Why I Ended My Partnership with G Adventures

By Nomadic Matt | Published June 19th, 2014

I believe in being fully transparent on my website. I think it’s the only way to really run a website. And, so, in the name of full transparency, I want to talk about a big change that’s happened on this one.

For the last ten years, I’ve been taking G Adventures tours. The first trip I ever took overseas in 2004 was with them, and that trip to Costa Rica gave me the travel bug that put me on the path to where I am today. I’ll always be thankful for that.

Four years ago, after having lunch with their CEO, Bruce Poon Tip, I had the pleasure of forming a business relationship with G Adventures and was able to bring you free tours and a kick-ass 10% discount code. All I could think was, “How cool! The company that put me on the road is now one of my partners!” It’s been a successful partnership and that discount code generated a lot of first time bookings for them!

Everyone – you, me, them – seemed to win.

But today I am announcing that I’ve left G Adventures for good and that my relationship with them will forever be finished.

Let me tell you why.

First, let me say I still love G Adventures tours. The tours themselves are amazing and I’ve always loved my guides and trips. If you have an upcoming trip with them, get excited; you’re going to have a wonderful time. Moreover, I still like the company’s commitment to the environment and sustainable tourism, as well. My feelings on the quality of their product have not changed.

The reason I’ve left G has nothing to do with the product itself — it’s still a great product. Don’t second guess yourself or get worried because of this blog post!

Over the years, I stayed with G Adventures (even though they weren’t always the cheapest tour company) because I liked their product and the people behind the company, and because they used to be really excited about partnering with this blog. Their 10% global discount offered incredible savings for people reading this blog.

But over the last year, I could tell the winds were shifting. They had a lot of staff changes in their marketing department (the department I was involved with) and most of my favorite people – people that saw the value in bloggers, in this website, and in you – left or were pushed out of the company. Now, bloggers were being treated as though we are unimportant and replaceable. The second I got off my first call with their new marketing director, I knew we weren’t on the same page and I could tell he wasn’t that interested in working together anymore.

Then a few months ago, when our contract was up for renewal, they decided to pull the 10% discount code. What they offered wasn’t nearly as useful. They wanted to replace the global discount with a monthly changing regional discount (i.e., this month it’s sailing tours in Europe, the next it’s Macchu Pichu treks, then Australia tours, etc.). That code was only good that month – so if you decided the following month to take a trek to Macchu Picchu, you were out of luck.  It was so restrictive that I knew it would hardly get used and most of you would wonder, “Why did you replace something good with something bad?”

I think they knew that and they knew I was going to balk at that.

So without the code, I decided to leave. For years, I’d had many companies offer similar and, sometimes, better discounts. But I believe in loyalty, so I stayed loyal to G Adventures. The company was good to this community and I wanted to be good to them. But now, without them offering anything to readers of this website and with a current management team that I don’t feel values this community, it was time to part ways. (Sidenote: I heard through the grapevine that part of the reason they were so happy to see me go was because I began running my own tours! I’m hoping they aren’t so petty.)

At the end of the day, my ultimate loyalty is to you, the reader. I look at my job through one lens—to help you save money on travel. That’s why all deals are rooted in getting you a discount code. If I partner with someone, it has to be because you save money. I can’t recommend a more expensive operator out of some weird sense of loyalty, especially when I don’t believe they feel the same way.

I’m here to save you money and I’ll partner with brands that love and appreciate this community and offer you savings.

That’s no longer G Adventures. I tried many times to contact the CEO, someone I thought was my friend, only to be ignored and brushed aside.

So I’ve left G Adventures and won’t be going back.

So what now?

While I think the G product is good, they aren’t the only company with a strong commitment to the environment that offers small group tours. They popularized the movement and innovated the industry, but they aren’t the only game in town.

I’m currently working on two deals:

First, I’m finalizing a deal with Intrepid Travel, which is owned by PEAK Adventure Travel (they have about a dozen travel brands in their company). Intrepid is G’s main competitor, yet the two companies run essentially the same tours. The itineraries are often identical to G Adventures (we always ran into their groups on my G Adventures tours) and they also have a strong commitment to the environment (they are the first tour company to ban elephant riding on their tours).

