How surprised were you by the response to the crowd funder?
We’d seen real enthusiasm for our adventures and customers would sometimes ask us if they could invest when they returned from trips, so were confident we could engage some people, but the response we received blew us away. It was the biggest and quickest travel crowdfunding campaign to date. We now have over 700 more people passionately shouting about our – well, their – company. It’s connected us with clever people with great ideas, so we’ve gained far more than capital. We go on adventures with our new investors which is a brilliant way to get to know them better, share our progress and get them inspired by our mission, be it whilst ice-climbing in Finland or rafting a river in Montenegro.
You passed the 100% mark pretty much straight away, have you already decided how you’re going to use any extra funds generated?
We’ve used the new funds to hire some really great people to help us faster expand our range of experiences around the world. We’re also investing it in long term organic marketing projects.
How much do you think travel has changed in a post-Instagram world?
Over the next century, people will continue to favour spending money on experiences rather than material goods, and that’s driven in part by social media. It’s hardly surprising that 35% of people use Instagram to get inspired and discover new places and experiences. Now more than ever, we can rely on free, crowdsourced information about new destinations and experiences. Everyone wants to display their adventurous lifestyle, and this in turn obviously makes for great content.
It has helped to inspire people to do more interesting things with their time off. The adventure travel market is growing 65% a year which is fantastic for local adventure operators and economies around the world.
However, it needs to be responsibly managed. For example, Trolltunga in Norway had only 800 visitors before 2010. However, due to its ‘instagrammability’, more than 80,000 have hiked it since, and it’s suddenly one of Norway’s most popular hikes. As a result, over 40 rescue missions a year on the route, and the resources of the local towns have suffered. There are loads of other very similar, less busy fjords in Norway, but Instagram tends to focus everyone’s’ attention on the ‘hotspots.’
We actually have a very popular trip in the fjords on our marketplace which sells out every year but we’ve been careful to manage the numbers on it with our local host out there; we increased the price and reduced our capacity growth for the sake of its environmental sustainability. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site afterall, and we’d much rather keep it that way for the long term, as opposed to making a quick buck, like many travel companies might do. We believe it’s our responsibility to be accountable for our own impact on these wild places.
How important is it for people to leave their comfort zones and try something exciting and new?
How we choose to spend our time off work helps define us. People who live and work in urban environments need a break, and doing something new in a wild place is a perfect way to do that. We need to continue to encouraging people to get into wild places, not only for their own sanity but also to inspire conservation.
Our generation want to do new and exciting things and challenge ourselves. We’re moving from an era of mass tourism to mass-niche tourism. In an experience-hungry world, everyone is an adventurer seeking to do more with their free time. 78% of people want to try new things in their free time, and that is what is driving the growth of the adventure market.
What do you think is the next frontier for adventuring?
I’ve no doubt that we’ll continue to seek out the most authentic and unique experiences available to us. That will see a rise in people booking more engaging experiences where there’s opportunity for self-exploration too in place of sightseeing and bucket-list ticking. The booking intention will swing more towards ‘how will doing this make me feel’ from ‘what will I do there and take pictures of’.
Speaking from personal experience, I can remember how rejuvenated I felt as I kayaked down the Norwegian fjords, how satisfied I felt when I reached the summit of Mt. Toubkal and how completely relaxed I felt as I camped out in the Sahara last year. I don’t get exposed to those raw emotions day to day but I certainly crave it.
In our busy lives it is good for our mental health to seek out solitude and exposure to wilderness – when I read through some of the reviews people send in from our adventures, that is increasingly coming up as something people valued most about the experience.
What is the next step for Much Better Adventures?
Our main goal this year is to continue to grow our range of experiences with local hosts all over the world. We’re also trying to inspire, educate and engage our community in important issues with our content.
For example, our first short film, ‘Adventures Not Dams’, made by the fantastic, Jon Collins, was created to raise awareness about the proposed threats to the 270km stretch of the last wild river in Europe and the thousands of endemic species and communities that rely on it. We released this film shortly after a Bankwatch report revealed the dams had been guaranteed loans of €727m by international commercial banks without proper environmental assessments being done.
We view it as our responsibility to show the threats faced by places like the Vjosa, and to encourage the adventure community to get involved. We want to continue to use our platform to give a voice to activists who are fighting the good fight in helping to sustain national parks and their connected economies around the world, particularly in places where we send travellers.
What’s your Ethos?
Much Better Adventures has a simple mission to unearth the world’s best local guides, hosts, and places to stay. But it was also born from a belief that travel can, and should, be a force for good. That’s why we only work with local, independent providers who channel money into the rural, local economies. This creates a virtuous circle whereby local communities and governments are empowered to protect and conserve the incredible environments which attracted these visitors in the first place.
Our new ‘Adventures For Good’ collection takes this philosophy one step further. These trips have been carefully selected to provide not only an amazing experience, but also directly support some pioneering organisations delivering real social and environmental good all over the world. Our strict criteria for the collection has been developed with the help of the good people at Tourism Concern UK. All of the hosts selected for this collection have a proven track record of delivering impressive results in their community and local environments. Proceeds from every trip are funnelled back into achieving that mission. So every adventure helps to build a positive legacy.
Our team have worked hard on this collection and I’m excited to share it with you, this is the stuff that really excites and inspires us.