Certainly, as one of the most unique—not to mention experienced—tour operators in the industry, Lindblad Expeditions has been in the forefront of expedition travel for decades, first with travel pioneer Eric Lars Lindblad’s Lindblad Travel and todays’ Lindblad Expeditions with its affiliate partner National Geographic—a travel product that incorporates cultural adventure with the opportunity to participate in global research and exploration.
Indeed, there are very few remote corners of today’s world that Lindblad hasn’t steered its fleet of ships or land programs into, from the Antarctic to the remote corners of Africa, Asia and Latin America. But, while its polar forays are the stuff of travel legend, according to Elizabeth Crabill, v.p., sales and marketing at Lindblad Expeditions, the company’s “…perennial front runner,” and the jewel in the Lindblad crown, is the Galapagos.
“We are known very well for our polar travel, as well, and it’s very much a part of our history, but the Galapagos is a very special place. We operate two ships in the Galapagos year-round,” Crabill says, “ships we own so we’re able to completely operate every aspect of the experience top-to-bottom. So, with the two ships year-round, that is by far the largest destination that we serve and the most number of travelers that we send every year.”
Those cruises, in fact, provide more naturalists per guest than any other Galapagos cruise and the company was the first to bring non-scientific explorers to the archipelago in 1967, and at the same time, has been instrumental in its preservation. Both ships are totally outfitted with tools for exploration, including an expedition team that employs underwater cameras and video microscopes with HD screens to enable guests to explore the undersea, while they can also kayak, snorkel and explore wildlife up-close in Zodiacs.
Crabill also points out that, “Lindblad is always very excited by the travel agent community’s response to our programs,” because the travel agents know that Lindblad attracts a very loyal traveler, so if they send someone with Lindblad, they’re probably going to get that person back again for another trip. “We do offer a wide variety of educational materials on our website for new programs; we’ve printed new brochures; we’ve printed new materials and we offer videos for many, many of our programs that agents can use to educate themselves about our programs,” she adds. “They can also use those videos to share with their clients so they’re actually multi-purpose.”
Crabill says one really good promotion they have for the Galapagos starting in January is called Book Four and Explore. “Because the Galapagos is such a popular first-time destination for many travelers who are new to the expedition community,” she explains, “travel agents often find they can bring in new clients. So this promotion actually rewards agents who are able to book four cabins on our Galapagos trips, with an extra cabin—a fifth cabin—which agents can use for themselves for an educational trip or just to go see the Galapagos and enjoy themselves. We did this promotion in the past and it got such a good response, we’re bringing it back again for 2012, launching in January.”
Crabill says the one core difference between Lindblad and other tour operators that exemplifies the company’s commitment to expedition-style travel is its partnership with National Geographic, which they formalized in 2004. “We travel the world on a fleet of ships that are completely in partnership with National Geographic. We have a shared mission of encouraging people to explore and care about the planet and that’s a completely above and beyond opportunity for any traveler who really wants to go to remote, ecologically important—and, frankly, fun destinations—and go there with the world’s best experts with the expertise of Lindblad and National Geographic behind them.”
But, Crabill adds, “It’s much more than just an operational partnership, it’s also very much a mission-oriented partnership where Lindblad’s fleet of ships going to these remote regions of the world, acts as a platform for research and for National Geographic explorers and residents to go out into the field. And, our guests get to go there with them and have these experts on board and actually see, observe and participate in some of the research these leading scientists, researchers and experts are doing in many, many remote regions.”