We are still working out the details, but by the end of the summer, you’ll see a 10% discount code, free tours, and even more perks available to you than were possible with G Adventures. By the end of the year, I’m hoping to offer a 10% discount for all PEAK brands, which will increase the tour options for you.

I love the people at Intrepid, their tours are incredibly affordable, they understand social media and blogging, and they are very eager to work together (the team I liked at G is now with Intrepid).

Note: At this point in time, I have not taken an Intrepid tour. I have a few scheduled but I have had many friends and fellow writers take their tours and love them. Plus, the people that now work there are ones I hold in very high regard. If they believe in the product, it’s going to be good. I trust their judgement on many things. But as I said, before we fully finalize the deal, I’ll be taking their tours just to make sure they meet my standards.

Second, I’m also finalizing a deal with STA Travel that will give you big discounts on flights, hostels, land-based tours such as the Kiwi Experience and Busabout, and free student and youth discount cards. I love STA, I’ve been using them for years, and am excited to finalize this partnership. They are a great brand and are going to open up a lot of savings opportunities for readers.

Again, G Adventures’ product is great and if you are on a tour with them, you’ll have a great time. And I will never say, “Don’t take their tours! They suck!” They run great tours. I will never deny that.

But I’d rather work with a company that values the community we’ve built here and wants to offer us a way to travel cheaper, better, and longer.

And plenty of companies want to do that – just not G.

 

comments 67 Comments

Intrepid and STA are both top notch, well done.

I’ve always considered taking a tour with G Adventures because I’ve heard such great things about them, and I always kept your 10% code in mind. It’s a shame they didn’t want to continue with it and treated you poorly!

BackpackingTony

Thanks for the update Matt.

I’ve never taken a G tour or an Intrepid tour before. I prefer to take tours with locally based companies. I like to know the money I’m paying is going to support the local economy. Still, it’s good to know you’re looking out for us.

Best of luck in your new partnership with Intrepid.

G Adventures does that. They try to hire local people, stay in local establishments and encourage travelers to eat in locally owned restaurants, etc. They’ve also done a lot to encourage entrepreneurs in the places they visit with Planeterra.

Krissy

Yay! I was going to book a gadventures tour and then your coupon disappeared…. so then I decided to go with Intrepid. I’m so happy I’ll now have a code to use!

Thanks for the transparency.

I’ve taken tours with both G (Kenya, Uganda, Thailand) and Intrepid (Kenya, Tanzania). They are both great companies and you’re right, they essentially run the same routes in a lot of places. I won’t say they are completely interchangeable but they are similar. I’m excited for this new partnership for you and to see what Intrepid can offer…I do need a trip this fall!

glad you are moving to intrepid — been plotting a trip to Iran for about a year, and their’s looked reasonable (plus one of the only viable options for an American). Looking forward to the discount!

“Now, bloggers were being treated as though we are unimportant and replaceable. ”

Yup. This is the feeling I get from many big companies that have worked with a large amount of bloggers… The good people, the ones that understand the value of bloggers leave the company, new people with limited knowledge take over and the company goes a different direction. Sad to see this happen.

Good luck with STA and Interpid!

Sam

Hey Matt

You will NOT be disappointed in Intrepid! I’ve been a travel agent for many years and sell their tours more than G due to the lower price point, similar itineraries and inclusions. I love G Adventures too don’t get me wrong, but you will be very impressed with Intrepid.

I did two tours with them (a Basix and an Original) and found them to be very comparable to G just a bit cheaper.

:)

Great honest post and I’m so excited to hear you’re going to be working with intrepid! I love them – have so e numerous trips with them and they’ve always been fantastic!

I love how transparent you are with this blog, it’s really appreciated. I’m sad to see the G tours go, but i’m pumped for what’s next. I’ll definitely be looking into taking tours with Intrepid and doing more with STA Travel. Thanks for all your hard work :)!

Good luck with the new companies! They sound really interesting.

Hema

Thanks for your honesty. I have been on tours with both G Adventures & Intrepid and you are correct, they offer similar trips. The difference that I found is in the level of service, and G Adventures (in my experience) offers better service, which can go a long way. I look forward to hearing about your upcoming trips with Intrepid. If things have changed I might consider travelling with them again.

