Start-up small group, experiential tour operator Arcadia Expeditions had pushed back the launch of its maiden season by around six months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the new Australian travel company is unperturbed. Strong support from trade for its unique program and a recent spate of bookings point to a positive future. The Sydney-based operator is also on the hunt for more local luxury travel agents to work with.
Arcadia Expeditions rolled out its unique storytelling concept and luxury collection of “immersive historical and cultural journeys” in July 2020, the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. The timing was deliberate. Arcadia Expeditions aims to position itself among the “bigger players” as consumers dream about their future overseas holidays.
The company is the brainchild of two mates, David Mannix (Managing Director) and David Adams (Director). Arcadia Expeditions’ inaugural program includes seven itineraries to remote destinations such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan. (Read LATTE’s previous exclusive interview with Mannix here).
The first expedition was due to begin in Vietnam in December.
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Speaking with LATTE this week, Mannix said deposited bookings have started to come through for expeditions in the second half of 2021 and into 2022.
Arcadia Expeditions’ private departures have attracted particular interest.
Mannix said luxury clients now prefer to travel on private tours because of the pandemic.
“We recently took a booking from an American client who will be travelling with us solo on two separate expeditions to Sudan and Saudi Arabia,” Mannix told LATTE.
“Each of these itineraries are based on our normal set departures, with a few tweaks made especially for the client.”
“With little hope of international travel opening up in the short term, we decided to cancel all of our expeditions that depart in the first half of 2021 and replace them with 2022 departures.”
Arcadia has altered its terms and conditions to provide greater flexibility for clients. It scaled back the final payment dates for bookings from 90 to 60 days before each journey commences. Clients can also transfer between expeditions free of charge.
“If clients are unable to find a suitable alternative expedition, they retain the value of their deposit as a credit for up to 24 months,” Mannix said.
“We believe these new terms and conditions have helped us capture a healthy number of bookings over the last few months.”
During this “enforced quiet period”, Mannix and Adams focused product development and new travel agent relationships.
Mannix told LATTE they had met with several travel agents in Australia and internationally.
The response from the trade to the product has been “fantastic”.
“Hearing such enthusiasm and support from agents when they learn about our expeditions and our unique style has really energised us to keep going through these difficult times and to keep creating new offerings for when travel returns.”
“Our aim is to have a small group of trusted agent partners in each of our source markets to work closely with,” Mannix said.
“We’ve had a number of agents suggest post-pandemic client information nights where David Adams and I can come and meet their clients face to face and talk through Arcadia’s suite of expeditions.”
Expanded itinerary range, including Australia
Arcadia Expeditions’ unique itineraries take months to construct. The co-founders have used the downtime of coronavirus to increase the portfolio of trips.
“We’ve been scouring the globe to find the best experts to join us as Storytellers and Expedition Leaders,” Mannix said.
“We’ve found some exceptional people to join the team.”
Arcadia Expeditions will be adding more Australia tours soon.
“We always felt that our immersive storytelling style of travel suited an expedition to Australia,” Mannix said.
“We are in the final stages of planning for an itinerary that tells the story of indigenous Australia through rock art.”
Limited to passengers, this tour will travel from Darwin to Groote Eylandt [in the Gulf of Carpentaria]. From there guests will travel to remote parts of Arnhem Land, Kakadu and the Kimberley, all in the company of one of Australian’s leading rock art experts.”
…and beyond Australia
In the next few weeks, Arcadia Expeditions will unveil tours to Namibia, Cuba, and Papua New Guinea.
The Cuba expedition will be led by Michael Bustamante, an expert on the Caribbean country’s history and politics. The trip will trace Castro’s revolution and rise to power.
African rock art chronicler, David Coulson, and anthropologist Dr Margaret Jacobsohn will lead a 4×4 expedition in Namibia. The tour explores the vast wildlife conservancies in the country’s northwest. Guests will meet with indigenous people involved in wildlife and habitat conservation.
A leading anthropologist will escort the soon to be released PNG trip. This tour will tell the story of the country’s ancient trade routes, venturing to the Sepik River, the Highlands and Milne Bay.
Full details on the new trips are forthcoming.