During the 2017 Skift Global Forum in September in New York City, we heard from a host of the travel industry’s top leaders from across every sector. And after first speaking to them on stage in front of an audience of more than 1,100, we took another few minutes with them to get more insight in our backstage Skift Take Studio.
The expedition cruise category is growing fast as established players build more ships and luxury lines add more adventurous options.
Lindblad Expeditions, which is building a polar vessel, is part of that growth — but CEO Sven-Olof Lindblad wants his sector to stay outside the mainstream.
“Expedition travel is not something that I would ever wish to see be the norm, because it would put way too much pressure on these systems,” he said. “It is very much a niche idea; I hope it stays that way. I think it’s nice to see some growth of interest, but if you have too much growth of interest, then the overtourism factor will just be accelerated beyond reason.”
Lindblad said he sees more people wanting to escape urban settings and explore wild places. Of the company’s family business, he said, the majority is booked by grandparents who want to have meaningful experiences with their families rather than just leave money in a will.
“They’re the Energizer bunnies of the system,” he said.
Because passengers are willing to pay top prices for trips to remote places such as Antarctica or the North Pole, luxury operators have seized the opportunity to give customers the kind of destinations they want with better amenities than they might have found on no-frills expedition ships in the past.
Lindblad agrees that luxury is becoming a bigger part of the expedition experience — though he doesn’t believe high-end perks are necessary.
“I think expedition travel is a dynamic field, I think it’ll evolve, there’s a lot of different constituencies that are being attracted to it now,” he said. “There are a lot of people coming into it which are putting a lot of empashis on luxury as a key component. I don’t happen to personally agree with that, because I do think one of the essences of expedition travel is focus on the outside, not on the inside.”