G Adventures, Intrepid Travel pursue older travelers

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Spotting a lion in the Serengeti, one of the destinations offered by G Adventures in partnership with National Geographic.

When Ben Perlo joined G Adventures as managing director for the U.S. and Latin America six years ago, one of his charges was to expand the company's customer base beyond its traditional under-30 backpacking crowd.

With a background that included stints at Grand Circle Travel and Vantage River Cruises, companies geared specifically for the 50-plus crowd, he said he knew it could be done.

And G Adventures, he said, was already beginning to make inroads to older travelers with river cruises and expeditions to the Galapagos. Then, he said, they got lucky. National Geographic came calling, opening what he said turned into the perfect opportunity to establish a more upscale product with a known brand at a still-affordable price point that offered broad appeal.

"It gave us a huge amount of confidence to invest in the program as much as we have over the last several years and really take this where it is today," Perlo said. "It definitely helped break down barriers for us, especially in the Gen X and baby boomer markets."

In May, G Adventures added a line of family trips to its National Geographic Journeys line. With the recent release of its 2020 itineraries, the company is adding Greece, Ireland and Singapore to its lineup of more than 90 itineraries and nearly 1,000 departures. That's up about 25% over last year, Perlo said.

The National Geographic trips, Perlo said, are "not ziplining and kayaking, although we do have some of that."

Instead, the trips focus on bringing people to some of the most in-demand travel destinations on Earth "in a way that is more authentic, immersive and sustainable than the typical vacation. It's adventure for the person who wants to learn more, do more and share more of themselves with the world."

The average age of the National Geographic Journeys traveler, he said, is 59. 

That’s a far cry from the G Adventures of old, whose clients generally ranged from 18 to 30. Today, the average age across all G Adventure products is 44, Perlo said. Take out the National Geographic Journeys line, and the average age of clients drops to 40.

Intrepid Travel said it, too, is seeing an increase in older adventure travelers with its line of "comfort" tours and its upscale Peregrine Adventures brand.

Michael Edwards, Intrepid Travel's managing director in Europe and North America, said the comfort line includes "more meals, guide-led activities, private transport and nicer accommodations, all at a more relaxed pace."

"Our premium brand, Peregrine Adventures, also caters to this style of travel," he said. "With premium accommodations and an itinerary designed to move at a considered pace that offers travelers more time to explore, to relax and to get under the skin of a destination, Peregrine often skews to a more mature audience."

Intrepid said its comfort tours, which saw bookings grow 34% this year over last, have seen the most significant growth among customers age 51 to 60. Next year it is adding 22 itineraries, with a focus on Australia, North and Central America, the Middle East and Europe.

Today, the average age of Intrepid's travelers is 44, while the average age of Peregrine Adventures' clients is 61.

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