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“We have to be the guiding light in our industry”: Interview with Bruce...
G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip at Machu Picchu

“We have to be the guiding light in our industry”: Interview with Bruce Poon Tip

Friday, July 10, 2020

TORONTO — G Adventures has always been an innovator, and it’s not adverse to challenges.

Now, like the rest of the travel industry, the company is facing the ultimate test: pivoting its entire mode of operations in the face of COVID-19.

Last month G Adventures established itself as an innovator all over again, as it launched a brand new series of tours that take into consideration all the health and safety protocols that will ease the traveller back into seeing the globe, in a post-pandemic world.

Released just two weeks ago, the 37 itineraries in 27 countries that make up the company’s Travel with Confidence Plus Collection, are already selling. “We’re elated,” G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip tells Travelweek in a new interview.

Asked if the trips are a cross section of top G Adventures trips, or if they were selected specifically because they lend themselves well to support health and safety protocols, Poon Tip says it was a bit of both.

We-have-to-be-the-guiding-light-in-our-industry--Bruce-Poon-Tip-is-travelling-to-Italy-this-August-3

Bruce Poon Tip at Basecamp, G Adventures’ Toronto office

“It’s a combination of both of those things. We first looked at destinations that are prepared. Some have done really well. The challenge with us is, we deal with a lot of small-scale operators. But there’s such an appetite in destination, at a local level, to get people travelling again. We expect that the list will expand quite quickly.”

All of trips will have an average of 8 to 10 travellers, as opposed to the average group size of 12. This ensures accommodation at smaller hotels and dining at smaller restaurants with fewer people around the dinner table. My Own Room option is available for 50% off across all tours. And all rooms on every trip in the collection will be either double or single and have ensuite bathrooms. There will be no multi-share accommodation or shared bathroom facilities on any trip in this collection.

Transportation will be via private vehicles only (except for planes), with daily assigned seating for added distance on the vehicles.

Departures are slated to begin Oct. 2, 2020 and run through Dec. 31, 2021. G Adventures is also offering a Book with Confidence policy that allows travellers booking tours departing before Dec. 31, 2020 to cancel and rebook up to 14 days prior to departure. Travellers with trips departing between Jan. 1, 2021 and June 30, 2021 can cancel and rebook up to 30 days prior to departure.

More news:  "Millennials first to retravel," G Adventures launches 8 new trips

GAINING CONFIDENCE

Poon Tip says the goal is to get people confident with travelling by the end of this year.

He knows what he’s up against. The pandemic has changed everything, for now at least, even if the industry is able to someday get back to where it was. “All our inner germaphobes are coming out right now,” he jokes.

The biggest hurdles are the flights, and the airports, with the crowds and lineups.

Poon Tip says how the airlines and airports handle health and safety protocols, and give travellers peace of mind, will drive the industry’s recovery faster than anything else.

“There’s a lot of ‘wait-and-see’ mentality right now. People are asking, what are the airlines and airports going to do,” he says. “There’s an overall sentiment of ‘I can’t wait to get back on the road again’. But there’s also a lot of bravado out there at the moment. There are people we’re not going to see travel again for a very long time. It sort of splits the market. Our travellers in general are much more resilient.”

The light switch day, he says, “is vaccine day.”

FIRST TRAVELLERS: THE EARLY ADOPTERS

But the industry may not be able to wait that long. Poon Tip says he knows who will be the first travellers to get back out there, post-pandemic, even without a vaccine. “They’re the early adopters. They’re the ones who will line up for two weeks to get a new iPhone. They’re the ones who will want to take advantage of no crowds in these destinations, and who will brave uncertain circumstances.”

Canadians who want to get back out there face considerable stumbling blocks. The federal government’s advisory against non-essential travel is still in place for all travel outside of Canada. Even if Canadians are willing to venture beyond our own borders, it’s all but impossible to get travel insurance with that advisory in place, plus there’s the mandatory 14-day quarantine for everyone returning to or arriving in Canada.

More news:  Here’s your first look at WestJet’s first-ever airport lounge, opening Nov. 2

Some destinations have batted around the possibility of developing their own insurance product. Asked if G Adventures would consider its own insurance program, Poon Tip he’s not ruling out any options.

Trips in the Travel with Confidence Plus Collection include the 8-day Walk the Camino de Santiago – Plus, the 16-day Costa Rica Adventure – Plus; the 7-day Sailing Thailand Phuket to Phuket – Plus, and the 7-day Best of Iceland – Plus.

THE WAY FORWARD

Poon Tip says Peru is high on G Adventures’ list for travel going forward, post-pandemic. G Adventures launched its Inca Trail Steps Challenge for travel agents this week.

Thailand, Vietnam, Morocco and Egypt will also figure prominently in G Adventures’ restart strategy. And Europe too. Canada made it onto the EU’s green-light list as one of the 14 countries that can visit EU destinations in the first phase of reopening, although travellers are still advised to check each specific country’s rules and regulations. A helpful interactive map for travel to Europe can be found here.

Poon Tip himself is heading to Europe. He’s travelling to Italy, in August, and he’s planning to document the entire experience on social media. It’s important to walk the walk, he says.

“We have to be the guiding light in our industry.”

Earlier this year Bruce Poon Tip released an ebook, ‘Unlearn: The Year the Earth Stood Still’. For more from that launch click here.

Kathryn Folliott

Editor at Travelweek
Kathryn is Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 1995. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Hong Kong, Jerusalem, the Swiss Alps and the Galapagos Islands among her favourite destinations.
Kathryn Folliott
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