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After working for a large adventure tour operator, Fred Ackerman forged his own path and founded Black Sheep Adventures in 2002. Since then, the company has evolved from a one-man show to a crew of four full-time and 10 part-time “shepherds” who guide and plan cycling, hiking and rail outings in the American West and beyond.
Standing Out and Branching Out“Because we’re able to handle the extreme ends of the spectrum, from a bare-bones itinerary to one that’s all-inclusive, we get a lot of compliments about our operations,” Ackerman said. “We don’t serve a lot of people, but we serve the people who do travel with us at a really high level,” he added. “Our big thing is bike tours. Currently, we’re in the American West, and we are soon expanding internationally into Europe and Latin America.”
Partnership With Virgin Atlantic“People are not as familiar with our brand, but we’re really trying to build that up, partly through partnerships,” Ackerman said. “There is a trip we’re doing for Virgin Atlantic and some affiliated companies. We’ll do an iconic bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, then shuttle up to Tahoe, Calif., and basically go down the U.S. 395 corridor, ending in the Mojave Desert at the Virgin Galactic facility — the company’s commercial space flight venture. Then, we’ll transfer south to Malibu, Calif., before riding to Santa Monica for a victory lap in Los Angeles.
“Within an hour of sending out the email announcing the itinerary, more than half the trip was full, with people putting down a deposit,” he added. “Within another couple of days, it was sold out. Anything Virgin raises goes entirely to its charity, Virgin Unite, not toward the operation of the event, which I think is respectable. I get excited about it because all of us are working in travel to partake in some pretty unique experiences.”
Customization Is Key“What we’re noticing is that, increasingly, people are into FIT travel,” Ackerman said. “They really want to travel with their friends, their family or their colleagues versus going on a scheduled departure. The last-minute nature of booking is still very alive, especially for domestic travel. A lot of people are contacting us within weeks of a departure, whereas historically it was months or several months in advance. We expect those calls now, and we can quickly delineate what we can and cannot do regarding what the person wants.” How to Book“We’re more than happy to work through travel agents, and we typically offer a standard 10 percent commission,” Ackerman said. “It’s important to be able to minimize the amount of work everyone has to do in order to get the client on the tour.”
Agents can book by emailing [email protected]
The DetailsBlack Sheep Adventureswww.blacksheepadventures.com