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G Adventures aims to take travellers off the beaten track and get them in touch with local communities


that is successful. G Adventures (for- merly Gap Adventures) has won a wide range of awards for its dedication to ethical business practices and sustain- able tourism including the Corporate Award for Environmental Excellence, the Ethics in Action Millennium Award, Condé Nast Traveller’s World Saver Award and Tanzania Tourist Board’s Humanitarian Award. Earlier this year, the non-profi t membership organisa- tion Social Venture Network inducted Poon Tip into its hall of fame, some- thing which he describes as one of the high points of his career.


“Our business model isn’t about bottom-lines and turnover. It’s about happiness, freedom and independ- ence,” says Poon Tip. “We celebrate individuality, champion diversity and inspire innovation.”


This commitment to doing the right thing doesn’t seem to have done G Adventures any harm. Today it is Canada’s largest adventure travel company, with an annual revenue of around $150m, offering small group


ISSUE 3 2012 © cybertrek 2012


"Mainstream tour operators off ered travel within a


westernised bubble. The original focus of Gap Adventures was to get the traveller in touch with local people"


travel experiences to more than 100,000 people a year. The company is continuing to grow during the eco- nomic downturn, and January and February saw G Adventures post its highest ever sales fi gures, with pas- senger numbers up 19 per cent and revenue up 22 per cent.


EARLY DAYS Poon Tip set up Gap Adventures back in 1990, when he was just 23. As a keen traveller, he could see there was room in the market for an alternative to what was on offer. “It was a very different time back then,” he says. “If you didn’t want to go on a cruise, or a coach tour or to a resort, you’d go back-pack- ing – there wasn’t really anything in between. I did a lot of travelling, and when I went backpacking I saw lots of young, professional people with dis- posable incomes that wanted the kind


of cultural experience you get from backpacking but in the form of a more organised and comfortable holiday.” Unable to secure a loan from the banks, Poon Tip used his own per- sonal credit cards to launch Gap Adventures, so called because it aimed to bridge the gap between the mainstream traveller and the back- packer. The main focus, he says, was on getting people in touch with the countries they were travelling in. “Mainstream tour operators offered travel within a westernised bubble – air-conditioned coaches, Best Western hotels,” he says. “Outside of very brief moments when you might pull up out- side a craft market, you hardly saw local people. Tourists were experi- encing countries at arm’s length. The original focus of Gap Adventures was to get the traveller in touch with local people, and help them see the country through the locals’ eyes.”


Read Leisure Management online leisuremanagement.co.uk/digital 39


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