Focus on local: Experiences need to be authentic and share the beauty of the place they are in. Imagine a Tuscan walking holiday, where each day you walk the hills and villages, stop at family-run Tuscan vineyards for an afternoon of wine tasting, or sample the cheese from a local Tuscan cheese maker. You get to explore the culture of Tuscany and have time to savour the food, wine and more. Travelers want to feel as though they are truly a part of the culture they are visiting, which will help them to create lasting memories.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Campbell.
Richard is the founder of 10Adventures, an adventure travel marketplace that connects adventurers to local tour operators in over 75 countries. When not helping others find an epic adventure, he can be found exploring the Rocky Mountains with his wife and three children. He’s an alumni of Harvard Business School and London Business School, where he was a Sloan Fellow.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I believe in the importance of travel and adventure, and actually came into the industry by chance. 10Adventures began as a passion project, with the aim of solving a need I had as a lifelong adventure traveler. For many people, getting outdoors for a hike, bike or ski are highlights that they look forward to each week, month and year. Adventure Travel is a time where people can create cherished memories, so I wanted to make that an easier goal to accomplish. Soon enough, my passion project took off and I started to do 10Adventures full time.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Although there have been many over the years, the experience of building a travel tech company during a pandemic has got to be the most interesting. I feel fortunate to have weathered five major downturns throughout the course of my life, from childhood through to my time as a professional. Having experienced some terrible busts, I’ve gained the knowledge that eventually there will always be another boom, so it is best to focus on the future and not get distracted by the hard times of the present.
In the case of 10Adventures, we knew that we would have 18–24 months to prepare for the biggest travel boom of all time. It doesn’t happen often during our careers that we know 1.5–2 years in advance that a massive boom is coming, so we are lucky in travel to have had this knowledge.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think back to the early days of 10Adventures and going to trade shows to try and recruit potential partners. In hindsight, it must have been comical when I met with large, established travel brands. At that point, I had a really basic website, not a lot of users, and was really just sharing a dream about what we wanted to achieve. There were so many things that could go wrong in building 10Adventures (and some of them did), but a lot of those early meetings resulted in partnerships, which really set the foundation for 10Adventures. But I always wondered what those partners talked about after our meeting, and if they had as much belief in 10Adventures as I did.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There is no single person, but I am very thankful for the entire team at 10Adventures. Growing a startup is one of the most fun experiences you can have, but it also comes with more challenges than a regular job. I’m grateful for the rest of the team and all of their contributions that mean so much to our collective success. We are a great example of what can be achieved when working together, rather than as individuals.
The mindset of a startup is kind of mad when you think of it. The fact that we decide to take on bigger, better funded competitors with established customers and products, thinking we can beat them. What’s even madder is that startups succeed so often, largely because of the hard work and passion of the team.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
10Adventures aim is to connect travelers directly to local adventure tour operators around the world. Travel isn’t a one size fits all experience, and we know that travelers want more than another group tour. Working directly with highly vetted local tour operators that are passionate about their region means travelers get a more authentic experience. Another benefit is that local tour operators are more flexible, and travelers can personalize their trip and get exactly what they want. The end result is a more authentic experience that is perfect for travelers and is better for local communities. An added bonus is that working directly with local tour operators means you save money!
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
The biggest pain point is that it’s hard to find good local tour operators and make a booking. It’s scary wiring money across the planet to a company that just has a website. In many places there is no barrier to becoming a tour operator, which means that it can be a bit of a shot in the dark when trying to book a meaningful travel experience.
10Adventures does the hard work of bringing together quality tour operators from over 75 countries, allowing users to explore the world of adventure travel from one site. We then make it easy to organize your trip, book, and pay.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
Due to the pandemic, people are so much more conscious of the importance of travel and what they are getting out of their travel experiences. They want more out of travel and are thinking about unique and meaningful adventures with the people that they care about. At 10Adventures, we are currently seeing this reflected in the increased demand for ‘bucket list’ trips, as well as larger groups of family and friends looking to reconnect after COVID.
