This Is How To Make Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars Through Travelling
We spoke to Bruce Poon Tip, who literally did this.
Okay, we know this headline sounds like a spam email but don’t send us to your junk folder just yet, because making hundreds of millions of dollars through a simple love of travel is exactly what Bruce Poon Tip has done.
Bruce is the founder of G Adventures, which if you haven’t heard of it (you probably have), started from Bruce’s garage as a way to offer sustainable travel experiences away from cruises and resorts that just didn’t exist at the time.
Bruce has since taken the company worldwide and now offers tours in 160 countries and G Adventures is the largest company of its kind. He’s also written the award winning bestseller ‘Looptail’ and ‘Do Big Small Things’, an activity book with a twist that teaches you how to travel in a way that gets more and gives more back.
We caught up with Bruce and he told us what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur:
How did G Adventures come about?
We started 25 years ago now, at a very different time in the world, a time before the internet and before even fax machines; I had a Telex when I started G Adventures back in 1990.
We were very innovative and very pioneering to develop a new form of travel in terms of active or culturally emerging type travel that didn’t exist. I went on a backpacking trip across Asia and realised that the only form of travel that existed were cruises and compound resorts and coach tours and I wanted to offer people something different, so we did that.
The original idea was a unique and you could say disruptive idea on how to run tours, how we’ve changed over the last 25 years is what makes us successful.
How have things changed since the beginning?
The idea of an iconic brand has dramatically changed over the course of the last 10 years and the most iconic brands now are social and the ones that mean something to people and make people’s lives better.
What were the most important things for a business when you were starting out and what are they now?
When we first started it was the idea of innovation and being disruptive. When we started the world didn’t need another travel company so we had to define a space that we thought didn’t exist.
Today, you have to be transparent, you have to be open, you have to engage your employees; they’re your biggest brand ambassadors because they’re also on social media. You have to create a movement more than a product because you have to have people believe in what you do and transcend your product almost.
How were you able to maintain the wholesome small feel of the business?
By staying innovative and not being satisfied,; that’s what small businesses are really good at. We feel that we’re very good at it as we prioritise it as a very important part of our values as a business but it does get harder.
Do you think it’s your responsibility to make sure people travel sustainably?
That’s a huge part of what I do, explaining to someone what exactly it is that we offer. I released a book this week, Do Big Small Things and people ask what it’s about and really, it’s an activity book but its to inspire people to travel and find their own personal happiness when they travel. But it’s also about finding the other benefits of why people travel.
If you learn its benefits and about what you do locally on the ground if you travel, spend money, create wealth distribution, use local services and don’t spend all your money in all inclusive. Those are the personal benefits that you get to take home with you and never forget.
Understanding other cultures brings global peace by understanding how other people live and gives you a better understanding of where you come from.
When you set up the business what kind of experience did you have?
I’d started three businesses before I turned 16 so I was a bit of an odd child I’d say!
Later when I was 21-22, G Adventures was my fourth business, and the only time I was successful. When I was 16 I tried to get two jobs – I was fired from one after two weeks and the second during the training programme so I thought I was unhirable or I wasn’t made to work for someone else! One of those was McDonalds and the other was Denny's, by the way, and I thought, if I can’t hold a job there, something is definitely wrong! I found that out very early and I decided that the only thing I’d been successful with was starting up businesses and running companies.
Had you ever had any formal business training?
I went to college to study business and then I transferred to tourism. At the time, way back in 1985, I didn’t relate to what they were teaching in business, they were teaching us how to get a job, they weren’t teaching us how to be entrepreneurs, they weren’t teaching us to think differently so I went to tourism.
What advice would you give to a young person thinking of starting a business?
Well there’s the cliché answer of “do something that you love”, do something you’re passionate about, don’t be motivated by money. Money comes at the right time when it’s connected to true passion and loving what you do.
The other thing I would suggest is do it! Don’t be scared to do it, there’s no better time that when you’re young!
The last thing I always tell people is that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. Just do it! Be passionate.
What makes a good entrepreneur?
True entrepreneurs are people who put new things in front of people’s faces and say “you’ve never thought of this but you’re going to love it”.
People only reference what they know, you have to be able to push people to what they don’t know, it’s not what we create, it’s what we’re yet to create.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself starting out that you know now but didn’t know then, what would it be?
I would say, every idea from product development to starting the business, be clear on your purpose and your values.
Values matter, purpose and what you want to do should be at the top of all your decision making process right from the start. Hiring and firing based on your values is the most valuable thing you can learn but you have to know right from the start what your values are, what your business purpose is, why you exist.