Intrepid Group’s chief commercial officer has revealed the company is very close to unveiling a line-up of new Australian domestic products.
While still very much hush-hush, Brett Mitchell said Intrepid had “accelerated” its efforts to create local tours for domestic audiences around the world off the back of the coronavirus crisis.
“We started to develop a lot of what we call ‘closer to home’ trips about a year ago, and it initially stemmed out of a lot of the flight shaming coming out of Europe and the UK,” Mitchell told Travel Weekly.
“And also, just our general ethos about trying to keep a lighter carbon footprint when you travel … and how we try to offset that is going to be more important than ever going forward.”
This means opting for train travel where possible, or overland experiences – highlights of some of the adventure travel company’s Australian experiences that include the popular ‘Melbourne to Alice Springs Overland’, ‘Great Ocean Road to Grampians Discovery’ and ‘Taste of Tasmania’ tours.
“We’ve taken the opportunity to accelerate that thinking in relation to domestic travel … in Australia, North America and Europe,” he said.
When asked whether such a pivot was a quick solution to current troubles, Mitchell said it fits into Intrepid’s long-term plan.
“When we look at testing and creating product, it will be because we want it to be part of our longer-term mix,” he said.
“And we think the amazing experiences you can get out of it are just the same as taking a long-haul flight somewhere.”
Mitchell would not disclose what Intrepid’s new Australian offering would look like, but said they will arrive “by the end of the financial year”. However, Travel Weekly understands the wholesaler’s new offering could be launched as early as next week.
The adventure travel group currently boasts at least 65 Australian tours, including overlands from Perth to Darwin, journeys through Arnhem Land, visits across Kangaroo Island and the south-eastern coast of the nation, and week-long forays of Tasmania.
Furthermore, when travelling Australia with Intrepid, travellers can expect to find themselves staying in a farmstay, bush camp or permanent tented campsite, and to taste Australian native flavours on each of its outback and Top End trips.
In Australia, the adventure travel company also partners through its non-profit, The Intrepid Foundation, with Café One – a social enterprise that gives disengaged young people hands-on employment training in the Northern Territory.
With its community coffee van, Mission Australia offers training in hospitality and small business management to local youth – predominately First Nations peoples.
Intrepid has also introduced a new flexible booking policy, as well as enhanced safety procedures in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Mitchell said the new policy allows changes to travel plans 21 days before a scheduled departure, allowing for new travel dates or an entirely different trip, with no change fees.
“We want to ensure your clients can book confidently and change, move or cancel their travels with no fuss,” he said.
Deposits are the only cost travellers will pay until 21 days before departure, and if plans change, that deposit will be transferred toward another trip. Travellers can also reserve a trip without payment for up to five days.
Furthermore, all Intrepid trips will now be operated under the new ‘Safe Travels’ protocols developed and endorsed by the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Mitchell said this move was a result of Intrepid’s learnings from the crisis and to meet the requirements to operate safely in the current environment.
“Safety is our biggest priority, and we have been working tirelessly with health bodies to ensure we have the world’ s best safety and hygiene practices on all our trips,” he said.
Additional measures, in line with government health advice and with global health authorities, will include enhanced sanitation, contactless technology solutions, physical distancing across accommodation, transport and restaurants, as well as pre-trip and on-trip health screenings.
Intrepid will not require a negative COVID-19 test before joining a trip unless it is a requirement of entry for the country.