Brian John, Founder & CEO of Intrepid Vacations
Brian John is founder, president, CEO of Intrepid Vacations where he is responsible for executing the vision of this leisure travel corporation and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company. A veteran of the travel industry, Mr. John brings decades of experience to Intrepid Vacations as well as management expertise gained throughout his career in virtually every aspect of the tour operation business including: Product Development, Operations, Sales & Marketing and Training & Development. His diverse background includes key management roles at such well-known travel firms as STI Travel, Central Holidays, and BJ Travel Services.
Mr. John is currently working on his MBA from City University in New York, Baruch College. His company’s headquarters is location in Marlton, New Jersey. He and his wife reside in Riverton, New Jersey.
Travel Research Online: What was your first experience in travel? What is your most memorable experience in travel?
Brian John: As far back as I can remember as a child we traveled often from the Virgin Islands (where I was born) to Boston (where I grew up) – it was a time when air travel was a luxurious event. Everyone would dress up and savor every minute of the air travel experience as part of a whole vacation. I remember the excitement of taking off and the roar of the engines…of the clouds outside that made way for adventuring in new cities. Those memories made me simply love travel.
My most memorable travel experience was a fam trip I planned to Egypt, which was also my first time of many now, experiencing all that this fascinating country had to offer. There is just something so completely captivating and awe-inspiring about Egypt. From the pyramids – distinctive and mysterious – to the enormous statues and ancient treasures of Pharaohs from thousands of years back in time – and beyond that, to the unparalleled hospitality and ultra-high level of customer service. In Egypt, the warmth of the locals as well as the truly hospitable and helpful nature of everyone within the travel and leisure lifestyle industry – in hotels, restaurants, on cruise vessels, on tours – is genuine and all-embracing. It’s part of what makes Egypt such an outstanding vacation destination.
TRO: What prompted you to first consider working in the travel industry?
Brian John: Every summer as a child I traveled back to the Virgin Islands and enjoyed time exploring my new environment. That feeling of leaving your day-to-day routine and living all of the unique differences that each destination around the world held as their own was exhilarating to me. I love to travel and being able to share those experiences with others is something I knew was perfect for me.
TRO: How did your previous jobs in the travel industry influence your founding of Intrepid? Do they continue to influence how Intrepid is run?
Brian John: My first job out of college was working for an airline owned and operated by an Iranian immigrant family. They came to this country with nothing and built this company from the ground up. That experience taught me that you CAN really have the American dream… if you work hard, you can do anything! The opportunity is there and you have to take it and make it happen. I worked there for seven years. My time there was certainly a driving force that inspired for me to start my own company. The perseverance they displayed still influences me and has always helped me strive to be the best in all the services we provide our clients. I continue developing myself and my team to attain the in-depth destination expertise that sets us apart, to consistently offer the highest level of customer service, and to provide training opportunities for our staff and travel agents to further assist them in that development.
TRO: What are some ways that Intrepid is set apart from similar organizations?
Brian John: As a key driver in creating Intrepid Vacations, I realized that there was a critical component missing within the travel industry – a company specializing in authentic, experiential travel that connected customers with the most knowledgeable destination professionals in the field. That is the keystone of our company and a key differentiator for us in the world of tour and travel. Our destination experts pride themselves on delivering travel programs that take travelers to “live like a local” in each destination they visit with Intrepid Vacations.
TRO: What does it mean for a traveler to ‘live like a local’ wherever they visit?
Brian John: Intrepid Vacations’ travel programs are unique in that they enable travelers to truly live each place authentically as if they were a local – each itinerary is developed to offer an unparalleled experiential, cultural and social travel program. By sharing the hidden places not mentioned in guidebooks, introducing travelers to the local people they wouldn’t otherwise meet, and bringing to life the cultures and traditions often undiscovered by tourists, enables Intrepid Vacations to provide an ‘insiders’ view of each destination. Our company’s dedication to taking guests beyond the obvious sights and offering unique experiences that delve deeper into the heart of each destination positively differentiates us from the rest.
TRO: What is one aspect of Intrepid you would like more agents to be aware of?
Brian John: We are pleased to announce that we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary this year and are thrilled to continue offering distinctive travel that takes clients to live like a local in each place they visit. It’s that key differentiator that is a testament to our success. It is also a driving force that helps us attract a vast range of age segments on our trips from travelers in their late 20’s to active adults — all seeking to truly “live” all that a destination has to offer.
Beyond our distinct offerings, we are pleased to work as an extension of travel agents’ and group planners’ teams, augmenting their knowledge with our travel planning and destination expertise to give their clients what they are looking for. We are dedicated to working with agents. Beyond our commission plan, we offer lots of special promotions throughout the year to boost their earnings. We also offer ‘live’ in person training and are completing a webinar series to help train agents about Intrepid Vacations.
TRO: Tell us about some of the destinations Intrepid offers. Any up-and-coming hotspots? Unusual or out-of-the-way offerings? Personal favorites?
Brian John: At Intrepid Vacations, we plan and deliver travel programs that take travelers to truly experience destinations throughout Europe and the Middle East in an authentic and inspired way. Two of my favorite up and coming destinations, which may also be considered off-the-beaten path that we are showcasing in 2013 are Costa Brava in Spain and Italy’s Piedmont region – historically Costa Brava has been a revered, chic vacation spot frequented by Europeans. We are thrilled to present North American agents and their clients with the unique opportunity to explore this exciting coastal retreat. Many articles in travel magazines refer to Piedmont as the new Tuscany…it is truly an up and coming destination with everything to offer – from amazing wines – such as Barolo and Barbaresco to rich Northern Italian cuisine and the Slow Food Movement, to phenomenal chocolate tours, as well as shopping at a mecca of textile factories – plus so much more. It is an amazing destination…just waiting to be explored! We are also working on an entirely new collection of luxury travel opportunities to India for 2014.
TRO: Is there anything new or exciting on the horizon for Intrepid?
Brian John: This year we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary. Agents and planners can look forward to celebrating with us via sweepstakes, special bonus commission offers, new agent training programs, exciting new partnerships and new product announcements, and much more — as well as an even greater range of our exciting “Live Like a Local” brand of travel programs.