Face to Face: Michael Edwards, Intrepid Group

Face to Face: Michael Edwards, Intrepid Group

Intrepid Travel has combined its efforts to deal with the travel trade as one unified group. Michael Edwards, Intrepid’s new regional director, shares his vision for the company and adventure travel with Travel Daily UK.

Intrepid Travel has combined its efforts to deal with the travel trade as one unified group. Michael Edwards, Intrepid’s new regional director, shares his vision for the company and adventure travel with Travel Daily UK.

Michael Edwards
Michael Edwards

Q) What are your initial goals having joined Intrepid late last year?

There are two key things I am focused on coming into this new role.

I have come in as the business is more structured and we have to raise the awareness of the brand and the products that we have.

Our new set-up is working well and under the Intrepid Group we need more clarity into the breadth of what we offer and what is available to the trade.

Intrepid already has a strong trade background and the growth I hope to see will come from servicing existing trade members and partners that have the ability to sell customers, while offering them rewards and incentives.

We’ll also tap into those agents we do not do much business with yet or who know some of our brands but not others to show that we can service lots of different customers.

 

Q) As you’ve mentioned, Intrepid recently went through some internal changes. What did this entail and is the process now complete?

In October the brands, The Adventure Company, Adventure Tours, Geckos Adventures, Intrepid, Peregrine and Peregrine Reserve, came altogether under the Intrepid Group.

This now gives travel agents the opportunity to talk about all our brands with the support from one group behind it, and allows us to promote ourselves with a portfolio spanning different age groups and types.

Previously we’ve seen travel agents miss opportunities or mis-sold experiences because they are not confident of selling a brand, whether it is ours or another.

Our group now allows us to marry up and convert customers to our type of holiday and become one source for different holidaymakers.

 

Q) How are you hoping to boost awareness with agents?

We have more people on the road now; there are six business development managers which is a lot for the adventure sector.

This team is fronted by Spencer Neal as head of industry sales UK, Ireland and Nordics, while Daniel Pawlyn is now head of business development for the group.

We also have six people dedicated to the trade in our call centre.

This team allows us to talk to old and new agents about what we are all about. The onus is on the operator to be more sophisticated and cater for agents, so training is everything.

Spencer Neal has been promoted to head of industry sales UK, Ireland and Nordic at Intrepid Group
Spencer Neal has been promoted to head of industry sales UK, Ireland and Nordic at Intrepid Group

Our BDMs are going in with information on all our brands so the agencies can really see where the earning potential is. As a group there are more destinations and demographics, for example younger travellers can be directed to Geckos while families can opt for The Adventure Company.

We also have a huge commitment to fam trips and more agent-only incentives, plus also matched price parity.

Agents also have the ability to earn commission on the full value of Geckos and Peregrine tours including internal flights.

Our trade-only deals give more exclusivity to partners and we know agents are loyal once they see what we deliver, so it’s worth the investment.

 

Q) Are you seeing that more agents are looking to sell adventure holidays now? How could agents form part of the growth in the adventure sector?

The adventure travel sector is growing but not as many are selling due to lack of confidence in what is means.

Our job is to provide that knowledge. I believe adventure travel can go in the same direction as cruise has in recent years.

Ten years ago not many agents sold cruises and it has now gone mainstream.

Cruise has done a really good job of promoting itself to the trade and now I think it is time for the adventure market to do the same.

The UK market is mature for adventure, there are lots of brands here and not much sold through the trade.

We expect the rapid growth in adventure interest to continue and the role of a travel agent is inferior between looking at potential options to the end experience.

Our high-touch products play into the strengths of a travel agent these days as they have the service and experience.

Agents that work with us have to understand how and why people travel so they get the maximum benefit.

 

Q) Is the perception of adventure travel changing? We hear it isn’t all about sleeping rough and trekking for hours.

Adventure travel has become more mainstream in that it is not just the adventurous people who want to go to these places.

Adventure is also about cultural immersion and the spirit of adventure, whatever that means to you.

Many people have already experienced some things already and just want to move on; the idea of having a full English breakfast while abroad is fading out.

I think what people want to do in their spare time has shifted to something that means they have more of an experience.

People are more adventurous in spirit and want to feed their curiosity, with travel another way for them to get there.

The 50+ market is the old backpackers group who want to go back to the countries they visited before with like-minded people and probably a bit more comfort. They still want to see beaches, but have that cultural and educational aspect too.

There is also the ‘bucket list’ phenomena and there is a strong desire to do the great experiences in life.

 

Q) How is Intrepid adapting its products to meet this change?

As the Intrepid Group we now have the operation and structure to be able to build our itineraries based on trends and the marketplace, and for each of the different demographics.

Customers are savvier and holidays have to tick all the boxes, so this is a real strength for us now.

In 2014 for example, we have more food trips and there are eight new destinations in 2014. Our sailing trips are also proving popular and we’ve added one in Burma this year, the first company to do so.

Our luxury offering through Peregrine Reserve has also expanded this year as we know there is demand for this style of holiday with extra comfort and style, with highlights including a nine-day trip in Andalucia and a nine-day tour in Cuba.

Some of our trips in Africa and the US now use public transport only.

As adventure travel becomes more mainstream we cannot lose the curiosity of new places. It is our task to seek out these new and interesting places.

Gary Marshall
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Gary Marshall
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