Tom is responsible for leading sales, marketing and partnership activities in North America, Intrepid’s fastest growing market. Like the company of Intrepid, he is committed to supporting travel agent partners and non-traditional distribution channels, taking Intrepid’s sustainable, experience-rich travel to more people in North America than ever before.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi, Tom. It looks like you’ve been busy with a new position at Intrepid Travel, how are you?
Tom Smith (TS): I’m great, thanks! There’s a lot going on already, which is great as it shows the power of the Intrepid brand. Trying to scale the business back up to keep up with the demand we’re seeing for our products has been a challenge at times this year, but fortunately we’ve been getting plenty of great candidates wanting to work with us.
TRO: You’ve worked with Intrepid Travel since 2017. I would say it looks like you enjoy working there. What are your favorite aspects of being with Intrepid?
TS: I actually joined the business in August 2015, so I just passed my 7 year anniversary. My favorite aspect is definitely the people. Working with such a passionate, socially and environmentally conscious group of people makes working here incredibly fun and rewarding. In fact, it doesn’t really feel like work at all! I love the ethos and values of the business, as they align with my own—and so we’re moving in the same direction. I’ve also been fortunate to be based in several different countries, which keeps my fire for meeting new people and having new experiences well and truly lit.
TRO: You’ve also moved through multiple positions on your way up within Intrepid as well. The most current being the General Manager of North American operations, which has been said to be your fastest growing market. How much has this market grown in the post-pandemic travel industry?
TS: Every month so far in 2022 we’ve outperformed the 2019 monthly total, which is a testament to the growing recognition that the Intrepid brand has here in North America. Last month we outperformed August 2019 by 30%, which was an astonishing achievement by the team.
TRO: Canada seems to currently be one of the major focuses in the expanding North American market. Are these mostly polar experiences, or is there far more to Canada than polar?
TS: There’s far more to Canada than polar! It’s true that we do have some great Arctic experiences, but our active products, including cycling, hiking, rafting and kayaking, are really popular at the minute, as are our Indigenous tourism experiences.
TRO: Intrepid Travel is also gaining in the US market with the acquisition of Wildland Trekking, an environmentally-conscious US-based tour operator. What are your current major plans for the US travel market?
TS: Our acquisition of Wildland Trekking means we’ve now got far more product in the US, and more adventurous product with their range of spectacular back-country trips. So that will help us reach more adventurous travelers in the US; but we’re also increasing our range of Premium products for 2023, which will appeal more to those travelers who want more comfort when enjoying their unique and sustainable experiences.
TRO: Intrepid Travel has been carbon neutral since 2010, becoming a certified B-Corp in 2018. Does this set of responsible travel practices tie directly into offering more chances to meet the locals, particularly in the sense of connecting to the welfare of locals at that destination?
TS: One of the main parts of the B-Corp assessment process is an analysis of what we’re doing to benefit the communities that we visit, and so this process has helped us to question ourselves in this area. Supporting local people has always been something central to our product offering, being led by a local, staying in local peoples’ houses on a homestay, and eating in locally run restaurants and staying in locally owned accommodation. All of these are conscious choices which benefit the local community in a sustainable way, and provide opportunities for our customers to meet local people, which encourages cultural exchange.
TRO: You are quoted as saying, “Luxury can often mean a disconnect between travelers and locals. That’s not Intrepid’s way. We emphasize meeting local people, and having unique experiences. That’s still at the core of what we do with every trip.”
This can be a tough medium ground to reach with luxury travelers. Can you give us an example of how Intrepid accomplishes this balance?
TS: We do have a range of Premium tours, which are really popular with North American customers, but at their core they’re still very Intrepid. They’re still focused on travelling in a sustainable way, interacting with local people, and experiencing local cultures in unique and unforgettable ways. The only differences are that you’ll stay in a nicer hotel with more facilities, you might travel in a different, more comfortable vehicle, and have more exclusive activities included in the itinerary as standard.
TRO: Are you seeing an increase in companies that are embracing the inevitable move to sustainable travel as a normal way of
TS: Yes, we are, which is important and very welcome. We’re all going to have to modify our behavior in all walks of life if we’re going to have any chance of reducing the pace of climate change, and reducing social inequality around the world.
TRO: Does Intrepid Travel have any upcoming news or announcements that you wish to share?
TS: There’s lots of news coming which I can’t share just yet, but I would say that we’ve just had a couple of great opportunities open up to join our team here in North America. I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in joining to check out our careers page.
TRO: Tom, thank you for chatting with us. We look forward to Intrepid Travel’s successes in the future.
TS: You’re most welcome, it’s been great chatting to you too and best of luck with your business.