K Clarke

Intrepid has offered discounts for specific trips for years. Sounds like a model Gap is planning to use.
Met great people on the Intrepid trip that I took to the Galapagos years ago. One guide was exceptional and the other was only ok

I’ve heard very good things about Intrepid. I’m sure your new partnerships will be even better. Thanks for keeping us informed.

Garrett

when do you think you’ll have the discount for STA? I’m looking at booking a flight through them for September.

Thanks for the openness and honesty, looking forward to see what comes up with Intrepid and STA.

Thanks for the transparency here. It’s posts like this that make your site trustworthy, and it’s what keeps people coming back. I have heard really great things about Intrepid, so I’m excited that that’s on the horizon for you!

Kerry Brock

I have done Intrepid tours many times and I have always come back happy. Good value and the tours really allow me to see and feel the country. The 10% is good and I will be interested in seeing the other stuff they might offer to your community.

Sarah

My sister and I did a Moroccan tour with Intrepid and they were fab! Our guide was brilliant and really knew his stuff. Good choice!

Jk

Hi its good you are being honest, especially as most people are not stupid and would not blindly sign up to something which was poor value

However i am surprised that experienced travelers such as yourself and others would use these overpriced packaged tours as opposed to using local companies and self booking as you go, giving you more flexibility and saving you money.

I have looked into intepid itinerarys (which are great for ideas :p) and they never seem worth the money, unless you are totally clueless about travel or going somwhere remote or of course dont mind paying more for less hassle

Either way each to their own.

Hi JK,

I tend to agree with you here. In my personal travels, I tend to go with local tour operators, or book last minute to save money.

But, having partnered with G Adventures on two tours in the past, I can say that you find a wide mix of other travelers. To the contrary, most are not clueless newbies, rather they are people with limited time and want to book an efficient tour ahead of time where they can be sure of the departure and return dates. That’s why the “guaranteed departure” is a selling point on the G Adventures website.

On my Patagonia trip, we had everyone from college age backpackers doing self-catering to well-off professionals and even a retiree. I realized even for myself, there is a time and a place for paying a premium to for an organized tour.

Also, let’s face fact. This website is a business for Matt, and it behooves him to partner with travel companies, even if it may not be the cheapest option for travelers.

Erica Jensen

I’ve done two Intrepid tours in Thailand and a number of their Urban Adventures (which are day tours in various cities around the world). All of these experiences were great … the guides all local and experienced and fun.

I particularly like Intrepid’s Urban Adventures, because as a solo traveler they are a way for me to become immediately acclimated to a city that I’ve just landed in. They tend to do off-the-beaten path tours and experiences which I like, too. I’ve taken these tours in Spain, Turkey and Vietnam and had a great time on all of them … with both the guides and other like-minded travelers.

I’ve never done G Adventures but have always looked at them in comparison to Intrepid.

Just my two cents. I think switching is a good choice.

James Breen

Hey Matt,

Just so you know too, 10 years later after your trup, I took my first ‘travel tour’ with G-Adventures this year to Costa Rica also. Made the trip mostly based on your advice and the 10% off. It was a trip of a lifetime and made some lifelong friends on our group.

Hope you get a better response with your new partnership and enjoy your time in my home base Toronto!

Hey Matt, I’ve never travelled with G Adventures but both Intrepid and STA are great. I always book with STA whenever I have long-term travel and I had a wonderful time with Intrepid when I went to Vietnam years ago. I look forward to your partnership.

Thanks for sharing your experience with G Adventures. As a travel blogger, I’m interested in both the front end (the products) and back end of your partnerships.

Thanks for the update! Sorry to hear of the end of your partnership, but it sounds like you’re on to much better things. Excited to see what you do with STA Travel…love them!

What a shame, Matt. I’ve heard great things about Intrepid, and was weighing up tours through Asia between Intrepid and G.

After reading this, and seeing what Amanda wrote about her tour with Intrepid on a Dangerous Business (which is the tour I have been looking at) my decision is made really.

Thanks, as always for the transparency, Matt.

rosie

Well said! Always best to be honest and tactful in these situations :)

Thanks for the transparency! I think highly of both G Adventures and Intrepid, but I will always look more fondly on a company that values bloggers. Bloggers can provide a great deal of exposure for very little investment on the company’s part, so a wise head of marketing will treat bloggers well.

