Sunday, July 14, 2024

EDUOUTINGS to redefine expedition travel in the Middle East

Opening the realm of expedition travel to travelers in the Middle East region is EDUOUTINGS, a trailblazer in crafting transformative adventure expeditions. Founded in 2015 by Mohamed Sufyan and Payal Khubani, EDUOUTINGS specializes in expedition-style travel experiences, offering adventurers exclusive access to polar destinations, remote locales, and natural wonders like the northern lights and polar nights. Their commitment to responsible and off-the-beaten-path adventures has attracted a diverse community of explorers, setting them apart in the industry.

Along with their dedication to off-the-beaten-path adventures, EDUOUTINGS stands steadfast in their commitment to responsible travel practices. Sustainability lies at the heart of EDUOUTINGS’ mission, driving their efforts to ensure the preservation of the environments they explore while providing enriching experiences for their diverse community of explorers. The company has partnered with 11 renowned industry names, including Hurtigruten Group and Silversea to create over 400 adventurers from 35 countries.

This year, EDUOUTINGS made its debut at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024, where the company announced its newest South Pole expedition. The 8-day expedition promises travelers the rare chance to explore Antarctica by land, including visits to Emperor Penguin colonies, and engaging in thrilling activities such as ice climbing, glacier exploration, skiing, along with a visit to the South Pole itself. speak to the co-founders, Mohamed Sufyan and Payal Khubani to know more:

Tell us about your must-try experiences?

At EDUOUTINGS, we specialize in expedition-style travel experiences, taking adventurers to polar destinations, remote locations and natural wonders like the northern lights and polar nights. Since our launch in 2015, we have been known for responsible and off-the-beaten-path adventures, attracting a diverse community of explorers.

In terms of our must-try experiences, Antarctica is a highlight, with half of our explorers drawn to this destination. From October to March, we lead exclusive expeditions to this incredible continent, providing transformative experiences for our travelers.

The Antarctica expedition has been particularly popular following the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due to its unique appeal as the seventh continent, renowned for its vast icy landscapes and remote location, now accessible through expedition cruises. Also, with growing awareness of environmental issues such as global warming, travelers are increasingly seeking destinations that align with sustainable and conscientious travel practices. Greenland and Svalbard are also emerging as favored destinations for similar reasons. There has been a significant uptick in interest in Northern Lights expeditions, driven by the awareness of the solar cycle reaching peak activity in the coming years.

Additionally, we now have added the South Pole Expedition to our portfolio of remote destinations.

What kind of demographic trends have you observed in the Middle East regarding expedition travel?

In our early years, our main challenge was the lack of awareness about this type of travel and the incredible experiences it offers. We have dedicated significant efforts to clarify some common misconceptions, like the absence of polar bears in Antarctica and penguins in the Arctic. Thanks to our continued educational efforts and increasing global interest in polar destinations, more informed travelers are now choosing to explore these unique destinations with us.

We have also noticed a broader range of guests, spanning different ages and travel preferences, opting for expedition journeys. While typically, globally, expedition travelers tend to be in the age range of 50 to 70  due to costs and long travel times, in our region, we are seeing travelers aged 30 to 70 embracing these trips. Often because they have more disposable income. These travelers aren’t just individuals traveling alone; we are also welcoming families and couples aboard our expeditions.

In light of the growing demand for immersive and sustainable travel experiences, how does EDUOUTINGS incorporate these principles into its expedition offerings?

Safety and sustainability are paramount to us, guiding every aspect of our operations. We prioritize eco-conscious practices to set a positive example for responsible and sustainable tourism. For example, in Svalbard, our explorers actively participate in beach clean-ups to raise awareness about the impact of plastic on polar environments and wildlife. Additionally, guests are also encouraged to join special science boat excursions, collaborating with scientists to collect samples for research on ocean health, thus contributing to ongoing scientific studies.

In extreme destinations like the South Pole, the dedicated crew ensures safe and efficient travel by transporting travelers via specially built ski-equipped aircraft flown by highly experienced pilots. The base camps are designed for minimal environmental impact and are managed by skilled staff from around the world. Since 2007, all our operations have been carbon-neutral, reflecting the company’s continued commitment to offering sustainable expeditions.

Moreover, to support the social and economic well-being of local communities, the expedition teams organize excursions through local vendors for most destinations. These excursions not only enrich the overall travel experience but also emphasize our clients’ roles in the broader scientific community and the preservation of these pristine environments.

