From the beautiful backwaters of Kerala in South India comes the story of Kalypso Adventures. We spoke to founder, Managing Director and keen adventurer Sam T Samuel about the start of the company.
Tell us your story. How did your business get started?
Kalypso Adventures was a dream born back in 1995 when two naval officers – myself and Thomas – met. Thomas was passionate about nature and wildlife and I was passionate about outdoors and adventure. Looking at the beautiful land of Kerala we wondered why there wasn’t anyone doing outdoor and experiential travel in this country and thought we should introduce something like that.
Having absolutely no background in neither tourism or business in general we didn’t really know where to start. Both of us are professionally well qualified to start a second career in ‘Civvy Street’ after the Navy . I was a pilot with huge opportunities with the increase of private airlines in India and Thomas was an electronics engineer specialised in weapon systems ready to be picked up by any number of corporate giants. Passion took priority over money and five years later, and against the advice of friends and well wishers, Kalypso Adventures was born.
What are your unique selling points? What makes you different?
‘Give what you promise. Maybe a little more than what you promise’ has been our motto from the beginning.
We believe that a pure profit oriented business does not last and definitely will not give you the satisfaction of doing something well. Every itinerary is well researched and well planned before it is offered to a client. All our clients become our personal guests once they book with us and their interests become priority for us as long as they’re with us.
We believe that local is very important. We support local communities wherever we are and in whatever way we can. Our team (guides) are made up of very ordinary youths, coming from very ordinary backgrounds from the local community. After a couple of years of intense training in outdoor skills, guiding techniques, English language, first aid and even etiquettes and manners they’re ready to lead. They are the pride and face of our company and over the years have brought many laurels to Kalypso Adventures. They are our corporate social responsibility and our way of giving back to the society.
What are some of your success stories?
Our biggest success has been introducing adventure tours in South India. Up until then adventure tours in India were synonymous to the Himalayas and our idea to start an adventure company in Kerala was not taken seriously. So, we started Kalypso with the tagline, ‘Adventure Beyond the Himalayas’ and became the first adventure tourism company south of the Himalayas.
Today we are perhaps the largest cycling company in India with the capability to run large group cycling of up to 150 people anywhere in India.
We were the in-country partners for Raleigh International when they started their operations in India and have been instrumental in creating some of their very successful programmes. We have also been partnering with World Challenge for many years, with just a few trips a year when we started, today we are handling on an average of 15-18 schools from World Challenge every year.
What are your future plans?
We are in the process of expanding our activities across India and we have already started a new company in Sri Lanka. We have also started facilitating more CSR projects for corporates and are expanding our operations for student travel to include volunteering, adventure and education.
Which trends and challenges do you see in the youth travel sector?
More and more people are depending on the information available on the internet to plan their trips. While the internet and social media have made the world much smaller and getting information much easier, it can also contribute to misinformation. A hotel or accommodation that you see on a website may not be the same when you see it in person. A reliable operator is always very important, particularly in the youth segment where budget travel is key.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
Having seen WYSE from close quarters during the past few ITBs in Berlin with our stand just a few steps away from the WYSE area, I have been quite impressed by the way the organisation works. I had also done a lot of research on the organisation and its members before deciding to join the confederation.
I was particularly impressed by the way they guided us through the membership process and the registration process for WYSTC 2015.
Any top tips for people starting out in the youth travel sector?
Youth travel is not just about money. You must have a passion for the job and you must be committed to responsible tourism. The expectations of the youth are very different. They’re very keen to learn and adapt so you must be prepared to offer them these elements in their trips. Travelling in a third world country is a life changing experience for the youth and you will have to ensure that those are good experiences.