How Exodus Travels keeps its customers coming back, trip after trip

UK-based Exodus Travels runs adventures for 'real people'
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UK-based Exodus Travels runs adventures for 'real people'

UK-based adventure travel company Exodus Travels has a 65 percent repeat traveler rate.

Robin Brooks, Exodus Travels

Robin Brooks, marketing and PR manager for Exodus Travels, on a trip in Myanmar. // Photo: Courtesy

Exodus Travels, based in the United Kingdom, has been taking people on adventures around the world for decades, and they know what they’re doing: Sixty-five percent of Exodus customers in North America book at least one more trip with the company after coming home from their first adventure. Exodus also knows how to take care of its own, and makes sure its employees have opportunities to travel with the company. No matter the position, all Exodus employees worldwide start out with five weeks of vacation each year.

In February, Exodus started a new initiative called Adventure 2017, with the goal of taking 2017 children from less-privileged backgrounds in the destations they visit on the same trips they run for paying customers. So far, they’ve run adventures for kids in Zambia, Albania, and Ecuador.

“It’s not always about making a profit,” says Robin Brooks, marketing and PR manager for Exodus. “It’s about having principles and giving back to our employees and the people we work with across the globe.”

We caught up with Brooks after the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s AdventureELEVATE last month to learn more about Exodus and the kinds of partnerships the brand is interested in forging.

Exodus trips take place all over the world, and many of them are quite affordable. For example, you offer 15-day trekking adventures in Morocco for $1,000. The company has been around for decades, and is growing fast in North American and around the globe. Why are those price points so important to you?

Exodus is all about being real. You hear the words “authentic” and “true” and such all the time, but Exodus is a real company making a real difference for real people. We’ve been in the UK for almost 44 years now, our offices have expanded ridiculously. But that doesn’t change the integrity of who the company is and what they do. Even our CFO is aware of what’s going on in marketing, and our charitable initiatives all over the world, and takes so much pride in it. There are a lot of companies out there where the CFOs aren’t really interested in anything but the numbers. At Exodus, this is not the case. It doesn’t matter if you work in the C-suite or you’re 21 years old and just starting out your professional career; everyone is offered the same opportunities and is embraced as part of the team.

We look at ourselves as all in this together [with the rest of the adventure travel industry]. There’s enough room in the market for all of us to do what we’re doing. Only by working together can the adventure travel industry make a difference on a global scale. It’s not just about the adventure travel industry, but about travel companies at large as well.

Is Exodus interested in partnering with independent retail shops in the United States? How could that be mutually beneficial?

I think partnerships can be really magical, and it’s great when you can align two brands and make magic happen, because of similar interests, and strategies, and objectives.

We want to align ourselves with other like-minded companies that have the same values that we do. Everyone has different objectives at the end of the day, and we understand that, but it’s about working with brands that care, and that want to make a difference. This year in North America, for example, we’ve partnered with Tedx, independently organized TED Talks events, which we think is a fantastic organization. We sponsor bike to work days in Silicon Valley, Denver, and Washington, D.C., and the list goes on. We’ve put together trips for hiking clubs and cycling clubs, and bike shops and ski clubs.

I think that our attitude toward partnerships is the same as it is toward people: At the end of the day, we want to be able to collaborate and create not only a great relationship, but an opportunity that will provide our partners with ROI and brand awareness. We want to inspire people to discover the places that inspire them, as well as make a difference. We communicate that with our travelers, our travel agent partners, and the brands that we sponsor for partnerships.

Exodus just opened its North America office in the past couple of years, yet your growth here has exploded. What is it about your trips that’s working?

We have customers who have traveled with us more than 30 times, and that’s not uncommon. We have an amazing loyalty program, where you get 5 percent off trips after taking your first one with us, and 10 percent off after traveling with us more than five times. It’s not about us; it’s about everyone.

It doesn’t matter what your economic background is, or how much money you make. People really enjoy the Exodus style of travel. It could have a big impact on communities and national parks if we took 40 people on a trip, but we take a maximum of 12- 16 people on our tours. We’re definitely the new kid on the block here in North America, but we already have a 65 percent repeat traveler rate in the United States.

I think people are looking to go beyond that big bus tour. What we really specialize in is small group travel, for real people. It’s not about staying at a fancy 5-star hotel. Our travelers stay at small, family-run haciendas, manors, vineyards, and camps. That’s one of the reasons we keep our groups small.

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