30 years after founding G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip sees new potential in travel
Travel is back! Nora and Scott sit down with industry expert and entrepreneur Bruce Poon Tip, best known for founding the travel company, G Adventures and author of the bestselling book Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business. Bruce also produced a new documentary called The Last Tourist.
Producer: Bella Hutchins
Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus
Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop
VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer
Check out the full transcript of this episode below.
Bruce Poon Tip: Our real vision as a business is that travel can be a transformational experience for anyone who touches your decision to go on holiday. Right? Because we're traveling to some of the poorest countries in the world, the world's most in-need citizens on our planet, booking luxury holidays, and we can benefit, the people can benefit, from you being there. If done right, travel can alleviate poverty. Travel can be a great source of wealth distribution, create opportunities, cultural heritage preservation, all of these things. Travel can be a transformational experience, and our industry can be a transformative industry if we embrace the right way to travel. And so, yeah, at the base of what we do is being a holiday company and showing people some amazing parts of the world and creating experiences for people to have a cultural excursion. But traditionally, I think travel has been a one-way experience. You pay for something and expect service and so you go with a mindset to take. And what we do at G Adventures is to make that journey a two-way experience where everyone shares in your decision to go on holidays and everyone benefits.
Nora Ali: From Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that reveals the unexpected business story behind everything. I'm Nora Ali.
Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you conversations with creators, thinkers, and innovators who can tell us what it all means and why we should care. Now let's get down to business. So you're traveling a lot, Nora. You just traveled to the exotic state of Minnesota.
Nora Ali: Oh yeah. Real exotic though. Yeah. I'm on the road a lot, and more so now that travel is back in action. We talked about this with our guests, but the last place I went before the pandemic was Australia and New Zealand. I was lucky enough. I had the privilege to travel to Australia and New Zealand. My cousin got married in Australia and then my parents and I did a week in New Zealand, and it was magical. But now my outlook has changed so much on the consciousness that is involved in traveling like a conscious consumer and taking care of the local economies, being environmentally friendly. So I think my approach has changed after this convo, Scott. How about you? Are you a big traveler?
Scott Rogowsky: I'm a huge traveler. And I got to say though, I've always been a conscious traveler. I'm going to toot my own horn here.
Nora Ali: Good.
Scott Rogowsky: Even though my family did take a lot of cruises growing up, I always was, it's the way I feel about everything my family does, it's like why-
Nora Ali: You shook your fist in the air on those cruises.
Scott Rogowsky: Look, did I like the midnight buffet? Yes. I'm not going to lie. The food is plentiful. It's absurd. The amenities are ridiculous. We didn't have a go-kart track, but I did like the shuffleboard and the basketball courts and the teen lounge. It's a floating omnibus, anything you can want pretty much is there. But yeah, I always thought about the pollution, because you can see it. You can see the pollution of these cruise ships coming out. You can see the food being wasted. And especially when you go to the ports, that's the most devastating thing, because you've got people, like he said, you're going to these small islands in the Caribbean or you're going to very poor places and they try to keep you contained. They try to keep you to the port area. And people, kids are running up to you asking for money or trying to sell you trinkets. But I always like to go beyond into the actual town. And recently I drove down to Ensenada, Mexico, a few months ago and I was driving, so I wasn't taking a cruise, but they do have cruise ships docking there. But like our guest Bruce says, all it takes is just asking questions, doing a little research. I was Googling "best fish tacos in Ensenada." And guess what? They're not going to be on the port in the dock area where there is a very clean street with duty-free shops and the Ray-Bans and the perfume and all that. And these fake little huts and kiosks that are waiting to catch passengers of the cruise ships. If you just walk three or four blocks into the town, you'll find the best fish tacos you'll ever have in your life for a buck-fifty. It's local people and you're supporting them and you throw them a nice tip and you go to the local paleteria, you get some ice cream. Just go into the town. There's so much to see, so much to explore. Get out of the cruise ship controlled areas. That's a great point that Bruce made.
Nora Ali: And the best places to eat, you might not even find it on the internet. It might not be on Trip Advisor or on Yelp. So ask the locals when you get on the ground.
Scott Rogowsky: Ask the locals. Exactly.
