This is the first instalment of a new series profiling members of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO). Here, Natalie Morris of Wild Frontiers explains what the organisation has in store for the coming year.
This piece originally featured in B>’s Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2013.
Reaching our 10th birthday in July last year not only made us stop and reflect at just how far Wild Frontiers had come since setting off to explore northern Pakistan with our first group a decade ago, but to look at exciting times ahead.
With a cacophony of global issues to negotiate – from ash clouds and Arab springs, currency fluctuations and world economic meltdowns, 2012 proved to be an interesting (if challenging) year for most travel companies. But through these volatile times, we believe we have managed to build one of the world’s leading adventure travel companies, largely due to our unique handle on sustainable tourism.
Ensuring we don’t leave a heavy footprint in the places we travel, the company’s ethic has always been to go one step further and have a positive impact on the remote communities we visit. In the early years this was achieved by channelling a portion of our profits into locally-run community projects, so that the tourist dollar was used to benefit everyone, not just individuals working in the travel industry.
In 2009, we invested in this concept further by launching the Wild Frontiers Charitable Foundation, and independent charity dedicated to directing much-needed funds to NGOs and development projects.
In 2012, we were delighted when our efforts were recognised by industry professionals in the form of the Guardian Ethical Travel Award, confirming our place at the forefront of ethical adventure travel.
The foundation’s biggest project to date is a sponsored school in the Hushey Valley in mountainous northern Pakistan, which is going from strength to strength with a new classroom, additional teachers and educational materials, thanks to the money our clients help to raise when attending our events or taking the ultimate K2 trekking challenge.
For an independent company like Wild Frontiers, the award has proved invaluable by bringing the company into the periphery of the general public and getting our name out there, again proving that sustainability really does increase business.
In 2013, the company has continued its progress, developing our program of cutting edge trips, cultural tours and active adventures to far flung corners of the planet.
As well as our quintessential destinations such as India, Pakistan, Central Asia and Ethiopia, the growth of the company has allowed us to branch into new areas and revisit old favourites.
Reconnaissance trips this year include a journey into the remote north of Peru to explore the region of the Cloud Warriors and visiting the Raymillacta Festival; a unique wildlife experience tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo; walking trips through Oman and the Palestinian territories; and a cultural adventure through stunning yet unexplored Bangladesh. For travellers with a real thirst for adventure there is a wealth of exciting destinations on offer – from horseback adventures in Cuba to cultural departures in Iraqi Kurdistan, Algeria, Ladakh and Oman.
Whilst “responsible travel” and “ethical tourism” have been key phrases in the travel industry for the past few years, the success of Wild Frontiers continues to support the case for ethical and sustainable business more generally.