10 questions with… Lesa Bain, Lindblad Expeditions

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LATTE chats with Lesa Bain, Vice President Sales North America of expedition company Lindblad Expeditions, about new voyages, multigenerational adventures, advisors that specialise in the experiential and a good cappuccino at sea. 

  1. Tell us about your role at Lindblad Expeditions.

I have been extremely lucky to work in an industry I am passionate about. I joined Lindblad Expeditions after their purchase of Orion Expedition Cruises, which was Australian owned and run, and basically went from the world’s smallest expedition company to the largest and certainly most revered in the industry. I see my role as more one of education, working with our agency partners and their clients to ensure they understand the differences between a cruise and an expedition. In short, we don’t cruise, we explore and that is a totally different experience.

  1. The 2018–19 Explorations brochure features five new South Pacific voyages. What fresh perspectives do these itineraries offer?

This is a great question. So many people think of the South Pacific as a region of grass skirts and sandy beaches and don’t grasp the amazing diversity in culture, music, food and history. Add to this the very different geographies of each region, the diverse wildlife both above and below the waves and the stunningly beautiful plant life of each island. We will offer dive opportunities with two dive masters aboard National Geographic Orion, a Lindblad National Geographic Photographer in residence, wellness specialist and a diverse expedition team selected with each unique itinerary in mind. This is a vast region and our aim is to share and highlight how very different each area is.

  1. What can guests expect from the 2019 expansion to the Russian Far East?

We are extremely excited to be returning to this remote, rugged and spectacular region aboard National Geographic Orion in June, July and August of 2019. NG Orion is purpose built for this type of exploration allowing for intimate access and supported by our National Geographic photography program, world-renowned Expedition Team, Wellness Specialist and Videographer.

We will explore north Alaska, the Aleutians, the Russian Far East and the high Russian Arctic (including Wrangell Island, the polar bear denning capital of the world), with three separate expeditions, all of which can be combined for those wanting a truly in-depth exploration of the Bering and Chukchi seas.

  1. What other destinations might be ready for Lindblad Expeditions exploration in the coming years? What do you look for in a Lindblad Expeditions destination?

Now that would ruin the surprise. All kidding aside, Lindblad Expeditions is always looking at new opportunities to explore this remarkable planet. Key to our exploration is the ability access the region safely, to be able to share its unique story with our clients and to ensure we support local programs and give back. The Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund supports projects at the global, regional and local level with an aim to protect the last wild places in the ocean, support local projects, and facilitate conservation, research, education and community development projects in the places we explore.

  1. Expedition cruising is not new, but its popularity is growing. What do you believe is behind this desire for exploration and adventure?

Correct, Lindblad Expeditions began back in 1966 when Lars Eric Lindblad took the very first guests to Antarctica and the following year to the Galapagos Islands. His son Sven has continued that early legacy by expanding our fleet of ships and unique destinations, always with a focus on sustainable principles supporting the regions we visit. Actually, Lars Eric is respected as the Father of Ecotourism, a great source of pride to all of us at Lindblad Expeditions.

There is a growing desire for travel that inspires, that educates, that allows the world’s remote regions to be explored in an intimate way, in safety and supported by knowledgeable, passionate people. Travellers don’t wish to be passive any longer; they want engagement. What is truly exciting is the growth in multigenerational travel, the desire to experience these places across the generations of one family, to share these life-changing experiences and to ensure that the next generation understands their part in the protection of this planet.

I think that there are a number of reasons for this change, including a greater understanding of environmental issues, a desire to see some of the world’s most remote and pristine locations and wildlife, a need to learn and better understand what avenues are available to protect these places, and a basic change from passive traveller to active explorer. The understanding that expedition travel is not an age range, but more a state of mind. This type of travel is for guests who are inquisitive, well-travelled, appreciative of great service, they love the community that comes from travelling with likeminded fellow guests and are knowledge-seekers and crave intimate access, something only smaller ships can offer.

  1. How have you seen the travel and cruising industry change? What do you do to stay ahead of these changes?

From the consumer side, I believe that the key change I have seen is the desire by travellers to explore and to be more engaged in their surroundings. To not simply sit and watch the world pass them by.

We have also seen changes on the travel advisor side with advisors beginning to specialise in adventure and experiential travel. This started several years ago, but has exploded in the past couple of years. We are seeing many more mainline cruise advisors looking at more intimate experiences for their clients.

From our side, education is the key. We need to provide our agency partners with the resources, information and support that will allow them to react quickly and from a place of knowledge about the product. Our support is paramount to their success and we make ourselves available to speak with our advisors and their clients whenever the opportunity arises.

  1. What sort of travel experiences do you seek out?

Wildlife-focused experiences are certainly at the top of my list, but no matter what the trip, I always want an opportunity to learn about what I am seeing and experiencing so that I come back more informed than when I left. I love that our programs always include a wellness component; it is hard not to feel better when you are surrounded by wildness!

  1. How has travel influenced the way you see the world?

Wow, in so many ways. I hope that I am more accepting, understanding and open because of the experiences I have had around the world. I am also more demanding of those in power that can make change.

When we travel we take on a great responsibility, particularly when we go to places like Antarctica or the Arctic, because as visitors we become a voice for those that can’t speak. I hope that I will always be brave enough to speak out for the environment and for those striving to protect this planet.

  1. What does adventure mean to you?

The ability to access the remote, the wild, the unique in safety and with the opportunity to learn from the experience. I want to return with a better understanding of the people, the culture, their beliefs and the environment that surrounds them and how we can work to save these places for the next generation.

  1. What’s the best coffee experience you’ve ever had?

I hate to say it, but as an Australian living in the US I am a little fussy about a good cappuccino and I always look forward to getting home to Sydney to truly get a great cup of coffee. Last November I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to travel with my son Connor to Antarctica aboard National Geographic Orion, a ship that has spent a great deal of time exploring Australian waters in the past and with a brilliant crew and hotel team that appreciate the fine art of the perfect cappuccino.

Connor and I had just returned from kayaking among towering icebergs and being surrounded by penguins and as I walked into the lounge our Hotel Manager handed me a perfect cappuccino. They didn’t have to even ask; it just appeared in front of me. I walked back outside and stood staring at the Continent and wondering why we were so very lucky to be in this place so far from home and yet feeling close to my true home through a simple, perfect cup of coffee.

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