Nora Ali: It's that easy. Well, today, we are talking about all those things and the travel industry, and specifically sustainable tourism with Bruce Poon Tip, who is an entrepreneur best known for founding G Adventures, a successful adventure travel company, which now operates in more than 100 countries on all seven continents and serves more than 200,000 travelers every year. His bestselling book is titled Looptail: How One Company Changed The World By Reinventing Business. And Bruce Poon Tip is also a producer on a new documentary called The Last Tourist. We'll get to our conversation with Bruce after this quick break. Well, Bruce, Scott and I were so excited to learn about G Adventures. We had not heard about it before. I think you might have obtained some new customers. We both love to travel. But before we get to the founding of the company, give us some background on what kind of travel experiences you had. What was your relationship with travel like before you started it in the nineties?
Bruce Poon Tip: I mean, I'm from an immigrant family. So our first trip traveling overseas was moving to Canada. I don't know when I got the travel bug along the way, but travel was very different in 1990s. People just have an incredible short memory when it becomes to how things have changed since G started.
Scott Rogowsky: Travel agents.
Bruce Poon Tip: Yeah. Travel agents, everything. When you wanted to learn about a destination, you went to a library. Believe that. You couldn't just pull out your pocket and read blogs. There was no internet.
Scott Rogowsky: No TikTok. Yeah.
Bruce Poon Tip: No TikTok. So you just imagine if the only thing you knew about Africa were documentaries on television. And if you wanted to actually read about more, you'd have to go to a library, sign out a book and read about it, right? That's the only way you can research. And if you wanted to book a trip, you couldn't just open your browser or read blogs, user-generated content, or anything. You had to go and see a travel agent. That might be easy if you were going to Florida, but imagine if you wanted to go to Africa, or you wanted to go to Mongolia. So it was much harder. But G Adventures started all those years ago. We have 11 brands of trips. For active, for young people, for older people. We do National Geographic journeys. We have polar expeditions. And we make it easy for people to get to some of the most unique and most beautiful places in the world and have experiences in small groups.
Nora Ali: So G Adventures is this platform for people to discover other cultures, travel to other countries that they might not think to travel to in the first place. Talk to us a little bit more about the vision for G Adventures, specifically as it relates to discovery where you're trying to show travelers, here's the value of this particular place that you hadn't thought of before. It's not on the usual lists of where to travel to. So how do you sort of implement that discovery mindset with the company as well?
Bruce Poon Tip: Our real vision as a business is that travel can be a transformational experience for anyone who touches your decision to go on holiday, right? Because we're traveling to some of the poorest countries in the world, the world's most in-need citizens on our planet, booking luxury holidays. And we can benefit, the people can benefit from you being there. If done right, travel can alleviate poverty. Travel can be a great source of wealth distribution, create opportunities, cultural heritage preservation. All of these things that travel can be a transformational experience. And our industry can be a transformative industry if we embrace the right way to travel. And so, yeah, at the base of what we do is being a holiday company and showing people some amazing parts of the world and creating experiences for people to have a cultural excursion. But traditionally, I think travel has been a one-way experience. You pay for something and expect service. And so you go with a mindset to take. And what we do at G Adventures is to make that journey a two-way experience where everyone shares in your decision to go on holidays, and everyone benefits.
Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. We're going to talk more about that community tourism idea when we get into The Last Tourist documentary, which you're a part of. But I want to get back to this founding moment, because you noticed something was missing in the travel tourism industry, so you decided to start G Adventures. How did you do it? How did you finance the company? What was your strategy starting out? Who did you have supporting you?
Bruce Poon Tip: My eureka moment was when I decided I wanted to go travel and there was nothing available that wasn't like mass tourism, like the massive compound resorts, cruises, massive coach tours where you have a Western guide with a microphone in the front of a bus. And the only other option is backpacking. So backpacking was really established back then with guidebooks, where you'd get a guidebook and you'd go and do it yourself. So I wanted to bridge that space between that mainstream traveler and that backpacker. Because the backpacker was a pretty rough experience, $10 a day, staying in hostels, doing everything yourself. Who has that kind of time? All the delays, all the organization. It's a lot of work. But where's that space in between? That was my business moment, where I was saying that when I want to travel, I ended up going backpacking, but I really didn't want to do that. I didn't want all the hassle. I didn't want to organize everything myself. I didn't want to that social pressure of meeting people along the way and all that. Traveling with people for a few days and then finding new people to travel with. So I saw all these young people in limbo, all these people in limbo that had no options, so they were just forced to go travel on their own. And I said, there's this space between the mainstream traveler and the backpacker where people want a grassroots experience, want a cultural exchange, want to meet local people, don't want to stay in chain hotels. They want a local experience, but they want it organized and they want to meet other people that they can travel with. And that was the moment.
