Travel agents are critical to the industry: James Thornton

Ex-pat Brit James Thornton has recently become an Australian citizen. Headquartered in Melbourne, the Intrepid Group is a truly global business with 1600 staff in 27 offices around the world.

Yesterday, Intrepid Group made the announcement that global MD James Thornton was being invited into the main office and promoted to global CEO. So we decided to catch up with the newly minted boss to see where he plans on taking the company.

“Travel agents are an absolutely essential and critical part of the travel industry,” Thornton told Travel Weekly.

“And any business that wants to be a successful operator needs to be forming strong alliance and partnerships with travel agents. Doing so will help generate strong growth if you have a good product and relationship with the trade.

“Agents are the hallmark of Intrepid’s growth over the past 28+ years, and it’s something we want to continue to expand and focus on.”

Speaking about the trends shaping the industry of late, Thornton said, “There’s definitely a strong appetite for travel with a purpose. And good businesses have great potential to fill the void of poor political leadership.”

Thornton said in a world where politics is characterised by chaos and inaction, businesses have the opportunity to “solve some of the biggest challenges”.

“We can’t rely on political leadership to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, but businesses have the potential to really fill the void,” he said.

“We operate in an industry that doesn’t respect tradition as much, but it does respect innovation.

“We’ve got to make sure we evolve. Standing still as any business will probably kill it.

“We’ve seen significant growth in the market of sustainable-rich tourism. And Intrepid is operating as a company that has purpose beyond profit.

“For the future, we have two main, dual objectives,” he added, with these purposes being centred on “growth and purpose beyond profit”.

“The last 20 months has shown that purpose beyond profit can be quite profitable and generate real growth, so it’s a big focus for us.

“As an industry, we can do more than just sell holidays. We can enrich clients with real benefits for the places they visit.”

Thornton feels companies like Intrepid can lead the way on issues like climate change, immigration and much more.

“We’ve been able to do some amazing things, from banning elephant rides, to our investment in Nepal post-earthquake and now taking a stand against child orphanages.

“We have the ability for growth and purpose, and companies with a strong sense of purpose, I believe, are most likely be successful in the disruptive world we live in.

“Our vision is ultimately to change the way people see the world. To do that we have to grow the whole market for sustainable rich travel.”


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