Moving forward, I think that people will recognize and look to regain what they have lost over the past 20 months, namely that ability to explore, adventure, and experience the world. Travel and hospitality companies will need to account for the fact that people are looking for big life changes in a post-pandemic world, and will need to reflect that in the products that they offer.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
I get asked this a lot, and truthfully every trip is a joy. Exploring a new culture, place, cuisine, and people is always intellectually stimulating and fun, but the key is to recognize what I need at the time.
Sometimes the perfect vacation is to simply relax and unplug, while other times it’s to catch up with friends and loved ones. I often want to challenge myself and push physical boundaries. The key is to understand what I need out of a vacation and plan the perfect trip around that.
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
In terms of wellness, I think that exploring the outdoors is the perfect vehicle to connect with one’s self. Being removed from the chaos of everyday life and finding peace in the mountains, forests, and fields of nature is arguably the best way to clear the mind and work on personal wellbeing. In addition to offering adventure travel tours, we are continuously adding to our catalogue of free route guides that our users can access for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and other outdoor sports, providing a free and easy way for people to work on their own wellness while enjoying the beauty of nature.
One of the core pillars of 10Adventures is to connect local tour guides and tour operators to travelers, giving a more authentic experience and connection with the place they are traveling to and the people who live there. Too often travelers are like pieces of luggage that are carted around in buses and never truly experience where they are. People don’t want that anymore. They want to feel connected to the people, the food, the culture, and to understand the places that they visit. That’s what we are trying to offer.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Focus on local: Experiences need to be authentic and share the beauty of the place they are in. Imagine a Tuscan walking holiday, where each day you walk the hills and villages, stop at family-run Tuscan vineyards for an afternoon of wine tasting, or sample the cheese from a local Tuscan cheese maker. You get to explore the culture of Tuscany and have time to savour the food, wine and more. Travelers want to feel as though they are truly a part of the culture they are visiting, which will help them to create lasting memories.
- Personalize the trip: The days of large group tours that are slow, inflexible, and offer a ‘one size fits all’ are on the decline. With new technologies and increased communications with local tour operators, travelers can personalize nearly every aspect of their trip to ensure that they set out on the adventure of a lifetime that is a perfect fit for their needs.
- Go slower: The days of “Seeing Europe” in 10 days are far behind us. The focus is changing to seeing smaller locations, but experiencing more within them. Think about it. Rather than hopping between airports and train stations to experience Paris or Madrid for a day, the benefits of staying in a smaller locale are that you can experience more of the culture, support the local economy, reduce carbon footprint, and spend less time in transit. Ultimately, going slow allows you to experience a region and get a true sense of the history and people who live there.
- Get outside: Cities are great, but so are small towns and the countryside. Going on a hiking, cycling or other outdoor tour brings physical and mental health benefits, but there’s more. These itineraries allow travelers to see smaller towns, taste different foods, and the slower pace allows them to connect more with where they are visiting.
- Continue to Learn: People are no longer content with simply sightseeing, and want to get their hands dirty to learn first-hand about the culture they are visiting. Whether it is learning to make pizza in Italy, doing a whisky tasting in Scotland, or crafting traditional textiles in Peru, people want to get out of their comfort zone and take part in new experiences.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
10Adventures wants to show people that living life in a different way is possible. Adventure travel and exploring the outdoors are amazing pastimes that can contribute to increased physical fitness, improved mental health, feelings of connectedness to the world, environmental stewardship, and mindfulness in home/work life.
Getting outside of your comfort zone in order to learn about and experience new cultures also helps to break down the walls of prejudice and the xenophobic attitudes that are prevalent today. Going on an adventure with local tour operators, making friends from around the world, and experiencing cultures that are vastly different from your own will not only broaden your own world view, but will help bring people together in a meaningful way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The idea of spending money on experiences rather than stuff can really do a lot of good for the world. As a society, we are consumed with material objects. Closets are full and people are constantly buying more things that in the end don’t really matter.
Spending money on making unforgettable travel memories with loved ones will increase happiness and improve health, strengthen relationships, and provide more energy, while also fostering a more tolerant, curious, and intuitive mindset. Bring joy to your life, explore the world.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!