Nora Ali: You saw the need in the market. You had this idea. You had this eureka moment. How does that turn into the first trip for G Adventures? Walk us through how that happened.
Bruce Poon Tip: Yeah. So I got home and I built my first itinerary. I built three itineraries to South America, one to Venezuela, one to Galapagos Islands. The third one was Belize. I built these itineraries that were really cool, like going to see Amazon tribes, and staying in monasteries. Where there was no accommodations, we were going to sleep in a monastery on the floor with a mat and a sleeping bag in the hills, in the mountains.
Nora Ali: Wow.
Bruce Poon Tip: In Belize, kayaking through mangroves. I made this promise and realized when I got down to Belize with our first group, or getting ready for our first groups, that kayaks didn't exist in Belize. I had to then buy kayaks in Mexico and drive them down myself, and had the first kayaks in Belize. And then our first group got arrested because the kayaks weren't legal.
Scott Rogowsky: Illegal kayaks.
Bruce Poon Tip: They weren't registered as flotation devices in Belize. So our first group got detained. Just for a moment. Just for a moment.
Nora Ali: What a fun story though to tell when they get back from their travels.
Bruce Poon Tip: Anyways, so I built these itineraries and then when you're doing something so revolutionary in terms of a trip, like I couldn't advertise because when you advertise in a newspaper or a magazine and say tours to Thailand, or tours to wherever, people have a vision of what a tour is, right? They envision bus, Best Western hotel, air-conditioned coaches, someone rocking the mic on the front, telling you everything that you're seeing. You know, the follow the flag to the museum. That's a tour. So I had to get in front of people. I never had the benefit to just do traditional marketing. This is before there was kind of digital marketing. So I went out and I would speak anywhere that anyone would have me. I used to go to colleges and schools. I used to go outdoor stores. There was one outdoor store in Toronto where I lived, where I had a standing every Wednesday night travel talk that I would go and just stand in the shoe department and people would come. There would be a sale on Solomon shoes, and Bruce Poon Tip was going to talk about Ecuador. I did that every Wednesday. I had people do private parties in their basement. I was talking about this revolutionary brand new way to travel where it's organized, almost like organized backpacking, but comfortable and grassroots. And I got my first people to commit. Our first two groups were seven passengers and six passengers who paid money, paid me real money for me to take them on these tours. Now I have to deliver the tours. That's a whole other story, because it was easy to kind of build the itinerary, get in front of people and sell it. And now I have to actually figure out how to operate it. And remember, back then, if I wanted to make a hotel reservation for a group, I had to do it by mail. Can you imagine?
Nora Ali: Oh my gosh.
Bruce Poon Tip: There's no email. So I have to email the hotel and say I need a reservation on these days. They email me back the confirmation. Not email. They mail me back the confirmation.
Nora Ali: Yeah, mail mail.
Bruce Poon Tip: I mail them back a check with a deposit, an international check. And then they email me back the confirmation.
Scott Rogowsky: Mail you back.
Bruce Poon Tip: Sorry.
Scott Rogowsky: It's so ingrained in our life now, but yeah.
Bruce Poon Tip: Mail me. And then you need a transport company to pick people up at the airport. That's all done by mail. You two probably weren't even born then.
Scott Rogowsky: You couldn't fax?
Bruce Poon Tip: There was no faxes. Faxes were available in North America, but I'm talking about Ecuador. They didn't exist.
Nora Ali: Sure, yeah.
Scott Rogowsky: Got it.
