When you think of buying a tour package, what comes to mind? We imagine large tour buses that herd you around from place to place, leaving you with 15 minutes to take a picture to experience the sights and culture. Then you get bused back to the all-inclusive hotel or resort, where you may end up eating the same foods you are used to eating back from your home country.
We found Intrepid Travel not only focuses on small group tours giving you the opportunity to really experience the local culture, but also conducts their tours in a sustainable and responsible way. Responsible travel was a hot topic at the North America 2014 TBEX conference, and will continue to be an important issue for the travel industry to navigate. Intrepid Travel does their part by offering travelers different types of trips (Basix, Original, and Comfort) while supporting local businesses and communities.
We had the opportunity to interview Jared Alster, Director of Marketing at Intrepid Travel, about how his team markets Intrepid Travel’s group tours to travelers who are looking for “real-life” adventures.
What are the 3 most unique tours potential visitors and tourists should know about from Intrepid Travel?
Intrepid offers over 1,000 trips with multiple ‘themes’ such as Sailing, Polar, Wildlife, and Cycling, so we truly have something for everyone. If I had to choose, I’d say the three itineraries that really set us apart are:
- Day of the Dead: this is unlike any other trip to Mexico. You’ll get to join the celebrations of this unique cultural institution. Besides dressing up with the locals and taking part in the festivities, this trip also visits the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera museums.
- Burma Sailing Adventure: Burma (Myanmar) is one of our fastest growing destinations and this trip gets you out on the open water to explore the remote Myeik Archipelago. Well off the tourist track, this region offers a glimpse into local life via pristine coastline, jungled forests, and local villages.
- Budapest and the Balkans: For those who have done the Europe backpacking thing already, this trip offers the chance to veer off the usual route to visit some of the region’s lesser-known attractions. Starting in Budapest, make your way by train through Serbia, and then finish by the sea on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia.
What are your biggest challenges with getting people to learn about your tours?
We have a fantastic product, a user-friendly website, and a robust marketing strategy. Still, we definitely face challenges in the US market, mostly around awareness of our brand and style of travel. While our other outbound markets, such as the UK and Australia, have a population where travel is a value instilled from an early age, travel patterns of Americans differ greatly. Our biggest challenge is educating the US market around our grassroots, off-the-beaten-path style of travel and then communicating the superior experience that small-group travel can offer versus the typical beach vacation, for example.
What types of traditional or digital marketing do you currently do or plan to do to attract more visitors?
We follow a true multi-channel, integrated approach to marketing, depending on our objectives. We utilize print, events, PR, partnerships, and social media to generate brand awareness and lead acquisition and SEM, display, and direct mail for conversion.
Can you tell us about one specific promotional strategy that worked really well for your marketing team? Why do you think it worked so well?
In my opinion, every travel brand, whether adventure or otherwise, must have a well-defined referral program. Word of mouth and friend/family referrals are vital to our business, and leveraging our past clients has proven to be a successful tactic for attracting new business. The idea is to identify potential promoters or ambassadors, start a conversation, and then offer a real incentive to spread the word about your brand.
Has your team used social media to promote certain tours or packages? Which social media platform has led to the best conversations with potential visitors?
Definitely. We are present on all major social platforms. We see social more as a channel to promote conversations and exchanges with our followers and clients. I’d say that Facebook is where we’ve seen the most success in terms of engagement and traffic generation to our website. But, we also have robust followings on Twitter, G+, and lately, Instagram.
Many travel/tourism companies have a motto or slogan that encapsulates the experience tourists should expect with their company. What is the one message you would like to get across to potential visitors about Intrepid Travel?
‘Real Life Experiences’ is our tagline and nicely communicates our over-arching brand promise and on-the-ground experience. We hope that traveling with us will bring people closer to the world around them, offering a true and authentic glimpse into local life. These types of experiences may be delivered via a home-cooked meal with a local on the Mekong River, a game of soccer with a group of kids in Kenya, or a riveting conversation with a local merchant at a market in Delhi.
As Jared mentioned in the interview, the biggest marketing challenge for his team is not necessarily marketing Intrepid Travel as a company, but a broader challenge of educating the U.S. market about the values and experiences gained from traveling. Travelers place value on different things when they travel. Some want the all-inclusive resort experience, but do not realize that smaller group tours may give them more value in terms of life experiences and memories. We look forward to seeing Intrepid Travel’s own adventure in expanding into the U.S. market!