Bruce Poon Tip, Founder of G Adventures | TravelResearchOnline

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Bruce Poon Tip, Founder of G Adventures

Bruce_MG_5373-Final cut outBruce Poon Tip is founder of G Adventures and currently serves as the President of Planterra (also founded by Mr. Poon Tip). Mr. Poon Tip is an authority on social entrepreneurship, corporate social and environmental responsibility, service and innovation. His achievements extend as far as being a keynote speaker at the United Nations and UNESCO, as well as winning various entrepreneurial awards such as, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Recently, his book “Looptail: How One Company Changed The World by Reinventing Business,” debuted at #1 on the Globe and Mail hardcover non-fiction bestsellers list and #4 on the New York Times How-to/Advise list.

In 1990, twenty-two year old Bruce Poon Tip returned home from backpacking through Asia. During his trip, Bruce recognized a gap in the tourism industry for those seeking authentic traveling experiences, such as a alternatives to resorts and cruise ships. Identifying the lack of substitutable options to travelers, Bruce was driven to share his passion and vision for experiencing authentic adventures with fellow globetrotters. Unable to secure a loan from a financial institution to bring his dreams to fruition, Bruce maxed out two credit cards and G Adventures was born.

In the last 24 years, his ambitions have materialized into a globally renowned brand. Under Mr. Poon Tip’s leadership, G Adventures has grown from a one-man operation to become the world’s largest adventure travel company with over 1,350 employees. G Adventures offers more than 1,000 small group experiences, safaris and expeditions on all seven continents, to more than 100,000 travelers a year. More importantly, G Adventures strives to promote sustainable tourism and has served as a catalyst to redefine social enterprise. Bruce’s passion for sustainable and responsible travel catapulted the launch of Planterra in 2003. Planterra is an NGO that helps citizens develop their communities, conserve their environment, and provide social solutions to local businesses. By adopting these practices for advancing and preserving travel destinations, G Adventures is skilled in providing amazing travel experiences.

Travel Research Online: You were once offered a $100 Million for  your business. What was it like to turn an offer like that down?

Bruce Poon Tip: At the time, it was a very difficult decision to make. $100 million is a lot of clams! It just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. I knew that at the time I had, and still have a lot to offer in terms of leadership for G Adventures – we continue to see double digit growth every year that we have been in business. While it was hard, it also just didn’t feel like the right thing to do at the time and it still doesn’t. As long as I feel that I can lead and contribute to growing our businesses and brand, globally, I don’t think that I will ever sell. Turning down that $100 million offer in 2008 actually motivated me to take things to the next level, and was when we started focussing more on our company culture and transcending the travel industry.

TRO: You mentioned in a lecture that there has been a huge increase in all-inclusive travel packages, indicating that today about 75% of travelers book all-inclusive packages. How has your company tackled this challenge?

PictureBTP: We remain true to ourselves and live by our brand promise, of changing people’s lives through incredible experiences, in a sustainable way, all while providing the absolute best customer service possible. We’ve worked hard to create a lifestyle brand and to be more than just a travel company. Our travelers are so passionate about the way that we do business that we really just continue to do our own thing, create amazing life-changing experiences for our customers, but do so in a ethical, sustainable way that focusses on more money staying within and benefiting local communities.

There will always be an appetite for all inclusive vacations. It’s our hope that people will notice what we are doing and make better decisions to ensure that travel is an engine to distribute wealth globally, in a way that benefits more people around the world,  instead of ending up in the bank account of a huge, multinational corporation. Travel professionals can help with this by educating their customers on where their money is going when they go on vacation and to help to provide options to make our industry better.

TRO: We are coming up on the 1 year anniversary of your book, “Looptail”. How does it feel? How has G Adventures grown since the release of the book? More importantly, how have you grown as an individual and entrepreneur?

BTP: It’s been an absolutely incredible year. Looptail hit number 4 on the New York Times Best Sellers list for Business books. It was amazing and validating to me to know that so many people were interested in hearing my story, and to learn more about the way that we do business at G Adventures. A lot of people thought that were giving away our play book to success to our competitors when I released Looptail. The truth is, we have already moved on to some pretty amazing things. the book did a great job of capturing our story to a certain point – but we’ve already propelled way beyond what is written within Looptail. 

In terms of growth as an individual and entrepreneur, since all this growth has taken place, I have to stay on top of my game and find new ways to keep our employees motivated and our customers paying attention to what we are doing. I’m incredibly motivated to continue to find new ways to help local communities by building sustainable business solutions in communities around the world. What makes these local businesses successful is the fact that we can drive travelers to these businesses through our trips. It’s a model that’s working and other businesses and governments are taking notice. Last year, we partnered with the InterAmerican Development Bank and the Multilateral Investment Fun to build five sustainable tourism projects in Latin America. There was a lot of resistance to this at first – I had people booing and heckling me at the announcement of the partnership, but we’ve proved them wrong and have already seen the benefits for all parties involved – the traveler gets a unique experience while new jobs and businesses are created and are ensured to be successful, because we can guarantee that a large number of people will be taken to these businesses through our trips. It truly is a win-win situation.