Bruce Poon Tip: And the big thing about a fax is the other person has to have one. You can't just fax to somebody. So everything was done by mail. But you know what? It's the business case for this, the business case story. I love this interview because I always talk about travel so much, but the business case. You know, I also figured out how to do something that couldn't be done, overcoming an operational challenge. Like how I described by mail. No one was able to do that before, and also communicate with these small experiences, like the Amazon tribe. And if you bring it to in a big scale, it's like Dell, right? Dell, what they figured out was manufacturing. They figured out how to do something better, cheaper, and created a better experience for their customers. And that's how his idea was an operational one. He didn't invent the computer. He didn't make computers faster. He didn't make computers better. And so there's both of those things with my story. Because operationally, I figured out all of those things and as the fax machine came available, like originally we had the telex, then the fax machine. And then when the internet and email came, the world just opened for me.
Scott Rogowsky: And the fact that you'd started back pre-internet gave you that first-mover advantage, as they say, in this is world.
Bruce Poon Tip: Totally.
Scott Rogowsky: Because you had established these networks. You'd met your friends in the Amazon. You had these tours. You learned from your mistakes. You learned the kayaking lesson, right? So people came along post-internet and said, "Oh, I'll start a travel company." But you had your base of customers.
Bruce Poon Tip: 100%.
Scott Rogowsky: Let me ask you. Do you have repeat customers and people that you've serviced in the nineties who are maybe in their twenties back then, now in their fifties and sixties?
Bruce Poon Tip: Oh, well, I will tell you a story. We just did the premier of The Last Tourist in Toronto here. And we had a woman in the audience who's taken 47 tours with us.
Scott Rogowsky: Wow.
Nora Ali: Whoa.
Bruce Poon Tip: And she was on a tour in our first year, in 1990. Now she wasn't on the very first tour. I think she was on the second or third tour. And she came to the audience. As a matter of fact, she wasn't from Toronto, but she came to Toronto and she stayed at my house overnight. And so I said to the audience, the incentive, if you take 47 trips, you can come and stay at my house.
Scott Rogowsky: Exactly.
Bruce Poon Tip: Because I know her.
Scott Rogowsky: You'll cook her breakfast.
Bruce Poon Tip: If you take 47 trips, that's the benefit. We have a VIP program. You can then come and stay at my house.
Nora Ali: Well, it's so interesting because so much of the early days, it was arduous for you. You were doing a lot of the labor and you were going in-person to these locations to get your customers. And then there's this explosion. Like you said, there's emails, there's technology, there's the internet. And then you have digital marketing. So in terms of finding new customers, how did that help you scale? How did you even navigate the change in how to just reach new customers?
Bruce Poon Tip: The world changed in our favor in every way. Even the mid-nineties where we started to live more socially responsible. When we started to recycle at home, when we started to have values in organic food, and low-flush toilets, and low-watt light bulbs, all these kind of things. Ecotourism raised its head for the first time in the late nineties. Al Gore came and created sustainable tourism with climate change and the environment. All of those things made people conscious of travel. Prior to that, you lived a certain way at home, and if you're in another country, you'd suspend all those beliefs. I'm just in another country and I suspend all my values because I'm on vacation. It's that whole mindset of a one-way experience for travel. I'm paying a huge amount of money in this country, and I demand Western services. I want all the comforts of home. That's when you're selling amenities, like thread counts on sheets and the whole concept of [inaudible] hotels. It's the exact same commoditized experience in every country. And people just want their luxuries. They don't want to feel like they left home, which I think is the weirdest thing. And I got to say in our first brochure, we said, "If you want the comforts of home, we suggest you stay at home."
Nora Ali: Wow. There you go.
Bruce Poon Tip: Why would you think of going on holiday?
Scott Rogowsky: Right.
Bruce Poon Tip: And if you've come on one of our trips and you feel like you're at home, we'll give you your money back. It became amenities and it's dangerous because the destination no longer was important. The destination was no longer relevant. And when you get there, it's not travel anymore. Let's just call it something else.
Scott Rogowsky: Right. We're getting to the heart of it right now. But we're going to take a quick break with Bruce. More when we return. So, Bruce, we're talking about socially responsible community-focused tourism now, which is a value that is at the heart of G Adventures. Again, to give some context to our listeners, what is an example of tourism that isn't socially responsible, and what does it mean to practice sustainable tourism? What does it actually look like to the communities that participate?
