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Presenting: Chris Ronneseth – Adventure Travel Expert!
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chris Roneseth of Trek Holidays (see interview preview) who gave me a good overview of adventure travel, an area of travel that I would definitely like to explore sooner rather than later…
1. Tell us how you got into the adventure travel business.
I grew up traveling. My father, Alan Roneseth, founded the company in 1972 and with a passion to see the world differently, we had the opportunity to travel to countries that were considered exotic at the time and to some extent still are today. Through my own travels while studying at university I became increasingly passionate about the world beyond North America. With a degree in marketing, I first moved to New York and then Toronto to work in sales and marketing for technology companies during the tech boom. Learning sales skills in an industry outside of travel but with an upbringing rooted in adventure travel, I progressed to growing sales for the family business in Eastern Canada where I now support our network of Eastern travel agents. Canada as well as compiling our monthly newsletter on adventure travel trends.
2. Which country have you traveled to?
Africa: Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Egypt, Morocco
Europe: UK, Greenland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria
Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong
South Pacific: Australia, Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji
Americas: Canadian High Arctic, USA, Mexico, Jamaica, Cayman Islands,
Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia
3. Please share with us your top three travel memories of all time.
A. Peru – Last descent into Machu Picchu on the famous Inca Trail from the Sun Gate after watching the sunrise at the site, first entering the site at dawn and a sense of peace, harmony and strong magic in the air.
B. Vietnam – Learning and understanding each other’s ways through a three-hour meeting with a young Buddhist monk, traveling through the Vietnamese countryside by motorbike and stumbling upon a hidden and rarely visited Buddhist monastery.
C. Namibia – Skydiving at sunset in Swakopmund, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the blood-red sand dunes as far as the eye can see. One of the most peaceful moments of my life.
4. What is adventure travel and how has it evolved over the decades?
Adventure travel was high adventure travel when the company was founded in the seventies, a time when the ‘hippie-trail’ was hot and buses were traveling from London to Kathmandu across the much-explored Asian continent. Today it’s all about the small group experience and experiencing the destination rather than seeing it. It’s about engaging with and understanding culture, history and customs and being able to carry those experiences as an enrichment to our everyday lives.
5. Who goes on your adventure travel tour and why? What is the age, gender, nationality and income level of the people going on your tour?
Adventure travel is mainly the passion of doing it. For this reason it transcends age, gender and income boundaries as the common goal of travelers is an experience regardless of their home life. However, the largest demographic and most important growth demographic for us is the baby-boomers who have experienced the traditional beach vacation many times over and now have the time and disposable income to travel to more exotic destinations. Nationalities are generally made up largely of English-speaking nations, and in numerical order are Brits, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Americans, some mainland Europeans, some Latin American countries, and the odd Asian expatriate.
We offer almost everywhere to more than 120 countries around the world. However, countries currently considered unsafe for travel (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan) are not included but we expect they will be in the coming years once the situation stabilizes.
7. What kind of accommodation is provided?
We generally offer anything from 2 star budget accommodation in Africa to 6 star lodge experiences and everything in between. However what is common to all the places we live in is that they should be clean, comfortable, centrally located and most importantly should have character that reflects the destination.
8. How do these tours work for solo travelers? Do you provide travel-mate matching services? What if I prefer a single residence?
Our tours are designed with solo travelers in mind. In fact, 50% of our travelers come on their own. We match people of the same gender and prefer age to share and avoid charging them extra. If clients prefer their own room, we can do this in approximately 60% of tours, usually more upmarket, but at a reasonable and affordable rate.
9. What about food?
Depending on the trip we usually include breakfast and some dinner but almost never lunch as most people explore on their own during the afternoon. However when trekking or in rural areas or where options are not available we will always include meals.
10. What are the unique advantages of adventure travel compared to other forms of travel?
Sense of accomplishment, quality of experience, traveling with a small group of only ten people on average, generally better value than comparable bus tours, camaraderie with individuals who enjoy this type of travel.
11. What kind of activities are offered on your tours?
Sightseeing is a major part of every tour but beyond that we want to include as many cultural experiences as possible like homestays with local families, village visits etc. We also have many optional activities available like rafting, sailing, jeep safari, day treks. , etc.
12. Is there such a thing as adventure travel for families?
We now have tours designed specifically for families traveling with children aged six or over. There is a large population of ‘late-starter’ families who never had children until their 30s. Many of these people traveled with us in their 20s or backpacked independently and now want to pass that experience on to their children. They are not interested in introducing the ‘Coca-Cola’ culture that permeates today’s society. These have met with great success.
13. Please share with us some practical advice for those who have never tried adventure travel.
Safety is a state of mind. Most people who choose not to travel to foreign destinations do so out of fear for their safety while in the destination. Almost any destination in the world can provide a safe, secure and memorable experience if you heed your tour leader’s advice and are practical. Common sense and advice are always ignored where we have security issues. Don’t be afraid to experience other cultures, you will almost always find that your curiosity is the best guide of all, and the same curiosity will be reciprocated by the people we meet along the way. It’s about learning and understanding other people as much as you need them to understand you. It really shrinks the world. Our second biggest problem is dehydration, make sure you drink plenty of water when traveling in hot, dry countries or when activities include trekking!
14. How often do you find yourself traveling these days?
Usually 5 or 6 weeks a year. It is vital to my sales knowledge and experience and I owe it to my clients to be experts in what we do! All of our employees are offered amazing travel opportunities that go directly to our company motto: Expert advice from those who have been there!
15. Where are you going next?
I plan to go to Egypt in April this year, South Africa in May to experience some of our new properties we are working on, and a side trip to Mozambique. Later in the year I plan to go out to Turkey and Patagonia in Chile and Argentina.
Thanks, Chris, for all your info and have fun on your trips!
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