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PEOPLE Bruce Poon Tip Magali Robathan talks to the founder of G Adventures


When I interview Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Canadian adventure travel company G Adventures he’s come back from two days spent travelling with the Dalai Lama, who Poon Tip says has been a huge inspiration and who has shaped the way he’s run his business over the past 22 years.


“[The trip] was one of the highlights of my life,” says Poon Tip. “I got a better understanding of my own purpose, and confirmation of all the things we’re doing at G Adventures. It was inspiring hearing the Dalai Lama talk about business and his thoughts on happiness and sustainability and his united view of religions and people. It’s exactly how I feel, and I’ve tried to incorporate those views into my business.” The Dalai Lama was in Canada for a convention of world parliamentarians on Tibet, and Poon Tip was part of an entourage that included Harrison Ford who travelled with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Proudly, Poon Tip tells me the Dalai Lama signed a book for him, and thanked him for his dedication to responsible travel. For Poon Tip, having a business that’s socially and environmentally responsible is as important as having one that’s successful. G Adventures (formerly Gap


28 LEISURE HANDBOOK 2014


“Our business model isn’t just about bottom-lines and turnover. It’s about happiness, freedom and independence,” 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’s Canada’s largest adventure travel company, with an annual revenue of around $150m, offering small group travel experiences to more than 100,000 people a year.


Poon Tip: the company launched a new boat on the Amazon for 2013


Adventures) has won awards for its dedica- tion to ethical business practices and sustainable tourism, including the Corpo- rate Award for Environmental Excellence, the Ethics in Action Millennium Award and Condé Nast Traveller’s World Saver Award. Earlier this year, the non-profit member- ship organisation Social Venture Network inducted Poon Tip into its hall of fame, something he describes as one of the high points of his career so far.


EARLY DAYS Poon Tip set up Gap Adventures in 1990, when he was just 23. As a keen traveller, he could see there was room in the mar- ket 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-packing – 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 disposable 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 personal credit cards to launch Gap Adventures, so called because it aimed to bridge the gap between the mainstream traveller and the backpacker. The main focus, he says,


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