Bruce Poon Tip: That's a moving goal post at the moment. But you know, cruising can never be sustainable. Let's just be real. It's a massive multi-billion dollar industry that takes people on these massive steel tin cans in the ocean. All the dumping is coming to the forefront right now, all the dumping of these ships. Graywater issues. The food. That's just the environmental impact. But let's just talk about the cultural impact. When these ships pull into a Caribbean island like Anguilla and could spend up to a hundred thousand dollars in that period of time. Suddenly if that ship comes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, kids are no longer going to school, right? So the cultural impact is immeasurable, right? Because now when more ships come, now they're making crafts all week to kind of serve customers. And everyone's trying to get their piece of that hundred grand that that group is going to spend in that eight-hour period, and the massive impact on that community is, you know. And so what does the cruise industry do? They start buying ports, where they actually now want to control the shopping even. When you get off at port on a cruise ship, the cruise company owns that port. All of those stores, they own those stores. So when you're buying, you can't come back from holiday without that baseball cap with built-in dreadlocks. Everyone needs it, that souvenir. But now you buy it at the port where all the money's coming back to the ship.
Nora Ali: Oh my God.
Bruce Poon Tip: Everyone's motivated to keep them. All the restaurants you eat at. You think you're eating at Señor Frog's, but that's a franchise that's bought and owned by the cruise ship in that port. So you really never visited that country. To say you actually visited the country, and say you met a local, and that's someone being paid less than minimum wage to work at Señor Frog's. It's hardly a local at that stage. Right? Let's talk about compound resorts, the all-inclusive compound resorts, where they condition you to believe, don't go outside these gates, because the natives are restless.
Scott Rogowsky: It's dangerous.
Bruce Poon Tip: Of course they're restless, because they're not benefiting from you being there. You are living in the lap of luxury, consuming mass amounts of natural resources that don't exist on that island. And just outside those walls, they don't have access to clean drinking water and medical care. You would be restless, too. And so those two things are just two examples. They're not sustainable. And they're growing because those companies are now motivated more than ever, building new, building bigger. Two ships released this week, the biggest ever. The biggest ever. More services because bigger means more amenities, right? Because now we can have more pools, more swim-up bars, better entertainment. Now there's live shows with Gwyneth Paltrow on there talking about Goop. She's giving you life tips. I'm not kidding. That's actually happening. There's an Alaskan cruise that's featured on The Last Tourist that took a deck and made a go-kart track. So if you have an aggressive go-kart hobby, you don't have to give it up while you're cruising in Alaska.
Scott Rogowsky: I thought shuffleboard was enough.
Nora Ali: Shuffleboard seems environmentally friendly at least. I hope
Bruce Poon Tip: That's that's so nineties. So nineties.
Scott Rogowsky: I still stick to the shuffle board. I like to shuffleboard.
Nora Ali: Your average traveler probably doesn't think about all of these things, all of these layers of impact to local economies, to the environment. But I think that's the reason why you came up with this Ripple Score. If we can talk about that, how did you come up with it and how do you get people to care and be aware?
Bruce Poon Tip: Well, first of all, that's the reason for the documentary. You have to show people. The thing about The Last Tourist is it's interesting. But like animal welfare, for instance, the fact that the number one rising tourist attraction is dolphin encounters. The fact that you want to swim in a pool with a dolphin and pet it. And you know that it's cruel to the animal, but when you actually show it to them, you realize, "God, that is kind of weird. It's not worth it. I love animals. The reason I book this is because I love animals." You don't book a dolphin encounter because you hate animals. And so you're just showing people. Once you put it in front of them, they realize, geez, this is not a good idea.
Nora Ali: You're putting in front of people with a documentary, but you're also trying to remove this mental calculation that it takes for the average person where they don't want to have to think about the impacts necessarily. So how did you come up with that Ripple Score? Tell us a little bit more about that.
