Written by Tony Carne
GM Urban Adventures

Urban Adventures is on a massive growth run. In fact, it’s become the fast-growing brand within Intrepid Group.

In 2017, we saw a 62% increase in our traveller numbers to more than 170,000, and we’re on track to achieving our goal to reach one million travellers by 2020.

The question is: In this high-growth environment, how do we ensure that what we’re doing remains grounded in purpose?

The secret is actually in the architecture of our business model. To the external world of customers, partners and distribution, Urban Adventures is seen as a highly-scaled day tour business that focusses on the intersection of local life in a city and a traveller’s own personal interests. But beyond that, our business is built around helping passionate and knowledgeable local people to start their own tour businesses (which they own), supporting local economies around the world. This is what myself and the Urban Adventures team come to work to achieve every day.  

Urban Adventures: Growing with purpose

Urban Adventures is a platform that affords opportunity; creating value for everyone involved – starting with our travellers. Helping our customers to explore their interests in a different environment and culture, in a fun and engaging way, is the keystone of the product.

It’s also about the local knowledge offered by business owner, and the team that is then built around them. We back ourselves to have better knowledge than a review site or a guide book and we deliver that knowledge personally – so it shifts to what the small group in front of us is most interested in exploring. We don’t just share scripted histories. We have conversations, including relevant local facts and stories in between.

The other side of this local knowledge is to be familiar with the absolute best of a neighbourhood, city or community; introducing that to our customers. This is where the community piece comes in, where our role is to bolster local, independent hole-in-the-wall restaurants, or boutique designers; giving them a chance to talk about what inspires them, and how they draw on the local environment to create their product. While supporting locals, this also gives our travellers a range of local voices to hear from. This is something that can only be achieved in a small group environment, to avoid overwhelming the vendors or local community with our presence.

Today, we are closing in on 2,000 local leaders across the 160+ destinations in which we operate. We want those people to have opportunities that go beyond just turning up to do a job. We hold conferences for them to meet one another, and provide training to arm them with extra skills in the bank.

It is the sum of all these parts that results in happy travellers, fulfilled leaders, and profitable and sustainable local businesses. With all these pieces working, Urban Adventures can continue growing bigger and stronger, dedicating resources to the likes of our In Focus range, run in partnership with NGOs and social entrepreneurs to uncover the real problems and solutions in local communities.

July 2018