What about the negative impacts of tourism on these untapped destinations?

All the operators operating expeditions to pristine destinations are governed by regulators like IATO, AECO, and more. We only partner with operators that are certified by these regulators or are active members contributing to research and participating in the decision-making and execution of sustainable policies set by them. Each year new measures are introduced to reach near to zero carbon footprints on the environment – like banning single-use plastic, operating electric or battery-operated ships, implementing efficient food wastage technologies, and more.

To mitigate the impact of tourism on delicate ecosystems, there is a strict limit on the number of travelers allowed at once in certain regions, with pressure to minimize group sizes. For instance, in Antarctica, only 100 individuals are to land at each site, prompting many travelers to choose smaller ships with capacities of less than 200 over larger vessels.

In terms of cultural impact, part of expedition travel involves engaging with local communities and learning more about their cultures. Hence in all our expeditions, we encourage to hire local guides and participate in excursions that require visiting settlements to engage with indigenous cultures. This act helps the locals secure a different source of income to preserve their people and traditions

What is on the horizon for EDUOUTINGS’ in the next 12 months?

Apart from the South Pole Expedition, which we added to our portfolio of remote destinations, we achieved a milestone of offering End-to-End expeditions to the Middle East region, spanning from the top to the bottom of the planet. For the upcoming 12 months, we would aim to introduce warmer destinations that are centered around the exploration of marine ecosystems, and the rich indigenous cultures of Oceanic and Polynesian islands.

Expedition travel is often associated with personal growth and development. Can you elaborate on how these experiences cater to travelers of various ages and to personality development?

So mainly expedition travel appeals to those who have traveled extensively and are now eager to broaden their horizons. In our opinion, it offers valuable educational experiences, allowing individuals to learn about ecosystems, encounter diverse cultures, and appreciate the wonders of nature and wildlife. Spending time in nature during expeditions often brings a sense of peace and vitality, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

We have also noted that solo travelers, especially women, find these expeditions particularly beneficial as they provide a safe and supportive environment to explore. Many participants form lasting friendships with like-minded individuals who share similar interests such as hiking, kayaking, or dog sledding. Engaging in such activities also boosts the morale and confidence of our travelers.

How can families make the most of these experiences?

There has been a growing number of families with young kids and teenagers opting for our adventures. In many cases, it’s the children who inspire their parents to choose these trips, as they are fascinated by astronomical phenomena like northern lights; or wish to see snow for the first time; watch a penguin in its actual ecosystem; learn about wildlife and their habitats.

To engage the curiosity of young minds, many expeditions offer the Young Explorers program, where expedition teams organize daily lectures and fun-filled activities to get a deeper understanding of nature, climate, culture, wildlife, local food, environmental protection, and famous explorers. Where deemed safe, children may also participate in beach cleanups, or join science boats to assist in gathering samples for research and study at the science centers with experts. To recognize their efforts, participating kids are often awarded a special Young Explorer Certificate

As travelers seek out new and authentic experiences, do you see pushback on the luxury element of these trips?

Contrary to expectations, there’s actually been an increase in demand for luxury accommodations during our expeditions. Since many of our expeditions are sea-based, with travelers using the ship as their base camp for exploration, there’s a growing desire for a soothing and comfortable environment after venturing into challenging weather conditions. While our clients appreciate the authentic experience and adventure off the ship, they also seek the luxury of high-quality accommodations and gourmet cuisine upon their return.

What is your advice for travel agents and tour operators looking to collaborate with EduOutings or enter the expedition travel market themselves?

Expedition travel is still relatively new in this region, so both operators and agents need to work together to increase awareness. Our advice would be that before recommending expeditions to travelers, it’s important to understand the different types available. This means learning about the destination, the activities offered, and the various unique regions available for exploration. This knowledge will enable to offer the right kind of expedition for each type of traveler. To further help with this, our expedition experts are available to provide training and personalized sessions as well.

In addition to this, it is important to note that expedition plans can change unexpectedly due to factors like weather and sea conditions, so encouraging clients to stay flexible and embrace these surprises can add to the enjoyment of their journey.

For the operators, we recommend providing options such as halal and non-alcoholic food packages, this would further enhance the experience for travelers from this region, and encourage them to opt for these travels.

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