Bruce Poon Tip: Well, Ripple Score's a little different. It's about gauging how much of your money is staying in the local economy. This is the best thing you can do for sustainable tourism. The fact that if you're not eating at restaurants that are owned by a cruise ship or a resort, you're actually making sure that all of the services that you're paying for while you're in another country are helping local people. So when you go to a restaurant, when you book a taxi, or you want a guide for the day, you want to do an excursion. When you are there, you're spending money and you're putting money into the economy, right? So the Ripple Score was a labor of love for us for five years to find a way that we could create the behaviors within our organization when it comes to buying, by asking questions at the time of buying. Who owns your hotel? Who manages your hotel? Where are these people from? And are you hiring management that's within a 25-kilometer radius of your business? Or are you bringing people in from other countries? Is this German owned? Is it American owned? And is that money staying in the economy? And it's funny. Because when we opened this can of worms, we realize all kinds of things. Like we were using a train to Machu Picchu. It's the number-one expense. It's Spanish owned. All the management is brought in from overseas. It gets a zero on the Ripple Score. But we want people to identify that and know where their money is. So once we decided to open that can of worms, we found out so many of our hotels were American-owned and foreign-owned. Their employees and their management are not from locally. And also then when you start asking where they buy their food. A lot of these hotels, if they're chains, they buy everything from the ships and the resorts and everything. They buy them and they ship stuff in. So asking all those questions and giving it a score of how much of your money to run your tour actually stays in the economy? We give a calculated score on every trip. There's a percentage of the money that stays in the economy.
Scott Rogowsky: Is there an alternative to that train, to Machu Picchu that you take your travelers on? Are there ways to get around these?
Bruce Poon Tip: Well, we did. Thank you for asking that question actually. That's a great one. This is the idea of changing behaviors. I didn't think there was. We were just willing to accept it, but as long as we acknowledge it and we tell our customers, that's just the way it is, we still have to get to Machu Picchu. We're taking this train, but we're identifying. But then we found out there's another train that only has a few cars and it's called Inca Rail. It's really rough and ready. Local people, putting their pigs and chickens to the market, carrying all their stuff. And it's a really rough train. We cut a deal with Inca Rail. It can't take care of all of our passengers, and you can't take some of our National Geographic passengers. But a lot of our younger passengers now we use Inca Rail. So it can't work for all of our programs, but it created that behavior for us to look at another option. I have been doing tours in Peru for 30 years. I didn't even know Inca Rail existed until the Ripple Score changed our behavior as a company.
Scott Rogowsky: You've been talking about this documentary, The Last Tourist, on which you're a producer. How did you become involved with this production and how does it connect to your work at G Adventures? And what do you want viewers to take away from watching it?
Bruce Poon Tip: Well, first my connection is I paid for it.
Scott Rogowsky: So that's capital P, Producer.
Bruce Poon Tip: So let's just say that. So five years ago, this film has just been such a labor love, we decided internally, let's do a documentary. We thought like a short, but let's tell our story because iPhones are so great. Let's send our content people out to build the documentary, just of all of the stories, all of the people, that run our trips and people that we lift out of poverty every day because of tourism and let's build that. And so that's how it started. And then from that we said, "Okay, well, it's actually a big idea. Let's hire a director." So we found a director that can externally kind of put the ideas together. And then we started building the content and realizing this can be a huge story. And then the big decision, but it has to be independent. It's not a story about G Adventures. Let's create an independent documentary. I'll be the executive producer, but I've got to give it full creative independence and no mention of G Adventures at any point. It can't be a G Adventures commercial. Let's make a real documentary. And they said, "It's going to cost this." And after I picked myself up off the floor, I said, "Okay." But of course it costs three times that in the end, because it took five years. We went through COVID. We had cancellation of film festivals. We changed the film multiple times, changed producers. But it was this one director who was passionate about it, really kind of put it all together and it took on a whole life of its own, and was so removed because I suddenly became a cast member. Because I am in the film talking about the tourism industry, but it's not about selling G Adventures, right? It's more about talking about the bigger story, and it's a positive message. It's a message of hope and peace, that travel can be the greatest form of wealth distribution that the world has ever seen. It's a $10 trillion industry and we're going to the 40 poorest countries in the world. So your idea of going on holiday can transform lives if we can get there. But instead, right now, we're taking from the disadvantaged, the marginalized, the way mainstream tourism works right now.
Scott Rogowsky: And by the way, Bruce, what the documentary also explores is in this moment, post-COVID when travel was completely disrupted and shut down for a while, we have a chance as a society, as a civilization, to start tourism anew, right?
Bruce Poon Tip: Totally.
Scott Rogowsky: From this new level field, like you said, bringing these values in that have just come up in the last few decades and really building that into the new foundation of travel and tourism for the future. That's a key point.
