Founded 60 years ago, Contiki continues to be the trendiest tour company for young people, offering the best spots and experiences. It now boasts a 100% carbon neutral travel. Contiki Global CEO Adam Armstrong walks Karen Yue on the company’s progress.
Contiki is a brand for young travelers, but the brand is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. How does a grand old lady stay connected with young people aged 18-35?
Well, I’ve never heard Kon-Tiki called Granny (laughs). she is 60 years old. Our team is very young, so from the age of 18 she knows what 35-year-olds are doing, what vacations they are looking for and how they consume media.
Also ask the traveler himself (via) to do the research. We receive excellent traveler feedback through our travel manager and research it from internal and external sources.
I created the Contiki Travel Lounge on Facebook during the pandemic. The idea is to be a departure lounge where people wait and exchange travel stories before boarding the plane.
All of this information helps the team shape new itineraries and sustainability journeys.
Find out how this age group’s travel motives have changed over the decades.
It looks like you can walk a lot! Way back in 1962, founder John Anderson took his group of 16 people in a minibus and camped each night on the long journey advertised on posters in college bars.
The traveler’s motives remain the same. Travelers want to take unforgettable trips, visit many destinations, discover cultures, and do this with like-minded people to make lifelong connections.
What has changed is the demographics. Customers today are more educated. Social media didn’t exist in his ’60s. Travelers now have more information about their destinations through social media, which increases their expectations.
Previous generations of travelers wanted to go to all the famous destinations, drink at night, and do it all over again in the next few days. The trip had more of a party vibe.
Today, it’s not about partying, it’s more about getting under the skin of your destination. Now many travelers don’t drink alcohol and have different dietary requirements. It means a desire to meet locals and eat at a local restaurant rather than just being in a tourist area. But at the same time, they still enjoy taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Contiki has learned that big tourist attractions can be successfully combined with off-the-beaten-path experiences.
Another demographic shift is the global mix of travelers. Contiki’s initial customers were primarily Australians and Kiwis. Now it’s much more likely to see North Americans, Asians, Europeans, and Africans together in groups.
How has your program evolved since then?
All trips over 7 days, which is the majority, fit into one Make Travel Matter experience. It was developed by the Contiki Cares initiative, part of the TreadRight Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by our parent company, The Travel Corporation (TTC). These experiences allow our group to interact with people, the planet and wildlife.
Walking tours in Berlin led by Syrian refugees. Travelers can not only see the sights of the city, but also hear stories from people who have come to live in Germany.
Our products are shifting from camping as a lodging style to hostels and hotels. However, some places still do glamping. Added new destinations such as Africa. One of our goals is to bring people to remote and developing regions. We also eliminated destinations that are no longer safe to go to. We created shorter itineraries, even weekend trips, and introduced rail travel.
I think the biggest change for us is making our travels 100% carbon neutral this year.
What do travelers in the intended age group think about responsible tourism, and how do environmental expectations influence their travel choices in Contiki?
Moving to carbon neutrality is just the latest achievement in our long journey to sustainability. There is a lot of data about the growing importance of sustainability. Most Gen Zs choose brands based on their sustainability credentials. So being carbon neutral is good for the environment and good for business.
It was an interesting experience for us in shaping our carbon neutral message. I thought Contiki going 100% carbon neutral for her was a great message and should be shouted with pride. But the engagement we get is muted. So my conclusion is that people expect it and you don’t have to drum to talk about it. Great, but they want to go back to the basics of their product.
What else is being done to ensure that every trip is highly rewarding while minimizing the environmental impact?
Two Contiki-owned hotels have food waste reduction programs in place, and we expect the same from our hotel and restaurant partners. We use renewable and clean energy for our offices and coaches. Eliminate single-use plastics.
The road to carbon neutrality requires a lot of work. First you need to measure. Then there are many initiatives on reducing emissions. We then offset what we cannot reduce and invest in carbon capture initiatives.
The Chateau Big Weekender is Kon-Tiki’s big anniversary party. What makes this special?
The Kon-Tiki chateau is very special to us. This is one of two properties dedicated to Contiki. Extensive renovation just before Covid, but it remained empty for 2 years.
Enjoy delicious food and wine, great DJs, pool parties, painting classes, yoga sessions, wine tastings and more. Activities are powered by his 100% renewable energy and food is locally sourced in France.
Most of the people who attend the party are paying travelers, the lifeblood of Kon-Tiki.
What’s next for this milestone?
Celebrations are spread across the 12-month calendar starting in April.
We will continue to focus on returning to normal operations for the rest of the year. Bringing you the destinations you wanted to launch before the pandemic. Build the next step towards net zero. Develop new customers, especially from Asia. Rehiring of travel agents as many left the industry during the pandemic.
Travel faces accessibility challenges. How do these disabilities affect Kon-Tiki’s ability to engage young adults and let them explore the world?
It’s a year of challenges. On the one hand there is a huge demand for travel and on the other hand it is very difficult to travel, according to major media outlets.
I have been traveling for several months now. Not as easy as it used to be, but doable.
When it comes to air transportation, there are price and capacity issues, but if the price is right, customers will fly complex routes. Flight restrictions have not affected us much.
In terms of political influence on travel, the uncertain global environment seems to deter some customers in the target age group. This demographic is well aware of world events. For example, bookings to the US from customers in Europe and Australia will not be exactly the same as before. The situation in Ukraine has also led demand for Europe to shift slightly away from the East and into the Western regions.
One important thing here. Younger generations in our target market have been hit hard by the pandemic. They are starting their careers and are most affected by layoffs and furloughs. They are most affected by virtual life. They are therefore desperate to travel, but do not have the money to do so. They have to delay their trip or stay closer to home.
Despite these challenges, we are having a pretty good year.