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Welcome to our newest member – Dragon Expeditions

Aug 2, 2018

Interview with Apple LIU, Founder and Joann LIU, Director of Hong Kong

Tell us your story. How did Dragon Expeditions get started?

Dragon Expeditions was founded in 2003 by a group of outdoor enthusiasts driven by the common goal to explore the great outdoors. Since then, we have dedicated ourselves to guiding groups of international tourists (both adult and student) on trips and expeditions to remote and stunning mountain regions across western China. Our commitment to practice responsible tourism has never failed and we have always been advocates for environmental protection.
The company in recent years has developed into 3 business units – The office in Chengdu is offering educational travel programs for both inbound & outbound travellers; the office in Shanghai is providing urban & tourism planning and design services and registered company in Hong Kong for international marketing & partnerships.

What makes Dragon Expeditions different from your competitors?

As one of the few responsible travel agencies in China that leads tours in the southwestern Tibetan regions, it is our mission to use tourism as a tool to promote sustainable development for the local Tibetan communities by focusing on environmental protection and cultural preservation. Our 14 years of experience in planning and leading eco-tourism trips has made us a prominent expert in eco-tourism planning. All of our in-depth tours and projects are consciously geared so that tourists and volunteers can enjoy authentic cultural experiences while being ethically responsible and benefitting the local communities. It was through our trips to the southwestern Tibetan regions that inspired us to build a nature education center as a way to promote environmental protection, cultural preservation, and sustainable development.
Our new business focus is to be the pioneer in designing and providing nature education programs for Chinese children, in the hope of educating the young to love nature, cultivating their understanding of environmental protection & cultural diversity by participating in various nature education tours/programs.

What is your favourite success story from your organisation?

We are building a nature education center in the Tibetan region, the first of its kind in the Tibetan region. Yunhe is a center for nature-based learning and community development created by Dragon Expeditions in May 2015 in response to the growing need to support vulnerable communities who are currently impacted by depopulation and at risk of overdevelopment. With its picturesque scenery, the community also offers a unique perspective on rural Tibetan culture. The local language, history, cultures and architecture found in Gyarong are very unique even among Tibetan people.
Zhonglu was going to share the same fate as other remote yet beautiful regions in the China that were earmarked with grand plans for development, which usually consist of building major roads, large Western-style hotels, and even cable cars to encourage mass tourism. We knew that the introduction of such unrestricted development was usually coming with extensive damage to the environment and could unravel the social fabric of the community. We had to do something about it. Not only because we were profoundly attached to the area but also because we felt deeply involved. It was obvious then that we had grown into something different, something that had been shaped by the experience and the knowledge gained through all the past years of travelling.
Since 2014, we began to bring in overseas students from Europe to this beautiful Tibetan village and created various voluntourism, cultural exchange and interactive programs for the international travellers. We have organized several trips for middle schools from England, Scotland, Norway, either building an eco-toilet, repairing the 200 years’ old water mill, or simply just interacting with the local Tibetans, the teachers have commented that our trips is the best organized and created voluntourism trips they have ever had.

What can we expect to see from Dragon Expeditions in the future?

We believes that education is a key bridge which allows people to reunite with nature. Each time we are immersed in the natural environment, we develop a deeper respect for it. We wish to connect the young travellers with the nature and different cultures, be the bridge between China and the rest of the world.
We also intend to bring together the responsible volunteers, artists, educators, musicians, painters to come to our centre.

Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?

The new generation of travellers are looking for unique experiences, rather than visiting the touristic places. We have also been taking the Chinese students on overseas trips to Nepal, France, Thailand, Malaysia, USA, different from all the other companies, our philosophy is what makes us and our trips different – we intend to educate children in nature. The children do not simply visit the campus of the universities, it is everything that we want the children to learn, social, nature and their own culture.
Children are encouraged to learn through “experiencing” everything in nature. children are freely discovering the world to understand individuality and others; building relationships with others and the world around them. we are providing a platform for children to develop a sense of curiosity about the nature and proactively engage in socializing with the world and others.

How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with Dragon Expeditions?

Through years, we have built in business practices that fit for legitimacy of Western countries. We came from an adventure travel background thus we understand the importance of safety for the travelers as well as the guides. We have our risk assessment & management system for the destinations that we take the travellers to. All our guides have been professionally trained.

What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?

Most important of all, we would like to learn. Understanding the trend and forces of the young travel industry enable us to develop the right strategies to the business to grow. We want to put ourselves in the right marketplace to succeed.
Also by joining the WYSE travel Confederation, we would like to establish partnership with international organizations and companies in the education travel industry.

Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event? If so, what was your experience with the event?

We have not been attending the previous events of WYSE but we are very looking forward to the WYSTC event in Edinburg this year.

What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing at this time?

For our inbound business, at the moment we are experiencing decline of group visits from overseas, partially due to the appreciation of Chinese Yuan and the tour cost in China is getting more expensive, therefore making the trips in China relatively unaffordable for young travellers.

Member snapshot

We came from a small outdoor sports club, founded in 2003 by a group of nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Responsible tourism, is what we have been committed to after having weathered the wind and rain of the past 13 years, we are still the same outdoor enthusiasts advocating for environmental protection and sustainable development for the local communities.

We have dedicated ourselves to guiding groups of international tourists (both adult and student) on trips and expeditions to remote and stunning mountain regions across western China. Whether it be community projects or conservation, intensive mountaineering trips or sightseeing, we are at best at home in remote and undeveloped areas.

In our recent endeavours, we are engaging actively in the nature education programs/trips for young Chinese kids and operating both domestic and overseas tours for young children aged between 8-12 years old.

For more information, visit their website: http://dragonexpeditions.com/

Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Associate Member

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