“Since the pandemic began, we’ve been passionately talking about the need for the travel industry to rebuild itself more responsibly. Now, we’re taking action,” said James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Travel. This sentiment comes as part of a wider decarbonization plan as Intrepid begins operating in alignment with the 1.5°C future championed by 2015’s historic Paris Agreement.
The company has itself been carbon-neutral since 2010 and last October became the world’s first and only tour operator with verified, science-based climate targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is considered the most effective way to achieve the Paris Agreement’s call to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Intrepid’s reduction targets, approved by the official Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), detail ambitious emission cutbacks from its trips and offices by 2035.
“While reducing our carbon footprint has been a priority of our company for years, decarbonization is becoming increasingly central in our product design now. As an industry, we must look beyond offsetting, advocacy and administration green practices to focus on where we can have the most positive impact—our trips,” Thornton opined.
That includes offering both new and amended itineraries with even lower carbon outputs, and looking for ways to refine its supply chain. In crafting its recently launched Intrepid Premium tour category, with trips geared specifically toward high-end travelers, designers focused on identifying and contracting with accommodations that have eco-credentials and use renewable energy sources.
The tour operator will also be switching out carbon-intensive trip inclusions for more sustainable activities on a number of its itineraries, which also serve to enrich guests’ travel experience on the whole.
In the past year alone, Intrepid has launched more than 40 new low-carbon, alternative-type tours, including closer-to-home walking and cycling trips in its major source markets of the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Not only are these some of the lowest carbon-output trip styles, but they’ve also come into higher demand as travelers seek opportunities for active outdoor adventures after being cooped up for months during COVID-19 quarantines.
In reducing emissions across its operations and trips, Intrepid is reworking the transportation methods utilized in many of its itineraries and substituting lower-carbon options. For instance, Intrepid is removing flights of 90 minutes or less its top 50 trips by 2022, replacing these with alternative transportation by rail or road. The company has already successfully swapped internal flights for high-speed rail journeys on the majority of its trips in China, and will continue making similar changes wherever there are feasible land-based options available.
The company is also trialing the use of electric vehicles for its guests’ arrival transfers in destinations like Jordan and Iran, which will hopefully be integrated into all of Intrepid’s trips at some point in the future.
“While our plan to decarbonize our trips has been in the works for several years now, the global pandemic has heightened the importance of these efforts. As travel came to a halt in 2020 due to COVID-19, it provided our industry with the opportunity to reassess our operations and commit to rebuilding in a way that is beneficial to the planet,” said Thornton.
For more information, visit intrepidtravel.com/us/climate.