Travellers who explore remote regions can experience new cultures and life changing encounters. But managed poorly, this type of travel can dilute local cultures, drain natural resources and destroy the attractions that drive visitors there in the first place.
In 1989, Darrell Wade and Geoff Manchester founded Intrepid Travel as a business that would run environmentally, culturally and socially responsible travel.
The company, with headquarters in Australia, now has more than 900 employees in around 30 companies worldwide, including in China, India, Morocco and Peru.
In 1999, the Australian Government awarded Intrepid Travel an $85,000 R&D Start Grant to help it conduct research into improving the sustainability of its operations.
Intrepid Travel used the grant to partner with Victoria University and a Master's degree graduate student to research the impact of its tours on tribal cultures in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysian Borneo (also known as East Malaysia).
The report, titled Small Tour Group Impacts on Developing Communities, found the tours supported traditional practices and empowered women through employment opportunities. But in some cases the tours also caused unequal distribution of income in local villages and the commodification of traditional crafts.
"This research enabled us to improve our ways of engaging with villagers and we applied this knowledge to tours in other countries," Manchester says.
The project positioned Intrepid Travel as a world leader in responsible travel. Intrepid Travel now operates in Africa, Antarctica, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America, as well as Asia.
"Travellers are increasingly concerned about sustainability issues and choosing companies that follow responsible practices," Manchester says.
From 1999 to 2006, Intrepid Travel benefited from assistance through Austrade's Export Marketing Development Grants Scheme. The assistance, comprising $50,000 plus 50 per cent of the company's marketing expenditure, allowed Intrepid Travel to expand its operations into selling in the UK and US.
In 2008, Intrepid Travel established joint ventures with Flight Centre in Australia to sell its tours directly to the public through retail stores. This has now been extended to Canada and the UK.
In 2011, UK-based TUI PLC, the largest travel company in the world, became a substantial shareholder of Intrepid Travel, incorporating up to 10 brands and forming the new PEAK Adventures group to maximise the benefits of new markets and exciting growth opportunities.
"The integration of Intrepid into PEAK Adventures will give Intrepid the ability to concentrate on its products and customers without the diversion of back office issues," Manchester says. "It will also give Intrepid added strength to create new innovative products and expand its marketing reach."