I believe the reason people read travel blogs is because they’re looking for honest advice and experiences from real people. Nowadays, with big companies paying bloggers to promote their products, or using SEO experts to put them first in internet search results, it’s actually really difficult to find good honest blogs from which to gain real opinions and advice. So well done for sticking to your morals and putting the reader first.

Kristie

Thanks for the update Matt. Love your honesty. Hope the new venture goes well!

really appreciate the honesty!

Thanks for being loyal to your readers, Matt! I think it’s great you are truly committed to helping us save money. One of the reasons that pushed me over the edge to sign up for my G Adventures Croatia Adventure tour I’m about to go on leaving in about a week was the 10% discount code you offered when I booked the tour in April.

I am excited to see what G has to offer and as you said, I think they will (hopefully) run a great tour in a week. I am very curious to see how Intrepid is too, so I look forward to following along on your new partnership with them and perhaps doing one of their tours!

Tamara west

Hey Matt,
You know I’m a newly devoted follower of your blog/forum/books and I actually planned four separate G adventures for my family of three, prior to learning about your site. I have never booked as it’s too early. I also have the intrepid brochures. Which company is going to get the aprx. $30,000 now? Well, I guess I’ll have a closer read of those intrepid brochures…..

Mel Thomas

I’ve just booked my first G Adventures tour in Alaska, keen to see what they’re like. I really like Geckos and Peregrine Adventures. Both companies always use local guides which really enhances the experience in my opinion. I travelled with Intrepid on 2 tours in Spain last year and on both tours the guides were European, but not Spanish and I just didn’t think I got as much out of the tour. There’s nothing like a local to share their personal experiences of a country.

I think you made a really good choice. Good luck for your upcoming partnership. All the best, Matt.

Peter C

Hi

We have been on a number of Intrepid Travel trips – India, Turkey and Morocco. All terrific trips. We liked the small group size, the experience of the tour leaders, their emphasis on use of local guides and their emphasis on cultural aspects of the countries that we visited.
So – a good move!

We also noted your comments about STA Travel. One thing which we would find useful is access to RTW flights which pass through Australia where the long flights to Australia (e.g. from LAX) and the one from Europe – both 15 hours or so – could be in a higher class than economy, but at a reasonable price.

Thanks

Matt
Thanks SO MUCH for being upfront about G Adventures. I really value your honesty and being so upfront. Great post.
I’m wondering what you have to say about volunteer vacations. Have you been on any?
I’m into Voluntourism … have learned so much from writing about about volunteers in Cambodia. Would you be interested in a guest blog – where to start if you want to be a good voluntourist, how to tell a good NGO from a scam, or why good intentions can cause more harm than good?
Yours in the adventure
Shawna

Top marks to you for being so transparent with your continued work to get travellers like myself the best deals possible, but not only on cost, but the best deal for high quality tours.

Though I’m not a huge tour go-er myself, I put my trust in like-minded travellers and travel bloggers to give me their honest feedback about the tours they take, and I’ve always put my trust in bloggers like yourself that you’re always giving me your honest, truthful and clear feedback – this post goes to further backup my thoughts.

Keep doing what you’re doing.

Thanks for the transparency. I’m sure the staff change signaled issues at the company and the fact that you run your own tours now was very likely another reason they soured on the relationship. (The good news is that they see you as a threat!) I’ve never traveled with G Adventures but have heard great things about Intrepid so am looking forward to those future discounts!

Your transparency and honesty is really laudable. I’m actually really looking forward to what you have to say about Intrepid…I have heard very mixed reviews about their operation philosophy (on the ground) versus what is publicized. It will be good to have another point of view!

Yep, that G adventures deal sounds lame!

I’ve done a tour with Intrepid. It really wasn’t my kind of thing because I’m anti-social and found it was far too much time around the same group but my sister, who is much more social, loves them and has done quite a few tours with them and loves them.

Kay

While you give some wonderful travel tips, I think you need to put a stronger focus on presenting your site in a more professional manner.

It’s great that your site has such a casual vibe (that’s why I read it!) however, there are certain aspects of the ‘behind the scenes’ that your readers really needn’t know about.

