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Do you think the increasing visibility and role of the supplier is ultimately good or bad for adventure tourism? For the adventure traveler? Why?

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imageManfred Häupl
of Germany’s Hauser Exkursionen

“There are advantages and disadvantages in this development. Advantages are: direct access to the local operator, more direct money flows in the country, and the chance to have more authentic experiences.

Disadvantages: the cultural gap cannot be closed easily by direct bookings; misunderstandings in the different “business culture”; and more time consuming for the traveler, not necessarily better price.

I compare it with the first development in the 1970s with Globetrotter and organized travel. Both ways of traveling had their advantages and disadvantages and could coexist.”

imageGert Nieuwboer, CEO of SNP Natuurreizen

“First of all, whether it’s good or bad for adventure tourism, the model is changing and it’s foolish to think that it can be stopped. The fast growing possibilities that internet, smartphones, tablets etc. are giving to the modern adventure traveler changes the distribution chain and we, the international outbound tour operators, will have to redesign our business in order to survive and to keep on playing a relevant role. As always the developments will have positive and negative effects on adventure tourism and the adventure travelers. The possibilities will grow enormously and prices might drop as adventure tourism turns into commodity; fast growing quantities are a big threat to the experience. Quality, however and sustainability will become decisive aspects where outbound and inbound tour operators still can make ‘the difference’.”

imageJames Thornton, Managing Director of Intrepid Travel

“I believe this is ultimately good for adventure tourism and the adventure traveller as operators at the local level understand their destination best and are able to create an authentic experience. My only concern is standardization in quality and safety (for both customers and employees), as some local operators may not meet their customers’ level of expectations. Intrepid Travel as part of PEAK is vertically integrated, meaning it already has local operations situated around the world. This is where Intrepid has a strong competitive advantage, we deliver standardized quality and safety while offering a local, authentic experience.”

imageDan Austin, Director of Austin-Lehman Adventures

“All I can see is good coming out of awareness. Established and respected Tour Operators will always have a role… yes, some travelers may elect to go more direct. Establishing a rapport and respect with one’s alumni has never been more relevant.”

imageAlexandra Greenwood, Head of Sales of HF Holidays Ltd.

“Ultimately I think that this is a good thing for adventure tourism and the adventure traveller who wishes to have unique experiences and really get under the skin of the local culture.”

imageMaria Elena Price, Co-Owner of ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours

“I think this is the sign of the evolution and maturing of an industry – it’s a true feedback process where distributors and suppliers are evaluated based on what type of value they provide to the end consumer (traveler). Ultimately, it should prove to be good for the industry. In the meantime it means that in order for an outbound operator to continue to be relevant, they need to clearly define the added value they are providing to the traveler so that the traveler continues buying from them instead of going directly to an inbound supplier.

For the adventure traveler, I think this shift is good for the simple reason that they have more choice and there is more transparency in the industry – this transparency should lead to better travel experiences. Ideally, by buying direct, a traveler should be able to buy exactly what he or she wants.

But, it is also true that there is an overwhelming amount of information and options when one considers going directly to an inbound. This can complicate the selection process for the traveler, mainly because there is no longer a filtering process performed by the outbound operator. With no filter in place it is also more difficult to manage quality and match expectations. This means that it is possible for a traveler to buy something they didn’t expect (especially if we are talking about someone buying a product where there may be a language and cultural difference between seller and buyer).

For an inbound supplier this trend could be a double edged sword, i.e. they now have to work on customer service and sales and if they start to divert resources to selling direct that takes away from the operation of the tours, possibly lowering the quality of the travel experience for everyone – not a consequence any supplier or traveler wants.”

imageRobin Weber Pollak, President of JOURNEYS International

“To the extent that it jeopardizes the existence of outbound operators, disintermediation is bad for the industry and bad for travelers. Outbound operators often help their suppliers improve their product and business practices and cross-pollinate among countries to spur innovation. Outbound operators also provide additional services and support that enhance travelers’ overall experience with adventure travel. Travelers don’t always realize what benefits they give up by forgoing a relationship with an outbound operator — for example, benefits of pre-screening and quality control, personalized recommendations based on a long-term relationship that goes beyond an individual trip or destination, and useful background information.”

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