Welcome to our newest member – Urban Adventures
Interview with Samantha Clarke – Private Groups Manager
Tell us your story. How did Urban Adventures get started?
Back in 2009, Urban Adventures noticed a trend that all the day tours seemed to be doing the same thing. Big tour groups of 30-40 people were being shuffled around a place like cattle, ticking off the main city highlights but not truly getting the ‘locals perspective’ of a place. We wanted to offer travellers something different with providing them the opportunity to connect with the local people, give back to the communities we visit all while ticking off that bucket list and having fun!
What makes Urban Adventures different from your competitors?
Urban Adventures is run as a franchise-model. Our destinations are locally owned and operated, which means we can offer locals the opportunity to run their own successful business. Our destination owners are obsessed with sharing and showcasing the Best. Day. Ever in their city.
Additionally, our tours operate in small groups of only 12 people maximum, so our travellers can rub shoulders with the locals in tiny bars, restaurants and markets and have more time to connect with the local leader.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
Responsible tourism is at the forefront of everything we do at Urban Adventures. In 2015, the In Focus program was created which really showcases this pledge. Our In Focus tours are run in partnership with local NGOs, non-profits, and social enterprises tackling real local issues. These are meant to grant you access to hearing real stories from real people, who are working to make the world a better place one project at a time.
A couple of great success stories for Urban Adventures was being recognised for this type of innovation with these two travel awards for our In Focus program:
- 2017 New Innovator in Travel Philanthropy Award – Tourism Cares’ Hearts of Travels Awards
- 2017 Innovation of the Year – The Adventure Travel Awards
What can we expect to see from Urban Adventures in the future?
There are some big plans in the pipeline so definitely watch this space!
Some main areas to highlight would be that we are continuing to expand our network into more destinations (we currently have 160+) and growing out our custom & private group product. From a responsible business standpoint, we will be looking at channelling travellers to lesser known destinations, working alongside other NGOs, and finding guides from all walks of life in the communities we operate in.
Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
I think it is incredible to see so many student and educational organisations around the globe encouraging our youth to experience the world.
A massive trend I can see is the movement to a style of “experiential” travel. This would be living out an experience rather than just the lecturing and fact regurgitation style of travel. More travellers these days seem to want to have a positive impact by participation in culture, rather than being a bystander.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
A big emphasis this year for Urban Adventures is to continue building connections for our private and customised groups business globally. The WYSE Travel Confederation provides us with a great community to do so. We are looking to use this community to connect, network and share ideas together with all the other student, youth and educational organisations with hopes to potentially work together in the future.
Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event? If so, what was your experience with the event?
Not yet! Urban Adventures is thrilled to now being a full member and have access to all the events WYSE Travel Confederation hosts. We are excited to attend our first event – WYSTC in Edinburgh.
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing at this time?
Over tourism. Over tourism is a serious issue in various cities due to the overcrowding, the pushing out of the locals & overall price increases throughout the cities.
Urban Adventures tries to combat this challenge with keeping up with our Responsible Business pledge which ensures all aspects of our experiences remain local. We keep things local by having our tours led by locals, we eat at local places (no chains), we travel by local transport, and we encourage travel year-round (not just in high season).
Another example of how we are trying to counter over-tourism is by offering experiential shore excursions (for cruise ship travellers), which directly contrasts the ‘ice cream tourists.’ We try to encourage travellers to make a bigger impact on the community by having a “true local experience” led by a local instead of only buying a $1 ice cream at the convenience store and wandering around aimlessly. The positive impact on the local community from the latter is minimal.
Urban Adventures are for those who want to get away from the tourist crowds and really connect with a city, with a local by their side. The experience can be as short as a couple of hours, or as long as a whole day, but in every case our Urban Adventures tours take travellers to interesting places to experience local culture and see what makes a place unique. Join us for the Best. Day. Ever.
We are a division of Intrepid Group, the global leader in delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel to over 350,000 travellers annually.
For more information, visit their website: https://www.urbanadventures.com/
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Full Subsidiary Member
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