Webcast: Travel might now be the biggest start-up in history, says G Adventures founder

Webcast: Travel might now be the biggest start-up in history, says G Adventures founder

Speaking on a Travel Weekly Webcast, Bruce Poon Tip said Covid-19 had been a great leveller

The travel industry is now the world’s biggest start-up and presents an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs, according to the founder of G Adventures.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly Webcast, Bruce Poon Tip said Covid-19 had been a great leveller.

“This pandemic has created ground zero for travel and tourism. All businesses, like Royal Caribbean, Hilton or whoever – we’re all at zero right now. Travel is the world’s biggest start-up right now. It might be the biggest start-up in history. It’s a $10 trillion industry. And so we’re all waiting to see who makes it on the other side, what the customer is going to want and decide how we get to reimagine and re envision our businesses to cater for that,” he said.

And he added: “For people who thrive as entrepreneurs, that’s exciting; the opportunities are great. I wouldn’t have wanted this to happen. Of course, I’d love to have just stayed as we were – we were absolutely crushing it as a company until end of February; it was unbelievable.

“But now it’s about leadership and making sure you take advantage of this crisis, because in any crisis in the history of time, even a market downturn, it creates opportunities at the same time. So I’m actually quite positive and optimistic. We’ve made those tough decisions, we’re the right size, we’ve cocooned and are on ice for a while, but we are going to make it to the other side of this. We’ve got cash and everything lined up. We have phases that we’ve executed and more phases if we have to, and now we have to keep everyone motivated for when we are starting up again.”

Poon Tip added: “We’re not going to return to 100% strength for a very long time. How big are we going to be on the other side?  50%, 60%, 75%? Those kind of decisions we have to make, but this has definitely united us.”

He said the industry’s biggest challenge is “getting people back on planes and feeling safe to fly again.

“It’s the end of the innocence in terms of just booking a flight carelessly and not thinking about viruses or germs or diseases on planes. A lot of things are obviously being done now, like Emirates trialling finger prick tests to make sure you don’t have Coronavirus; or people talking about no middle seats, or wearing masks.

“It’s all going to change and is going to be slower coming back than people might think. I don’t think anyone will ever be as carefree again,” he said.

But Poon Tip said Covid-19 could force people to stop and rethink how they do everything.

“Once you’ve stopped doing ridiculous things, you realize you’ve been doing ridiculous things, right? When you’re doing them, it’s just fun. But it’s actually when you stop and you look back, and you say ‘oh my god, what did I do?’ You realize the ridiculous things that we were doing. We are not sustainable.

“I’ve been saying this for 30 years and people probably think I sound like a crazy man. But as things come to a dead stop, we have this amazing opportunity to rethink everything and reinvent and innovate in every aspect of how we serve information and how we serve experiences to customers.

“My biggest fear is that we do nothing as we fight to get back to normal.”