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Responsible and independent tour operators: Adventure Alternative



This is the second instalment of a new series profiling members of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO). Next up: Adventure Alternative.

Director and founder Gavin Bate chats with Blue & Green Tomorrow.

This piece originally featured in B&GT’s Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2013.

Describe Adventure Alternative in one sentence.

An established adventure travel company that I founded during years of travelling and guiding, with a principle of making tourism sustainable for all my local companies and staff in order to give them a proper well-paid career on a level playing field, but that also provides quality professional trips.

How is Adventure Alternative unique?

The business model is unusual in that it invests heavily in setting up local Adventure Alternative companies in all the countries where we sell trips, and provides the money and advocacy to enable that company to become financially self-sufficient and hopefully to sell itself as a ground handler to other Western companies on a level playing field where the lowest price is not the only factor.

For me, it is all about the equality. I just want to make it fair: employees get monthly salaries not day rates; get salaries higher than local averages because of the nature of the product; get benefits and allowance the same as we expect here; and a share of the gross profits gets put into training and development and assets.

I’m not saying Adventure Alternative is unique in this respect, but it’s definitely quite unusual. Sustainability has to be properly articulated in the company strategy and followed up with actions and money. I think we’re quite unusual in taking such an interest in the welfare of our staff on the ground in the countries where we operate.

What does sustainable tourism mean to you?

It means that my company and the regional companies I have set up will have a life when I’m long gone, and it will provide a product that takes into account the impact on everything from the environment to welfare of all staff wherever they are. It’s basically looking beyond the financial bottom line, to the consequences and implications of what we do.

Do you expect more or less people to book sustainable travel in 2013?

The trends tell different stories, some say that people now prefer staycations; some say that more people are travelling than ever. My experience is that sustainable travel is an ever more crucial component in the choice of holidaymakers, and in reality, the consumer is expecting sustainable measures in their holidays.

Tell us about some interesting tours that Adventure Alternative is running in the next year.

There’s a total solar eclipse coming up in November and we are running trips to northern Kenya and also Sao Tome and Principe which include an amazing adventure followed by watching this beautiful event.