Bruce Poon Tip: Yeah. I mean, I look at the travel industry right now as the biggest startup in the world. I mean, COVID shut our industry down to nothing. The world shut down in a matter of days and just shut travel right down. So we've all had two years now to rethink our businesses and we're still at that moment where we kind of looked back and said, travel was getting kind of ridiculous. I mean, they had just put a go-kart track on a cruise ship. If that's not the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard. And there was this constant battle. But now here we are. As an industry, we have the opportunity to rethink everything and be a startup. Are we going to take advantage of this? Because the consumer's also going to change, by the way. And that's what's driving that change.
Nora Ali: Now we're going to take a quick break. More with Bruce when we come back. Bruce, we started touching on some of the changes from the pandemic and how people think about travel and what people's priorities are. What do you think are going to be some of the lasting changes as far as what people care about, what people are focusing on and demand for where and how people do want to travel?
Bruce Poon Tip: Well, it's all about people being more connected to where they're going. That's the most important thing. As an industry, if we're going to just sell people amenities, and as I said before, the destination is now irrelevant. You're booking because of thread counts on sheets now. What we need, and the change that we're going to see, is that people be more purposeful on why they want to travel. Because I think we've all established now that corona's not going away. We all have to learn to live with it now. So there's going to be inherent risk to travel in the future. There's just inherent risk. But we're rolling the world open now and people are going to travel. And so if you're going to travel, it has to be important to you. So that's, I think, the best thing that could ever happen to tourism. Because if it's important to you, you're going to be more purposeful on where you go, why you go, and why you want to travel.
Scott Rogowsky: How has the industry recovered, in the last year, I guess? Since the shutdowns, the lockdowns, things are opening back up. Are you seeing uptick in business? Are people coming back to G Adventures now?
Bruce Poon Tip: Yeah. I mean, there's been two starts. It started really last September, October where business was doing really well, and then Omicron hit and really devastated the industry again. But now we're seeing like a real strong upswing, and it's by market. We're a global company. North America is back full, Canada and the United States. Britain and the Europe was doing well, but then Ukraine has really put everyone on a wait-and-see kind of, and Australia's very slow, very slow coming back.
Nora Ali: Bruce, just to sort of wrap this up for our listeners who do want to be more conscious travelers and it could be a little bit overwhelming when you're trying to consider all of these factors, what are some of the steps they can take? Maybe the number one thing you can do to just be a better traveler of the world?
Bruce Poon Tip: Everything has to do with just being more conscious, asking more questions. It's all there. And this is the same thing about The Last Tourist. We're just showing you what's always been there and you know it. Everyone knows it. And this is the same thing, about just being more aware. And what you can do is, if everyone can understand one thing, the privilege that you have to travel. It's the change of the mind, because the privilege that you have to travel, you're one of a very few people on this planet that can choose to travel because you have the income. You have the time. You can get someone to watch your dog, watch your kids. It's such a privilege, and so few people on this planet have that privilege to say, "You know what? I want to go on vacation." So that mindset, that travel is a privilege and not your right, is the single best thing that you can do with everything you do when you decide to travel. You have no right to travel. It's a privilege that you have the opportunity to travel internationally, see other countries, grow your mind, have these amazing experiences, and come home and be richer for it and appreciate where you come from by experiencing how other people live in the world. That is a privilege, but too many people think it's their right. Once you make that switch, when you book travel, it's just about asking questions. The number one thing is just asking questions. You know, it's all there. When you decide to book a hotel, choose a local hotel. The internet's there. There's tons of, so many user-generated reviews and blogs on everything. Yelp for restaurants. Make sure it's all just local. Just take that extra second to make sure. Even if you're going to book with an operator like this, find out who owns the company, where's the money going to. Ask the person on the phone. They have to be able to tell you. If they send you to a website page that's deep, dark to find, oh, that'll tell you our sustainable product. It's probably not important to that company. Right? And everyone should know. Even someone who's answering the phone to make your reservation. If a company's doing great things, everyone in the company bloody well knows it. And they make sure it's at the forefront. But if the person on the phone says, "You know, I don't really know who owns the company. I don't know where the money goes. We have a page on our website. You can go read about what we do."
Nora Ali: It's not a good sign.
Bruce Poon Tip: It's not a good sign. You just have to ask questions.
Nora Ali: Yeah. Yeah. Travel is a privilege, not a right.
