PHOTO: Family programs include an array of active components such as rafting.
G Adventures was launched by Bruce Poon Tip in 1990 as a t our company targeted to backpackers whom he believed could benefit from the advantages of group travel while continuing to enjoy the adventure, freedom and spontaneity of exploring on their own.
“It was about cultural immersion and taking people off the beaten path,” said G Adventures U.S. Director of Sales Danny Tyrrell. “At the time there were two ways of traveling. One was large tour groups. You’d have 40 people get off a coach bus and follow a guy with a yellow flag, get out, take a few pictures then get back on the coach.”
At the other end of the spectrum were backpackers on a budget. “They were people who were using guide books and making their plans as they went, because they didn’t want to operate in that regimented, forced way of seeing a destination,” Tyrrell said.
As the company enters its 27th year, many of the travelers who were G Adventures’ early target market have children or even grandchildren of their own. As the company evolved, it wanted to offer those people a tour product that would meet their needs and fit their preferred style of travel, which probably still leans toward the adventurous and immersive. The company introduced its family programs a few years ago to meet that need.
“We didn't want to turn away those travelers with small children,” said Tyrrell. “Now that they have children, rather than going to Disneyland or to sit on a beach for a week, they want to take them to Costa Rica or Peru for immersive, active experiences.”
G Adventures breaks its products down into several styles of travel. “Other companies may present by destination, [with] an Africa catalogue,” said Tyrrell. “We give you an active catalogue, or a family catalogue, because we know that first you are a type of traveler – you like to be active or you want to bring your kids along – and then you want to see the destination.”
Product categories are Yolo, Local Living, Marine, Classic, Active, Private, National Geographic, Rail and Family. Most categories are self-explanatory. Yolo tours are for travelers ages 18 to 39. Marine refers to ship-based tours to the Galapagos, the Arctic and Antarctica. Local Living was inspired by the film “Under the Tuscan Sun” and focuses on villa vacations and those in private homes. Classic is the operator’s original product. National Geographic, a partnership with the National Geographic Society, offers an upgraded experience.
The company’s Family line of programs can accommodate children as young as 4 years old. But almost any of the categories can work for families. Exceptions are Yolo, which is only for 18- to 39-year-olds, and Active, which goes to places like Everest Base Camp, only for the most rugged travelers.
As the trend toward family travel has grown, G Adventures has adapted to accommodate multigenerational groups on its regular trips. “We have eight itineraries specifically for families,” but any of our itineraries on our Classic travel style or our National Geographic brand can accommodate young people 12 years or older,” said Tyrrell. “We are seeing many families, or perhaps just one parent and a child, take advantage of our mainstream itineraries. They are integrated like the rest of the travelers. But for those who have younger children who want to make sure their child is not the only child on the departure, we specifically built [the Family program] for that type of traveler.”
As demand for family travel has grown, many travelers want to take their children on more enriching, educational trips. “People are more conscious about their purchasing decisions, including bringing their children,” said Tyrrell. “They want them to have more of a cultural experience versus just a sun-and-fun weekend getaway.”
Regular group departures carry a maximum of 16 people and usually travel with 10 to 12. Private groups travel with as few as eight. “Two couples with two kids each could have a nice intimate experience,” said Tyrrell.
CHILDREN AS GLOBAL CITIZENS
Many parents today are interested in the educational aspects of travel for their children, and gaining the perspective of what it means today to be a good global citizen.
“G Adventures was built on the principle of using travel as a force for good,” said Danny Tyrrell, G AdventuresU.S. director of sales. “We make sure we are using local companies. We have our travelers meet the locals and make sure the money is going back into the local economy.”
Tyrrell said that the company’s programs offer excellent learning experiences for children, adding that parents should assess what types of travelers they want their children to be.
“If you are the family that always goes to sun-and-fun [destinations] when the kids are growing up, then when it comes to spring break in college they will most likely do the same thing,” he said. “But if they were brought up going to Costa Rica or Peru, when it comes to spring break they may want to go camping in Tanzania versus [staying at] an all-inclusive in the Bahamas.”