Skift Take

In the post-experiences world, one sector that will keep thriving is niche adventure tour operators that really know what they are talking about. They take clients backstage to explore exotic places and leave little footprint — but deposit lots of dollars in local communities.

British adventure travel company Wild Frontiers has acquired U.S.-based Myths and Mountains, a firm that specializes in off-the-beaten in Asia and Southeast Asia.

Wild Frontiers said it is on a growth strategy by partnering with “like-minded” operators. The acquisition of Nevada-based Myths and Mountains is its second in the U.S. after buying California-based Journeys Within in December 2017, another operator that also focuses on Southeast Asia and one that gave it entry into the U.S. market. Journeys Within, formed in 2003, is led by Andrea Ross and April Cole.

Myths and Mountains was founded 33 years ago by Antonia (Toni) Neubauer, a specialist for culture and adventure travel in Asian destinations such as Bhutan, India, Nepal and Myanmar.

Wild Frontiers’ expansion comes as interest for Southeast Asia and for custom made tours among adventure travelers grows, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, which serves more than 1,300 members in 100 countries worldwide comprising adventure tour operators, tourism boards, specialty agents, and accommodations.

While South America and the Mediterranean were hotspots for adventure travelers in 2017, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia have increasingly piqued travelers’ interest since last year, according to the association’s annual summary of data collected from adventure travel operators.

Its latest 2018 report also shows that custom made itineraries have the highest level of demands, with interest from clients for “longhaul/overseas” trips, along with “environmentally sustainable,” “family/multi-generational,” and “solo traveler” trips.

The largest group of clients (41 percent) are in the 50-70 age group, with the average age of the adventure traveler reported at 49 years old.

Great Match

Wild Frontiers and Myths and Mountains described their partnership as a great match.

“This really is the ideal partnership for us as Toni’s commitment to curated travel experiences and her philosophy towards responsible travel mirrors what we have been doing at Wild Frontiers for the past 15 years,” said Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers. “We look forward to offering our respective clients and future travelers Toni’s expertise in Asia and Southeast Asia, while also introducing them to new destinations around the world.”

Neubauer said, “We are so excited to find a partner who is as passionate about travel as we are, and as committed to local communities. Our clients are intrepid travelers — many of whom have been on numerous trips with us — and we are thrilled to be able to now offer them the option to visit new places.”

Neubauer is also the founder of READ Global, a non-profit global organization dedicated to inspiring rural prosperity by building rural library community centers and seeding sustainable businesses as catalysts for development.

Wild Frontiers, too, has its own philanthropic arm, The Wild Frontiers Foundation, created in 2009, that supports education, sustainability, economic growth, and disaster relief. “READ Global fits right in,” said Neubauer in a note to existing clients.

She told clients the partnership would open up opportunities for them to visit about 70 other countries in Europe, Africa, Antarctica, the Arctic, Scandinavia, South America, Central Asia, the Caucuses, Middle East and Far East, aside from the traditional destinations in Asia and Southeast Asia offered by Myths and Mountains.

A focus on exploration, opening new routes to “genuine” travelers, or reopening places that vanish from the tourist map due to wars or crises made its new parent Wild Frontiers to be the first back into Pakistan after 9/11. Wild Frontiers also claimed to be the first to return to Kashmir after a decade of tourist isolation, and among the first to run a commercial travel trip to Afghanistan for almost 30 years. It said since then, it’s helped bring Iran, Colombia and Georgia back into the tourist fold.

Meanwhile, overlaps between tours of Myths and Mountains and Journeys Within appear slim, a check on their websites show. The former touts Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar as “hot” destinations for 2020 and itineraries are off-the-beaten track. In Nepal, for instance, clients can trek to two villages close to the epicenter of the 2015 earthquake, Laprak and Barpak. For accommodation, both camping and homestays are available.

Journeys Within offers tours such as Delights of Thailand Culture, Cuisine and Beaches, and Spicy Southeast Asia Honeymoon.


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Tags: adventure travel, southeast asia

Photo credit: Nepal: A porter walks with a massive load towards Everest Base camp near Lobuche. 177608

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