For Intrepid Travel, India is among its top five destinations from Australia. James Thornton, Chief Executive Officer, Intrepid Travel, says that bookings from Down Under to India have started to return to pre-pandemic levels in mid-2022 and the company expects 2023 to be a ‘record year’ for business.
Emphasising on India’s potential in adventure tourism sector, James Thornton, CEO, Intrepid Travel, said, “We look at India as Intrepid’s top five destinations globally; it has been slightly slower to recover as compared to other destinations around the world due to the borders shutdowns and visa challenges. Despite this, the numbers are very strong from September, as we move into the peak season, we expect it to reach the pre-pandemic levels in India by next year, which will be operating 12,000 customers in the country.”
In 2020, the company, once carrying half a million customers annually, faced an overnight shutdown due to the pandemic. However, the company retained half of its workforce and focused on domestic tourism opportunities. “We were able to retain at least half of our workforce around the world and we started to put our minds more into domestic tourism opportunities. We accelerated our purpose initiatives and thought of expanding to other types of business functions like accommodation,” he said.
Gradually consolidating under the Intrepid brand, the company emerged from the pandemic with a strategic vision for the future. Mid-2022 marked a turning point, leading to a remarkable recovery. “Bookings started to return to pre-pandemic state in the mid-2022. Since there has been a huge growth in business, we have been recruiting massively, operations have been running again, year 2023 will be a record year for Intrepid globally,”
Natalie Kidd, Managing Director, Asia, Intrepid Travel, highlighted that visa was a major challenge they faced. “This year when India opened and we are back to operating under normal circumstances, the country has been slower to recover as compared to other destinations and visas were a part of the reasons. Around mid-last year getting a visa for India was somewhat challenging, and the problem was that people who could not immediately book changed their minds towards other destinations. After a cycle of time, they consider again that where do they want to go, and India will come into that election list. It certainly puts a delay on people to come back, but I don’t think this will put this off because India is a fabulous, iconic country. We are back to pre-pandemic levels, but India will take another year. Countries will compete, so if there is a neighbouring country that is easier to get to from various perspectives, it will have a foot up. We really encourage working together and the government assisting us in making India as successful as possible because there is so much richness here for people to experience,” Kidd said.
Global expansion remained a central theme for Intrepid’s growth trajectory. Thornton shared that with a remarkable average growth rate of 20 per cent, the 35-year-old company defied industry norms, driven by its strong brand identity and commitment to purpose-driven leadership.
Thornton also stressed on sustainability that lay at the core of Intrepid’s ethos. “Intrepid is remarkably the world’s leader in travel sustainability, something that is embedded in our DNA since inception in 1989.” Amid Intrepid’s triumphant resurgence, the focus remained steadfast on 2023. With a significant proportion of their workforce being relatively new, the year is poised to be a testament to the collective effort and resilience that had brought the company back to its thriving state.
Thornton stated, “Our focus is building the future of what Intrepid can become. The travel industry is moving towards experiences and sustainability, positioned to deliver all these things.”