It does not serve the public any benefit to tell them that you’ve “heard through the grapevine” this or that – it merely damages the perception of your company by making it’s owner look spiteful.

A distance between personal feelings and professional relationships is always necessary, and it is obvious to anyone with even a remote emotional intelligence that this has not been the case for your article.

Transparency is of utmost importance and it is highly commendable that your company places such an importance on it – something increasingly rare in businesses these days. However, this is not an example of transparency.

Transparency would be informing your customers that you’ve seized a professional relationship with G Adventures. This article on the other hand, looked like it had been written by a high school student who wasn’t picked on a team.

NomadicMatt

I disagree. Transparency is about telling you what goes on all the time. This site has had a 4 year relationship with G Adventures (one that was advertised and promoted a lot on this website). Now that relationship is over, readers of this site have a right to know why G Adventures is out and other companies are in.

This site will forever remain an open book – professionally and personally!

Lana

Exactly my thoughts Kay! Working in the travel sector I have been following this blog for a couple of years now but this post is just pitiful and one-sided. Would have been wise mentioning the wider B2B implications of a 10% promo code rather than taking business decisions personally.

NomadicMatt

I don’t take this personally at all. They made a decision. I made mine. While sad, I hold no grudges.

I’m not sure what the larger B2B issue of a 10% discount you are talking about. Could you explain?

Lana Di Tolero

Yes of course. If I tell Joe to sell my car for 10 bucks and Jack to sell it for 9 bucks Joe will not be happy. But if Joe is the one that sells 1000 cars a year and Jack is the one that sells 10 cars a year I need to be making sure that Joe is happy. This is just an example using booking.com (Joe) asking for price parity and a blogger (Jack) asking for exclusive promotions. Although this might be different for your branch of the industry – business is business.

Ray

Kay,

Even if Matt never mentioned the rumours about G Adventures disliking his side tour operating business, regular readers of NomadicMatt.com would have put two and two together. I mean Matt isn’t the only professional blogger out there who partners with reputable tour companies while offering their own tours on the side.

I have taken a couple of trips with them in the past (Peru & Brazil), and while I can vouch for Matt and others that they do in fact provide a quality product, they are also notorious for paying their CEOs (i.e. their trip leaders) very little in this industry. So, the CEOs will go above and beyond customer expectations as they do rely heavily on tips!

That is not to say G Adventures is a “bad company,” but rather one that is heavily focused on keeping costs to a minimum in order to continue providing a quality service at reasonable costs for us. Matt’s post just reaffirms that. They do outstanding work with their Planterra Foundation, and reinvesting in the local communities that they visit mind you!

What surprises me the most about their new Marketing direction, though, is that for a leading edge company that caters to the 18 – 35 year old backpacking market that they wouldn’t at least try to keep some of the most strategic social media relationships that currently have with bloggers like Matt. Word of mouth goes a long way in the age of Social media! G Adventures’ loss is surely Intrepid and STA’s gain!

Thanks for the transparency, Matt! And best wishes on your new partnerships!

Adrian

Surely a discount has always compromised your integrity. How can you remain completely unbiased when 10 per cent of your income (discount) relies upon you not burning that bridge, regardless of disclosure.

NomadicMatt

The 10% discount is for you, not me. I’m not sure what you’re addressing here.

Jared

Wahey! Maximum transparency! Hey NomadicMatt here’s a question: If you were paying for your own trips would you a) use G Adventures or Intrepid or any other international company or would you b) find your own flights/hotels and book your excursions with a local operator?

It’s about money… period. I’m against big tour companies and always will be. I’m against big tours and always will be. Independent approach or small private tours is more personal and unique way to see a place. So go ahead and lead people with YOUR WAY! Glad you stuck to your guns.

The only company I would ever happily sell out to would be NG.. everyone else can suck it )

I actually used that 10% discount this past year when I visited Peru! Sad to hear of the change, but excited for your new partnerships. I look forward to it!

NomadicMatt

Thanks everyone for the support. It’s a big change but I’m glad to know you are on board. Intrepid and STA are two good companies and I’m excited to work with them and get you guys some deals!

