Intrepid Travel aims to double turnover by 2030

Intrepid Travel aims to double its turnover in the space of seven years, helped by strong demand in the UK market.

The company’s 2023 financial results showed a net profit of $21.8m, while bookings totalled $621m and revenues hit $536m.

But co-founder and chairman Darrell Wade confirmed plans to “continue the growth curve”, adding: “We’ll be twice the size of the company we are today by 2030 and I’m reasonably confident we’ll achieve that.”

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Wade said the company had traditionally grown by 20-25% a year, so he viewed the prospect of revenue of $1.3 billion by 2030 as representing a “continuation of history”.

The UK market is growing “really solidly”, he said, highlighting its position as the second strongest market behind the US.

“The UK market is performing exceptionally well,” he added.

Asked how he could reconcile Intrepid Travel’s growth ambitions, which will involve more flying, with the need to pursue a more sustainable future, Wade said: “I’m not sure you ever can, fully.”

He added: “There is nothing sustainable about getting in an A380 or whatever you’re flying in. Aviation is bad news – that’s the reality. But you’ve got to put that against the positive impact that tourism can still have.”

Tourism spend helps to lift people out of poverty and provides new skills and careers, he said, but he identified a need to “change the conversation on flying”.

“Let’s fill these planes up with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and get serious about SAF and pressure governments and industry bodies and airlines, regulators, etc, so we can fly with a clean conscience, because at the moment we can’t,” he said.

SAF is “too expensive” as it stands, he said, but he added that the price would come down.

Asked whether he thought it was likely the aviation sector would hit its net-zero goal by 2050, he said the ambition could be realised “if the regulators get a big enough stick”.

“No one likes tax, but unfortunately tax is a necessary evil to force change,” he said. “Any fuel that goes into a plane is pretty much untaxed globally. Why is it that an airline gets a tax-free benefit whereas if we’re driving our car, we don’t? It doesn’t really make sense.”

The company’s French partner, Genairgy, which secured a stake in the business in 2021, shares Intrepid Travel’s approach on sustainability and purpose, Wade said.

“I think we’ve got the best new shareholder we could possibly have and they’re in it for the long-haul,” he said, adding: “We’re fantastically happy.”

He likened the previous partnership with Tui as being “like oil and water”.

“It’s not saying there’s anything wrong with Tui,” he said. “We’re just different. Culturally, we didn’t align.”

More widely, he claimed there were parts of the travel industry that were failing to take major issues as seriously as they should.

He said: “They’re not taking decarbonisation seriously. They’re not taking gender equality as seriously as they should be, they’re not looking at human rights issues as much as they could be, they’re not engaging travellers in a philanthropic quest to improve the lives of destination communities as much as they should be.”

On gender equality, he said “old white guys” who are in senior positions should “start making more noise” about the progress required.

“They shouldn’t just be sitting on their privilege,” he added.

Intrepid Travel itself has recognised it lacks women in senior roles, Wade said.

“We still know we’ve still got a problem with our senior management level,” he added, going on to encourage other companies to measure their own performance.

Wade was speaking to Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley at an event in London on June 4 to launch Intrepid Travel’s 2030 strategy.

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