The World Expeditions Travel Group CEO, Sue Badyari, has been at the frontlines of the adventure travel industry longer than most of her peers.
Her expert insights are the closest thing you’ll find to an adventure travel crystal ball and has attracted the attention of the likes of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO), who have both invited her to be part of their various panels in recent years.
As the year of the rabbit hops its way out, we sat down with Sue for a quick look back at what we achieved last year and what she's most excited about for 2024.
Sue, what are you most excited about for 2024?
NEPAL ECO-COMFORT CAMP FACELIFT
At World Expeditions, our teams in Australia and Kathmandu have been working very hard over the past 10 months to provide our Eco-Comfort Camps in Nepal’s Everest and Annapurna regions with an exciting and fresh facelift.
It’s been more challenging than you might think, you can’t just give it a fresh lick of paint in winter, it won’t dry. And with the Lukla flight issues it has also been a challenge simply to transport certain items to our various Eco-Comfort Camps in the Everest region.
But we’ve overcome all the obstacles, and I can’t wait to announce when the improvements are complete in the very near future. I’ll be presenting a special webinar on the Eco-Comfort Camp upgrades on March 16. It’s worth registering even if you think you can’t make the live event as we’ll send a link to everyone after the event.
MORE ADVENTURE WEBINARS
Speaking of webinars, we hope it will be the first of many more this year. We had over 600 people register for our special online event with Jean-Claude Razel, and we hope that we will connect even more of our talented adventurers with the wider public so they can tap into their vast knowledge.
NEW INNOVATIONS ACROSS THE GROUP
Looking further across the entire World Expeditions Travel Group, we have some exciting news out of our New Zealand divisions, with new Cycle Trails coming online soon as well as the release of a new self-guided cycling product on the Alps to Ocean.
On the ‘small footprint’ side of things, our Walkers Britain division will become completely paperless later this year; we’ll be releasing at least 3 more Regenerative Travel projects, and we have recently joined the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund. Our Great Canadian Trails division is about to get its certification, joining the 1% for the Planet global movement.
DOING OUR BIT FOR RECONCILIATION
We’ve also established a working committee to establish our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) who are even more motivated to finalise our commitment plan following the discouraging result of the Voice referendum that took place in Australia late last year. Tourism which involves indigenous people, as we well know, is the best tourism, and truly enhances the travel experience.
A FRESH NEW WEBSITE
And finally, our Nepal Eco-Camps aren’t the only place you’ll find a fresh new look this year. We are very much looking forward to unveiling a fresh, new intuitive website experience later this year. Stay tuned, and thank you to those in our community who were involved in our user research over the past 6 months.
World Expeditions is turning 50 in 2025. Anything exciting travellers can look forward to?
It is an amazing testament to our teams over the last five decades that we will be able to celebrate such a significant milestone in such a young industry. Travel has been around for a long time, but adventure travel, especially our style of active travel, has always been a niche.
Conflicts, political unrest, airline collapses, unprecedented natural disasters and of course, a global pandemic, we’ve navigated through them all. Careful management, whether it be in the pricing department, which creates great value trips, or running the tours in the field, is a hallmark of our company.
For some perspective, the tiny Himalayan landlocked country of Bhutan only opened its border 50 years ago this year. We started in the Himalaya a year later. So, we’ve seen a lot and gained a lot of experience, and we’re always thrilled to share this knowledge with our travellers.
We are planning some BIG parties to celebrate our place as one of the world’s oldest adventure travel companies in 2025 and plan to release details on what will likely be the world’s highest banquet around May this year.
Got any insights on 2024 adventure travel trends?
Internationally, Georgia is my hot tip.
Just before the pandemic, we highlighted that the Transcaucasian Trail would be the next BIG thing in trekking. It’s proven to be correct, but it’s not just for trekkers.
We have sent many private groups, including a singing group, and our cultural journey that combines Georgia with Azerbaijan and Armenia was one of the top sellers in our Black Friday sales.
Our active Europe division, UTracks, also has some exceptional new trips in 2024. The Isle of Arran is like a miniature Scotland and has certainly caught the attention of our most avid walkers. I also expect the Camino Norte to come into vogue once scenes filmed along this part of the Camino for the sequel of The Way is released.
Here in Australia, it has to be magical Flinders Island. Having visited the island late last year and meeting the friendly folk who call this home, I was blown away. It is a truly special place to visit. The Great Walks of Australia collection agree, they've just added our Flinders Island Walking Adventure in Comfort as the 13th walk of their exclusive collection.
There’s more to share on new trips that are coming online, so don’t miss reading our 2024 Adventure Travel trends to see what they are.
Looking back, your proudest achievements in 2023?
We’re obviously doing something right with our Eco-Comfort camps in Australia. Our Larapinta Trail walking program, which features 4 Eco-Comfort Camps along this iconic Aussie desert trail, won its second ‘Best in Adventure Travel’ Brolga Award in a row (that’s 5 Brolga’s now!) while our newest Eco-Comfort Camp on Flinders Island, in the Furneaux Group off Tasmania, helped our Flinders Island Walking Adventure – In Comfort, become the newest Great Walk of Australia, a very select line-up of walks that also features our Classic Larapinta Walk in Comfort.
Our Huma Charity Challenge division helped charities raise over AU$ 1 million last year, bringing the total now to $10 million raised since its inception a decade ago.
What is unique about Charity Challenges is that participants are often new to adventure travel and usually well outside their comfort zone. What many of our travellers do for pleasure, these committed individuals do for a cause close to their heart. It’s quite moving.
Our community has really embraced our Regenerative 2030 project with more than 300 travellers making a micro-donation upon booking their own adventure, which has helped the World Expeditions Foundation raise over AU$20,000.
This has helped us fund 5 projects already, training female farmers in Nepal with new vermicomposting techniques, providing clean cookstoves in Peru and helping remote indigenous school students in far north Queensland.
And while it wasn’t perhaps a ‘proud’ achievement, it was pretty cool that our Blue Mountains Adventure Company was asked by Tourism NSW to host Zac Efron and his Netflix crew. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the Habitat Conservation Episode of Down to Earth (S2E1) to see why our Empress Falls Canyoning trip has become very popular with American visitors.
Any final words?
I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to our incredible community of adventure travellers. Your unwavering support, boundless enthusiasm for exploring our natural wonders, and the meaningful connections forged with our local staff and fellow adventurers on our small group departures are truly appreciated.
So, thank you for being more than just participants, you’ve become friends who make our adventure travel journeys extraordinary.