I’m glad I managed to get in at the last minute – I did two tours in April and May of this year in SE Asia using your 10% off code! I look forward to seeing what your new partnership brings everyone and thank you for sticking to your guns!

Ashlea

Have travelled with Intrepid in India and loved it- am not normally a fan of tours, but this one was fantastic, great tour leader and excellent local experiences – Group for the three week tour ended up being my husband and I, the leader and one other.

Polish travel agencies are not willing to work with bloggers. It is good that you have such opportunities.

PS. I enjoy reading your blog, I always learn something new from you teach.

Regards

10 points for honesty – it’s a shame that G Adventures couldn’t see the potential in keeping up the relationship!

But you will love Intrepid and it’s true that the itineraries and core values are similar. I am a Tour Leader for Intrepid/Peak in Europe and a few times I have run into G Adventures groups who were doing the same route as us.

See you on an Intrepid tour soon!

Marshall

I’ve traveled with G Adventures on 2 trips (Costa Rica & Europe) and they were absolutely fantastic. I decided to check out Intrepid on my last trip (Brazil/Uruguay/Argentina) and they were absolutely awful. G Adventures ran a parallel trip but Intrepid’s trip fit my itinerary better so I chose them. NEVER AGAIN! Not only was it poorly run, it was several hundred dollar more expensive than G Adventures for the same trip.

I am traveling with G Adventures on two upcoming trips (Greece and Maldives) and I got a 15% discount on each. If you’re resourceful and flexible, there are simple ways to get 5-20% off on certain trips. You’re almost always guaranteed a 5% discount if you’ve traveled with them before.

I agree on the G Adventures pricing. I’ve done 9 G trips now and I compare with other companies every time, including Intrepid and G always ends up cheaper if you factor in all the extras. One guide I had used to work for Intrepid and preferred to work for G. She claimed Intrepid is good, but G is better.

Josh

Great info Matt! Will be taking a tour with them in April through northern India so I will make sure to book through your blog!

Annie

Dude I love intrepid travel have taken a few good tours through them. Always got the impressions that they were way better than G ;-) have also used STA they need to work on their transparency and service to the customer – people need to know the breakdown – how much exactly is this flight costing me vs what I can get myself on SkyScanner – people don’t mind paying more for good service or to be able to change their flights later but STA need to show people how much more they are paying – being honest and acting with integrity is the only way otherwise why bother using an agent

Krissy

Just booked an Intrepid tour using your code! I’m so excited! Thanks Matt!

NomadicMatt

Welcome!

Kerwin

After reading this post, I was pretty excited to sign up on a trip with Intrepid. That being said, I just came home from Intrepid’s New Orleans-Chicago 10 days trip and I had a terrible time with Intrepid. The trip was unorganized (many so-called “free days” that they planned nothing for us so we have to plan what to do on our own), most transportation between cities that we were visiting were scheduled during mid-day for 4-10 hours on the road and we wasted tons of daytime to really see the cities, and the places they put us at were horrible (2-star hotels and motels and some were far from the cities and some had service and bug problems). The itinerary with hotel and transportation info didn’t come out till 3 days before the tour. All of these were reported to Intrepid’s management team during the trip but the response we got were that there’s nothing they could do to help alleviate the situation. Every single person on this trip complained it since day 3. FYI, the trip costed over $2000 per person, but the tour was terrible and not worth the money we paid for. We all felt Intrepid didn’t care or value our concerns and needs when we voiced them, and thought the tour really sucked. I certainly would never recommend Intrepid to anyone I know.

NomadicMatt

Sorry you had a bad time. No company is amazing 100% of the time but, based on what you wrote, it looks like you might have had different expectations. Both G and Intrepid’s free days are exactly that – free. You are the boss those days and what you do is up to you. Guides usually can provide tips and, if your guide didn’t, that’s the sign of a bad guide but a free day is exactly as it sounds. It’s not a sign of disorganization. In regards to accommodation, it depends on the class of tour you got. I understand you had a bad time and didn’t like the service provided but Intrepid is a good company and I wonder if you expected something a bit more luxurious and organized.

As someone who runs tours, I can say that I’ve had a few people wonder why my tours weren’t luxurious but I run a budget travel website so I don’t know what they expected. Sometimes there is just a mismatch. Maybe this was the case.

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