Intrepid Group has appointed Briton James Thornton as its new chief executive as the UK overtook Australia as its number one outbound market.
Thornton, 35, moves up from his role as managing director, which he has been in for the last three years.
As the first non-founding chief executive of the adventure tour operator, Thornton hopes to grow sustainable tourism at the world’s largest provider of adventure travel experiences.
He also revealed that Intrepid plans to dip into the Chinese outbound market and further develop its small ship adventure cruise product which could take around 50 passengers per voyage and focus on Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Croatia, Spain and Portugal.
It has been 20 months since Intrepid split from a partnership with Tui and bought back Intrepid Group, which employs 1,600 staff in 27 offices.
The group includes Intrepid Travel, Geckos Adventures, Peregrine Adventures, Adventure Tours Australia, Urban Adventures, 19 destination management companies and the not-for-profit The Intrepid Foundation.
The firm vowed to up its fam trips from three last year to six this, which will include Cuba, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Morocco and India as well as a trip t Jordan that has just concluded.
Thornton’s appointment comes off the back of strong results for Intrepid, with 20% growth in 2016 compared with 2015 and January figures 37% up on the same month last year.
The UK has seen a huge surge with January bookings up 67% year on year, overtaking Australia as Intrepid’s number one outbound market for the first time.
Thornton takes over as chief executive from co-founder Darrell Wade, who has been made executive chair.
His rise to chief executive comes as a result of 12 years at the company, starting as a sales rep in the UK before moving to Australia ten years ago. He has served as managing director for three years.
Thornton said: “Darrell and Manch [fellow co-founder Geoff Manchester] started Intrepid 28 years ago with the simple idea that travel could change the way people see the world. Their original vision has never been more important.
“It’s a privilege to be able to lead Intrepid into the future. We have a responsibility to support the communities in the destinations where we operate. I believe that business can be a force for good and now that we have a sustainable business model, we’ll be even more actively pursuing our growth with purpose.”
Darrell Wade added: “The growth that James has helped the business to achieve over the past 20 months reassured us that we have a sustainable future ahead – that purpose beyond profit can be profitable.”
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