Industry Q&A: Leigh Barnes of Intrepid Group

Industry Q&A: Leigh Barnes of Intrepid Group

Barnes, Intrepid’s regional director for North America, discusses how the repositioning of youth brand Geckos Adventures puts millennials and Generation Z in the spotlight By: Emma Weissmann
<p>Leigh Barnes, regional director for North America for Intrepid Group // © 2016 Intrepid Group</p><p>Feature image (above): Geckos Adventures, the...

Leigh Barnes, regional director for North America for Intrepid Group // © 2016 Intrepid Group

Feature image (above): Geckos Adventures, the youth brand within Intrepid Group, recently changed its maximum client age from 39 to 29. // © 2016 Intrepid Group

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The Details

Geckos Adventures

Intrepid Group

Intrepid Travel has already proven it has a laser-sharp focus on millennials and families. Most recently, the small-group tour operator announced that it will double its family-themed offerings in 2017, launching 20 new tours and introducing new “comfort” and “active” themes. And now, Geckos Adventures, Intrepid Group’s youth brand, is also zeroing in on the next generation of travelers. In addition to announcing 20 new tours for next year, the brand has also lowered the maximum client age from 39 to 29 (with the exception of tours within the Galapagos Islands). 

We spoke with Leigh Barnes, regional director for North America for Intrepid Group, to learn more about the repositioning of this brand and the clients best suited for it.

What went into the decision to drop the Geckos Adventures age limit from 39 to 29?
Ultimately, this decision came from feedback from both our travelers and the travel agent community. Fundamentally, there is a huge difference between a 19-year-old traveler and a 34-year-old traveler, and our traveler feedback reflected that. We found that our youngest travelers were really seeking out trips that allowed them to travel with like-minded people of the same age. 

Furthermore, they were looking for grassroots cultural experiences and adventure while traveling. While there are other travel brands with age limits, there is nobody offering this kind of dedicated youth product to travelers who want an authentic experience that gives back to the places they visit and people they meet. 

What feedback had you been receiving from both travelers and travel agent focus groups?
Overall, the feedback has been very positive. The travel agent community really appreciates having a dedicated youth adventure product for their clients. The advantage of Intrepid Group is having a sustainable, experience-rich tour product for travelers ages 18 to 80 with all levels of comfort. Along with Geckos Adventures, Intrepid Travel and Peregrine Adventures (geared toward the mature traveler) really help agents find the perfect tour offering for their client under one umbrella.

When describing an ideal client for Geckos Adventures, what traits or travel interests come to mind?
Geckos Adventures attracts adventurous people in their 20s who want to see the world, immerse themselves in different cultures and get a real, on-the-ground experience of a region. They are socially conscious and care about getting a deeper understanding of the world. They are fun, open-minded, care about the environment, want to learn and are looking for epic experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives.  

Are there any plans to drop the maximum age even lower?
No. We feel that keeping the age range largely to those in their 20s is sufficient in terms of creating a sense of like-mindedness. Someone in their 30s travels differently than someone in their 20s or someone in their 40s. There are certainly differences between 29 and 18, too, but not as significant. We can also always create a private trip, as well — say, for a group of friends the same age who want to travel together for a more customized experience.

What sets Geckos Adventures apart from other age-specific tour ops?
No other tour company has made this level of commitment to the under-30 traveler. The age focus is not about creating big bus tours and party trips in Europe for millennials; it’s about transforming Geckos Adventures into a brand that provides the next generation of travelers with a responsible small-group alternative. We offer this age group affordable, authentic experiences (we have some trips as low as $400, and safaris less than $1,000) to allow them to explore the world, engage with different cultures and uncover secret spots from Geckos' local guides. We also are fully carbon neutral, which is something no other ops in this space are doing.

Can you tell us a little bit about Geckos Adventures’ partnership with Friends-International?
Friends-International is a great organization that helps train youth around the world in a range of vocations to help them secure jobs and end the cycle of poverty. It's something our travelers can relate to, as those with whom the organization works are around the same age. We donate a portion of the cost of every trip to Friends-International, so you know you're doing something good for someone around the world when you travel with us.

What else can agents look forward to in 2017 when it comes to Geckos Adventures?
We have introduced an exciting new trip to Canada just in time for the 150th anniversary of its national parks. The trip hits the best of Canada, from Whistler, British Columbia, to Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta. Also new for 2017 are Geckos' first safaris for millennials, some as low as $1,000 for nine days. You won't find a safari more affordable than that. Other new trips hit some of the highlights and bucket list destinations in the U.S., such as Grand Canyon National Park, New York City and Yosemite National Park. 

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