A portrait of an adventure travel company before, during, and after COVID-19.
World Expeditions’ story began in 1975 as a Himalayan trekking company. Adventure travel has evolved tremendously over the past four decades, and thriving in new environments is in the company’s DNA. Still, no one expected to manage an event of the scale of the global pandemic. The most challenging element by far has been the uncertainty that still lingers. So how to stay relevant when lockdowns, travel restrictions, flight interruptions and border closures are putting the world on hold?
In January 2020, the World Expeditions Travel Group (WETG) team was thrilled about the 2020 program and the travel year ahead. The adventure travel company had launched several new innovative trips. Three of them had been selected for the “27 Epic Trips to Start Planning Now” by Outside Magazine, exciting, right? But the celebrations were cut short.
By the end of January, the outbreak of a coronavirus in China was no longer isolated to the Wuhan region. By mid-March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declare COVID-19 a global pandemic. Lockdowns and border closures were put in place.
The pandemic’s speed and magnitude were of seismic proportions in their impacts on the global tourism industry and unprecedented in our lifetime. It has been difficult for every professional working in the industry, and we feel deeply for our colleagues in developing nations who find themselves without work.
Lend a Hand Appeal
In June 2020, World Expeditions launched its “Lend a Hand” appeal in response to the catastrophic impacts of the COVID-19 on the travel industry workers in countries where financial assistance was not available. World Expeditions has so far raised over $37k, thanks to the many travellers keen to show support to the people who had made their overseas adventure memorable.
100% of funds are distributed to the recipients intended and no administration fees withheld. Recipients include guides, drivers, porters, cooks and the countless support staff, many of whom have no means of earning income, in communities across Nepal, India, Tanzania, Kenya and Peru and are suffering greatly from the impacts due to COVID-19.
World Expeditions has distributed its first-round in selected countries: 485 employees and their families received a food and hygiene package. Although packages vary in each recipient country, they are designed to last a family of five for one month. They typically contain rice, flour, cooking kerosene or oil, lentils, pasta as well as body and laundry soap.
Although we don’t have a clear timeline for travel to resume, the tourism industry’s recovery will begin with domestic travel.
Travel Closer… to Home
World Expeditions is expanding its active adventure portfolio in the United States with new cycling trips to be announced soon. In Canada, the Great Canadian Trails brand offers some truly unique walking and cycling trips, which will become much more of a focus for North American travellers looking to travel closer to home.
Nathalie Gauthier, North American Manager for World Expeditions, said:
“We’ve already noticed a stronger demand for self-guided itineraries. It’s a fantastic way to explore and a completely flexible style of travel. Travellers can explore at their own pace and stop where and when they like, but that all the logistics such as baggage movement, accommodation bookings and navigation make the experience hassle-free.”
Some travellers had the chance to experience a self-guided hiking or cycling trip in the past few months in Europe with UTracks, a division of World Expeditions specializing in active and affordable holidays in Europe. UTracks covers over 20 countries and more than 400 stand-alone itineraries across the old continent.
While focusing on domestic travel, World Expeditions is also putting resources in place to step up when it’s the right time for international travel to resume. The company’s well-developed risk management protocols have been adapted to the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges to ensure travellers’ safety.
COVID-19 Safety Measures
The new Covid-19 specific practices include new screening procedures for the client’s pre-departure, guidelines to ensure all passengers are wearing a mask when appropriate, social distancing measures, deep cleaning of vehicles and equipment, and new regulations governing food preparation.
All accommodations and local partners have adopted additional measures. They are strictly adhering to their government policies and guidelines from World Expeditions in-house consultant doctor, in many instances going beyond to provide hygienic and safe environments.
The nature of adventure travel makes social distancing easier to observe, whether people travel with their partner, family or friend on a self-guided trip, within their private group, or by joining a small group guided departure.
To start anticipating their next trip in these uncertain times, what customers are looking for is the security in the funds they are spending on travel. World Expeditions has responded to this by introducing lower and flexible deposits for all brands.
Adventure travellers are likely to be amongst the first to be ready to explore again. With the renewed interest in active outdoor experiences, particularly remote and wilderness trips, the World Expeditions travel style will be particularly well placed to rebound.
About World Expeditions
- Since its inception in 1975, World Expeditions has earned an outstanding reputation as an innovator and world leader in quality, small group adventure holidays.
- Always innovative, it was, among others, the first operator to offer cycling holidays in India (1977) and China (1978) and trekking trips in Mongolia (1980), Tibet (1981) and Japan (1999). As of 2011, World Expeditions is the only commercial companyto offer the Full Nepal Traverse of the Great Himalaya Trail.
- The World Expeditions Travel Group is independently owned. It consists of 15 travel brands, including Adventure South, Australian Walking Holidays, Great Canadian Trails, Sherpa Expeditions, UTracks, Tasmanian Expeditions and World Youth Adventures.