We count on International Expeditions (IE) for unique explorations, tailored to curious and adventurous travelers. In fact, three decades ago the company started in South America with Amazon cruises aboard its special, custom-built river boats—award-winningLa Amatista is the latest—and Galapagos cruises, both of which remain top sellers. And if we jump forward we find that 2012 will be another year of exploring new frontiers: Guyana & Trinidad, Borneo, Turkey & Greece, Bali to Komodo and West Africa. And in the last seven consecutive years, readers of Travel & Leisure have named IE to the list of “World’s Best Tour Operators and Safari Outfitters.”
For agents and their clients who have booked and/or traveled with IE, such accolades may come as no surprise. “We aim to create a travel experience of a lifetime,” says Steve Cox, co-founder of IE. And next year’s ultimate experiences are going to include “…new itineraries that place a heavy accent on cruising aboard amazing expedition vessels. However, clients won’t just cruise, they will explore, for we spend more waking time on land than at sea.”
IE is celebrating its 31st anniversary and, says Cox, during those years the company’s mission statement—all about stimulating interest in, developing an understanding of, and creating an appreciation for the wonders of the world—has remained basically the same. Included in that mission today, he points to such essentials as: working to upgrade remote lodgings from South America to Africa to Asia; developing highly trained and educated local naturalists and staff; expanding adventure and leisure activities, from kayaking and ziplining to elephant-back safaris and village visits. “In order to market FIT leisure travel nowadays, we all have had to expand our travel-planning priorities,” Cox adds.
Taking good care of the travel agent community, key sales partners in its expedition-style, small-group, authentic adventure journeys, is another facet of IE’s travel “mission.” In addition to a dedicated staff for agents, online resources include the agent newsletter, FAM trip information, and archives of exclusive agent training sessions on the company’s most popular journeys. Marketing tools have expanded to embrace interesting and relevant Tweets and Facebook posts that agents can incorporate in their own marketing, ways to organize a private label webinar promoting the agents’ brand, expanded downloading of stories and photography for agent use.
For the travel agents, the go-to guy and company v.p. of sales is George Johns, who announced, “Just as IE has a long-established loyalty program—the Society of Nature Travelers—for guests who journey the world with us, the company is launching a similar club for its top-producing travel agent partners. These are valued friends who share our spirit of adventure and commitment to a sustainable world, and have in turn become experts in selling our [products]. We feel they deserve our extra-special attention in services and rewards.” Heads up: IE’s new loyalty group is called True BelIEvers.
All believers in engaging and authentic nature travel will want to get acquainted with the additions to IE’s new journeys roster (all rates are pp dbl): The call of the wild is the message for the 10-day Guyana & Trinidad expedition, which combines pristine nature with rustic adventure in one of the world’s last untouched rainforests, the Guiana Shield. Departures are Jan. 27, April 20 and Oct. 5; land price is $5,598. For an up-close look at the wildlife and culture of Indonesia’s exotic isles, clients can choose Bali to Komodo, a 15-day expedition with departures May 27 and June 10 and costs starting at $5,898. For history and archaeology fans, the 12-day Turkey & Greece journey spans centuries of history and culture along the Turquoise Coast and Greek Isles. Istanbul to Istanbul, departures are Sept. 6 and 13, and lead price is $4,798.
Additional new frontiers include a 13-day voyage that ventures along the coast of West Africa aboard the 34-guest yacht Callisto. The Into Africa tour offers an exclusive look at the Bijagos archipelago. Departure is Feb. 22, with prices starting at $10,995. Additionally, a 20-day Borneo adventure tour will be a must-consider for wildlife and nature lovers. Departures are June 4 and 11, with costs starting at $6,733.
Sales are “up a little from last year,” reports Cox, who points out that the kind of economic and political uncertainties in place in recent years are rarely a time for robust sales numbers, although the Amazon, Galapagos and Africa remain very strong. Cox adds that IE’s travelers are interested nowadays in the company’s voluntourism programs, and the Amazon is front and center in this trend. “We are founding members of The International Ecotourism Society and have always involved our travelers in the many projects we support in far-flung places. Our entry destination was the Amazon, and we are looking to expanding our voluntourism in the region.” And as this pioneer in nature tourism continues to think out loud, he considers that for the Amazon-bound audience, it may be time to “re-start a land program that utilizes the excellent infrastructure of lodges and activities closer in to Iquitos.”