TRO: What was it like to be endorsed by the Dalai Lama himself?

BTP: To say that it was overwhelming would be an understatement! Looptail was the first business book not directly related to his teaching, to receive endorsement from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  It really validated what we are doing as a company – looking beyond profit and using travel as a form of global wealth distribution.

TRO: In an interview you mention that brands and cultures must constantly rebrand themselves. How has G Adventures accomplished this? How can travel professionals implement this method to promote their own endeavors?

BTP: For us, it’s always been about being a part of something much bigger than just G Adventures and by finding a set of core values that define who we are as a company, but also transcend cultural borders and are easily understood by our nearly 2,000 employees in 109 countries around the world. That was a game changer for us in terms of ensuring that we were delivering our brand promise in a consistent way, globally.

The only brands that will matter in the future are those that make people’s lives better. We took a lot of time over the past year or so to discover what our purpose was a company. It’s our purpose to help people discover more passion, purpose and happiness and it’s because of this that we have been able to create such a strong connection with our customers. My advice to travel professionals is to create that bond with your customers. Perhaps no greater group has the power to influence travel decisions than travel professionals and agents. We go to great lengths to educate our agent partners on new ways to connect with clients and offer some pretty amazing trips.

TRO: You are deeply involved with the communities your customers travel to, how has this helped with the growth of G Adventures?

BPT: Connecting cultures and using travel to benefit all is really at the heart of what we’re are trying to do. Because we are purely committed to this and are finding new ways to be innovative.  We want our travelers to have authentic, life changing experiences and the way that we get to do this best is by creating these bonds with local communities. Purpose transcends product, and making these local connections that benefit all parties involved really defines what were are trying to do at G Adventures.

Amazon ClenseTRO: You have previously mentioned that the social revolution is changing the way people think of business and connect with brands. What can travel professionals do to keep up? How has identifying this shift helped your company prosper?

BPT: People now have the opportunity to connect with brands in completely new ways. For example you can not only follow Nike on Twitter, but you can also follow Phil Knight, the athletes that represent the brand and the factories in China where Nike products are made. It also has created a layer of transparency for businesses to be held accountable too, which is fantastic. For us, social media has allowed us to find new ways to connect with people who share our vision and passion. We’ve got more than 1 million likes on Facebook and nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter and this allows us to connect with so many people and provide the absolute best customer service possible. For travel professionals, start conversations, join groups, create and share interesting content that relates to what your purpose is and why people should travel with you.

TRO: With more millennials engaging in independent travel, how does a company that has bridged the gap between backpacking and all-inclusive resorts, reach a group of travelers who do not use travel experts/agencies?

BPT:  We’re at a point now as a company where people know what we stand for and that when they travel with us, they are going to be provided with the best possible customer service and incredible CEO (Chief Experience Officer) who will help them find experiences that they may not be able to find on their own. We connect with them via social media and also, having seen in the industry for 24 years now, have a great reputation thanks to what we have done and continue to do, as well as from word of mouth recommendations from past travelers.

Our CEO’s play an important part in this as well – they go out of their way to create the unique experiences that travelers love and as a company, we allow them to have the freedom and independence to do so. We hear time and time again from our travelers that the CEO created experiences, are often their most favorite part of their experiences with us. Many of these experiences couldn’t be written into a trip itinerary and are spur of the moment – something like eating a meal at the CEO’s house, or joining a parade or celebration that is happening that day. It allows our travelers to fully immerse themselves culturally into the destinations they are traveling to, which is something that could be missed out on by an independent traveler.

TRO: What is your best piece of advise for travel professionals?

BPT: People, don’t get into the travel industry to get rich – find your purpose and help to educate customers on the right way to travel and connect with them on an emotional  level. We have the power to do this with travel because  it’s such a personal and emotional product. You can connect with your customers so easily thanks to all of these free social tools that exist. Be nimble and creative and use travel as a force for good, by helping your customers make sustainable travel decisions that benefit local communities and spread wealth around the world. That, and of course, be sure to book with G Adventures. Anyone can make a difference through travel by making conscious decisions to do so. It’s up to you to make a change.

TRO: And lastly, anything new or exciting we can expect from G Adventures?

BPT: We’ve got lots of fun things brewing. On the product side, we have recently launched trips to Haiti. About a year ago, at the request of the InterAmerican Development Bank, we went into Haiti to assess its travel potential and conduct initial research for a possible trip there. We weren’t expecting to be able to move so quickly, but we were absolutely blown away by what we saw. We’ve already almost sold out our first trip and are proud to help lead the charge back into Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 2010. We’ve also launched a new line of Rail trips that we are really excited about that will crete new opportunities for travelers to see the world from a different point of view. We’re also launching our first app on December 1st for App and Android devices. There are lots of other things happening, but you’re going to have to stay tuned!

 

 

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