Ethical travel companies emphasise the ‘why’

Speaking at the Purpose event in Sydney today, travel companies Intrepid and Reho suggested that the ‘why’ is just as important as the ‘how’ in creating ethical travel options for consumers.


Speaking at a session on Cathedral Thinking, Co-Founder & Director at Intrepid Travel Geoff Manchester said: “Everyday we are creating our legacy… It is our responsibility to plan for when we’re gone, it’s crucial to find people who share our vision”.

This is the primary reason the company is seeking to become a B Corporation, to “preserve our legacy”.

However to “have purpose beyond profit, you need to have profit,” Manchester told delegates.

While the company has created numerous sustainability initiatives over the years, resulting in the distribution of more than $4 million to non-government organisations round the world, it wanted to do more.

Geoff Manchester

Geoff Manchester

Its most ambitious share valued project to date, Namaste Nepal, was operational within 24 hours of the recent earthquake that devastated the region. The campaign raised around $750,000 for NGOs and sent in engineers to survey the region and make the necessary repairs to encourage tourists back to the country.

Further, Intrepid donated all its profits for a year to Nepal, and 18 months since the disaster, Manchester reports: “we are 97% up on travellers going to Nepal”.

“By giving up our profits for a year we are now more profitable from that destination,” said Manchester, adding that it could not have achieved that as a listed company.

After a period of being part of a larger travel business, Intrepid made the decision to “consciously uncouple” from its strategic partnership with Europe’s TUI Group last year due to a “fundamental difference of philosophy”.

Manchester said the move allowed the company to focus on its long-term approach of growing the whole market for sustainable travel.

He says that making risky decisions is part of applying a ‘Cathedral Thinking’ approach to business that exemplifies long-term vision and commitment to implementation.

An example is Intrepid’s collaboration with World Animal Protection to investigate animal welfare standards in the tourism trade in elephant riding.

As a result, Intrepid was the first travel company in the world to stop elephant rides, a move that has lead other companies to do the same.

“It was a risky decision but it paid off… giving us huge brand awareness around the world,” said Manchester. “We’ve had to take much bigger risks to preserve our ‘Cathedral’”.

Karsten Horne, Managing Director of Reho Travel, also emphasised the need to “know your why”.

The company has spent the last few years focusing on its ‘why’ since becoming a Certified B Corporation. It has come up with a value proposition that takes the “focus off price” and helps customers to make decisions that are “good for them and good for the planet”.

Karsten Horne

Karsten Horne

Currently 10% of Reho’s profits are invested in a community bank in Mpamba, Malawi which it established with the primary vision of offering small affordable loans to the languishing communities that would transform their living standards, thus revamping their lost hope of bettering their lives. This is the first stage in what it hopes are similar projects in many parts of the world.

This journey actually began back in 2008, when Horne met a Malawi man, Alick, selling postcards on the side of the road.

“We ended up giving him $500 over a period of a year to make our Christmas cards… this evolved into us sending him to university where he became a teacher,” said Horne.

Alick later became the founder of the community bank with Reho and has since created a community farm and school.

“So for us what’s success, making a difference, retention of key clients… I’d like all our clients to be purpose minded clients,” said Horne.

His parting message to delegates was: “Know your ‘why’… once you discover your ‘why’ that’s when you can go out and start establishing a culture.

“Be authentic all the way through, be consistent in your message, and be passionate.”


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