Scott Rogowsky: Well, Bruce. It's been our privilege to have you as a guest on our show. But when you come on Business Casual, it's our right to put you to the test. It's now time for Quizness Casual, the Business Casual quiz.
Bruce Poon Tip: Oh, I heard about this.
Scott Rogowsky: And Nora, you can be helping out Bruce. Bruce, you're not alone here. Okay? You have Nora to lean on. First, someone who's been in the travel industry as long as you have, this should be a walk in the park. Speaking of, here's qumero numero uno: Which US site is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, receiving approximately 40 million visitors each year: Central Park in NYC, speaking of walk in the park; Disneyland in California; the Las Vegas strip; or Times Square in New York?
Bruce Poon Tip: I'm going to say the Las Vegas strip. I'll say the Las Vegas strip. Pre-COVID it'd probably be the Las Vegas strip.
Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. With annual visitors totaling 39.6 million, the four mile long strip is US's most visited tourist destination. Nice job, Bruce.
Bruce Poon Tip: All right!
Scott Rogowsky: We've got Q2. You're one for one. In the past few years, which island has experienced a huge increase in tourism due in part to something that has been called the Eat, Pray, Love effect? And I guess again, take COVID out of it, let's say 10 years, since the book came out: Bali, Sicily, Mykonos, or Madagascar?
Bruce Poon Tip: Bali.
Nora Ali: Yeah.
Scott Rogowsky: If you read the book you know.
Nora Ali: Yeah. We know that one.
Scott Rogowsky: In 2017 Indonesia saw 13.7 million overseas visitors, a huge leap from 1990, when it saw only 2.2 million. And Bruce, you were probably going there back in those pre-Eat, Pray, Love days.
Bruce Poon Tip: I didn't see Julie Roberts, but yeah, we were there.
Nora Ali: You're the inspiration for it. Yeah.
Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. Elizabeth Gilbert maybe was on one of your trips. Okay. You're two for two. This has been the best performance so far. Let's hear it. Q3: What is the least visited national park in the US? Least visited: Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida; Great Basin National Park in Nevada; Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, or Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, in Alaska as well?
Bruce Poon Tip: I'm going to say it's one of the Alaska ones. What do you say, Nora? Because Alaska just has so few tourists.
Nora Ali: It's harder to get there, I guess, so I trust you on that.
Bruce Poon Tip: What are the two Alaska ones again?
Scott Rogowsky: Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska or Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.
Bruce Poon Tip: I'm going to say the Gates of the Arctic, because that sounds like really fun.
Scott Rogowsky: The one you haven't heard of. Yeah.
Nora Ali: We're going with it.
Scott Rogowsky: That's a great guess. And yes. According to Travel & Leisure, with no roads or trails and landscape carved by glaciers, Alaska's Gates of the Arctic is for the traveler looking to truly get away from it all. With just 2,800 visitors in 2020, it's the least visited national park of the year. Maybe that's your next destination, Bruce, take them to the Gates.
Bruce Poon Tip: Well actually, my reaction is I want to go. I just wrote it down. I just wrote it down.
Nora Ali: Looking at us giving travel recs to the travel expert.
Bruce Poon Tip: I'd be surprised if I don't find myself there this summer.
Scott Rogowsky: MVP performance for Bruce Poon Tip. Thanks again for joining us. Really appreciate your time. Go enjoy your Barbados lifestyle. Sounds like it's a breeze. It sounds like a dream.
Nora Ali: Thanks, Bruce.
Bruce Poon Tip: Thanks very much for having me.
Scott Rogowsky: We love hearing from our Business Casual listeners. So please hit us up. Send an email, send a note, send a DM. Call us even. Nora will get to that. Or tweet us @bizcasualpod. That's B-I-Zcasualpod. That email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. We want your thoughts, your comments, your concerns, questions even.
Nora Ali: You can leave a voice memo on our website, businesscasual.fm. Or yes, you can call us. Give us a ring and leave us an old-fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135. As Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners, old and new. Drop us a line and don't forget to leave your name and where you are calling or writing from so we can hear from you in a future episode.
Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is sustainably guided by Catherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production sound design and mixing by Daniel Markus. Sarah Singer's our VP of multimedia. Holly Van Leuven is our fact checker. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you go for your ear candy. And we'd love it if you give us a great rating and review.
Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.
Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.
Nora Ali: Keep it business
Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual.