddenly becomes a valuable source of connectedness that you have with your customers. You can’t get that from an OTA right now. So the OTAs are at a disadvantage.”

 

DROPPING THE QUARANTINE SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE A LONG TIME AGO”

One agent asked Poon Tip for his take on where the Canadian travel industry is at this point in the pandemic.

While the eased quarantine announcement earlier this week was good news, Canada is still lagging behind the U.S. and Europe when it comes to reopening travel.

“We’re a bit behind. They’re opening up in the U.S. … we don’t have the amount of double vaccinated people [as they do in the U.S.], we had a strategy of getting single vaccinations. You can complain about the execution of how this format has gone … it’s put us back a bit but I do think we’re placed very well, if our government cooperates. I am constantly talking with groups of different CEOs from different industries and leaders within Canada, trying to communicate with governments about what we need to do. Dropping this quarantine is something that should have been done a long time ago.”

Poon Tip added: “The government seems to have no urgency, I think that’s our biggest problem. I think we actually stand to fare well as a country. Everyone wants to come to Canada, that’s for sure. I hear from all the operators all over Europe, I got calls literally for this morning. It’s going to be people that are vaccinated and I think it’s going to depend a lot on other countries opening their borders to double vaccinated or fully vaccinated people.”

 

DON’T CALL THEM VACCINE PASSPORTS”

Speaking of vaccinations, Poon Tip urged agents to drop the ‘vaccine passport’ term, and use ‘proof of vaccination’ instead: “Stop using this term ‘vaccine passports’. It’s a lightning rod, it’s a politicized term. Everyone in the travel industry knows we’ve had proof of vaccination since the dawn of travel … proof of vaccination has existed since [mass air] travel started in the 1950s. People are trying to make it something it’s not.”

As many in the industry have noted over these past 15 months, the ‘yellow book’ showing proof of vaccination for yellow fever has been in use for decades. Proof of vaccination is needed in schools too: “If your child hasn’t had their vaccinations, they can’t go to school,” noted Poon Tip. “Proof of vaccination will be a very important part of restarting travel.”

 

BOOK NOW – THERE’S LIMITED SPACE EVERYWHERE”

Poon Tip was also asked why agents should tell their clients to book travel product now for getaways in later 2021 and into 2022. Especially with travel on the radar for consumers in the U.S. and Europe, inventory is getting snapped up at a fast pace, a situation most Canadians are probably unaware of.

“At G Adventures we’re starting to see bookings return as more people get vaccinated,” he says. “Why should customers book now? There’s a few reasons. The first one is, there’s limited space everywhere. There’s going to be a tipping point and it’s going to I think it’s going to move very fast. I don’t think it’s going to drip, drip, drip like it has been up until now, I think there will be a tipping point where we’re going to hit those herd immunity numbers in certain countries and, you know, we’re going to have 70% of people fully vaccinated and travel is going to open, and you want to make sure you have space. That’s number one.

The second reason to get clients to book? The deals. “There’s lots of deals, there are deals, deals, deals, and we’re offering deals too.

Those deals aren’t just with tour operators like G Adventures, says Poon Tip. “The third reason is airlines. The airlines are desperate right now to get people to travel again and booking flights now is a lot cheaper than it’s going to be once they have a reasonable amount of traffic and they’re trying to get more planes up in the air.”

The flexibility on offer right now is also unheard of, he added: “We’re all offering unheralded flexibility that we’ve never offered before.”

Finally, there’s the need to support the travel industry. Says Poon Tip: “The last one, and the most important one, and the more compassionate one, is to support the travel industry. I mean, we love travel. And it’s not just about agents or operators or airlines. It’s all those people on the ground who need to need to start planning their lives … a lot of them are hanging on by a thread waiting for people to travel again. I got letters from people saying, ‘I’m putting a deposit down, I’m not even choosing a trip, I’m putting a deposit down to support you guys’. It was unbelievable how many people wanted to do just that, just to put a deposit down to support the industry.”



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G Adventures Special Agent G Wraps Up With Bruce Poon Tip Chat


The pandemic has been the worst of times for travel agents. But there also are opportunities.

G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip held a 75-minute chat and question-and-answer session with agents on Thursday as the company’s Special Agent G program wrapped up its two-day program. It was their first-ever virtual program and their biggest ever and featured everything from webinars to cooking classes and more.

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“In the short term you have an opportunity to be a source of information and transcend your product,” Poon Tip told advisors. “When you’re selling things to people all the time, that’s not a meaningful relationship. You’re just selling them stuff. So you should be constantly looking for ways to engage your customers or your clients and transcend what you do.

“This pandemic has allowed travel professionals to actually offer a professional service, because travellers are nervous, travellers need to be convinced to come back to travel, they need to feel safe,” he said. “All this complaining the travel industry has done for so long about OTA’s stealing business or people buying direct, this is the perfect opportunity for them to engage customers with information, and create a conversation that transcends your product and selling them stuff; starting to research what’s happening with vaccines and vaccine rollouts, what people are doing on the ground … destinations that are opening faster. You become an authority and you give people that confidence.”

Poon Tip said he and other travel executives have been making their case with Ottawa.

“The government seems to have no urgency, and I think that’s our biggest problem. I think we actually stand fairly well as a country. Everyone wants to come to Canada, that’s one thing for sure. I hear from people every day asking, ‘When’s Canada opening?'”

The way things stand, Poon Tip said he doesn’t see a full recovery for a year or a year and-a-half.

Poon Tip also touched on some personal issues and career highlights, including the introduction of their non-profit Planeterra program In 2003, his first book, which became a New York Times bestseller, and, just this week, receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, which was done virtually and allowed his mom and other family members to watch.

That’s pretty good for an immigrant from Trinidad who thought he would go into the music business before deciding to open G (then Gap) Adventures in 1990; back before laptops or cell phones or even fax machines existed.

Poon Tip teased agents by saying G Adventures is working on some “very, very big, industry changing and G Adventures changing projects” that he won’t be able to talk about until later this year or early in 2022.

He told advisors it’s a great time to book a trip as there are “deals, deals, deals,” as well as unprecedented flexibility from airlines and tour operators. Space is limited, however, and prices will start to go up once the travel floodgates open.

Poon Tip said one trend he sees on the horizon is longer, slower travel in which people really relax and take a deep dive into the destination they’re visiting.

There’s also a growing number of people who want to book meaningful travel and not just be sold a package of amenities, he said.

David Green, G Adventures’ VP Commercial, finished the two-day event in a purple tuxedo, thanking TravelPulse Canada for providing the virtual platform for the event and thanking loyal agents for supporting the company over the years.

The Japan National Tourism Organization, the Jordan Tourism Board and PROMPERú acted as lead sponsors.





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Bruce Poon Tip’s take on Australia’s international travel ban – Travel Weekly


G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip has expressed his shock over Australia’s tough international travel stance, saying the lack of clarity around a reopening timeline has made it difficult for the adventure travel company to time its restart Down Under.

Speaking at Travel DAZE 2021 earlier this week, Poon Tip said that from the outside, Australia’s border restrictions seem “very harsh” and “difficult to understand”.

“It is outrageous to us. Australia took a stance early that every life mattered and one death was too many … and [when there was] a handful of cases, they were prepared to lock down and put restrictions on immediately,” he said.

“As the rest of the world is starting to open up now 14 to 15 months later [and] vaccines are available, we need to open the world – we just can’t stay closed.

“And Australia is still pushing to be closed until midway into 2022, which I think is a pretty outrageous decision. It’s hard to understand from outside.

“With the few cases that you’ve had – there’s been sacrifices in every country, there’s been deaths, various variants, second waves we’ve all had to withstand – but Australia and New Zealand have taken a very aggressive stance from the very beginning, and from the outside, it’s very difficult to understand.”

Poon Tip said that while the federal government has flagged mid-next-year for an expected reopening of Australia’s international border, it’s “still just a maybe”, and this lack of clarity was making it hard for G Adventures to plan the resumption of its local operations.

“If you decide to open tomorrow, we can’t just start running trips the following week – it has to be carefully planned,” he explained.

“We’ve all downsized and downscaled in those regions, and now we have to scale back up, and we can’t do that when we don’t have a clear direction from government about what the path is to opening.

“You don’t have any definitive dates or definitive timelines, and no one can be completely definitive, but I think there’s a feeling that the government of Australia isn’t motivated to open, whereas in the UK, even though we don’t have as much information, we know the government is highly motivated to open its borders.”

During his Travel DAZE session, Poon Tip revealed that G Adventures was looking to “get serious” about seeking M&A opportunities with the help of private equity partner Certares from July.

“G Adventures is in hibernation right now, so we had to take care of our own business first,” he said.

“We’re in a better position to have look at things, and there are a few great opportunities for us to look at now, and we’ve looked at some that didn’t work out for us – that weren’t right for us in the moment.

“We are looking outside of our specific sector of the travel industry. We’ve looked at a couple of technology companies, and we looked at a hotel which would vertically integrate into our business now.”

You can watch Poon Tip’s Travel DAZE session in full, on demand HERE.

 



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