Meet the Mavericks from 2017 is a series that reveals the world-changing work and invaluable insights behind the revolutionaries who took away a trophy at last year’s PURE Awards.
Up first are Cascada Expeditions, who won the PURE Award for Transformational Travel: find out exactly how their Dientes Trek transforms travellers in six days flat, and how they think high-end travel brands can do well by doing good…
“When you finish the trek, it’s like you’re cleansed of all the pressures of the real world, and you remember what really matters to you – what makes life exciting; what it means to be a human.”
— Timothy Dhalleine (@tdhalleine) December 30, 2017
Tell us about your winning project – how does it Change Worlds?
The Dientes Trek is a return to Patagonian trekking as it was before places like Torres del Paine or Los Glaciares became so popular. It’s a chance to completely disconnect and experience nature at its most raw and beautiful on Navarino Island in Chilean Tierra del Fuego. Trekkers go off for a week of camping and trekking in the heart of the island, at one with the elements and the natural surroundings. It’s a very ‘back-to-your-roots’ experience – hence why it changes worlds, because it reminds people of how healing and transformative being in nature truly is: when you don’t even have a bathroom and have little more than trail markers to follow, you are totally immersed. And when you finish the trek, it’s like you’re cleansed of all the pressures of the real world, and you remember what really matters to you – what makes life exciting; what it means to be a human.
What did winning a PURE Award mean to Cascada Expediciones?
It was an incredible honour. Such amazing itineraries get submitted for the PURE Awards, so even to be nominated alongside these wonderful programmes is a big achievement. And then to be recognised as a programme that voters believe can transform people’s lives – let alone winning – is so humbling.
“You can really see when a guest has undergone that change: when they leave, they have this look about them – it’s like a weight has been lifted.”
What does transformation mean to Cascada Expediciones? How do you know when a guest is transformed?
For us, transformation is when a guest leaves one of our programmes with their world view altered in a positive way: that could mean that they are more aware of their place in the world, and want to become more involved in conservation and sustainability initiatives to help create a better future; or it could mean that they leave with a better understanding of themselves. Maybe they solved a personal issue while out on a hike, or had a revelation about their career or path in life and want to try something new. Whatever form the transformation takes, it is intimate and personal. And you can really see when a guest has undergone that change: when they leave, they have this look about them – it’s like a weight has been lifted. It’s hard to describe, but there is just a change in the air around them, like an electric charge. They’ve become a different person in front of your eyes, and that’s an intoxicating thing to witness – because then, they’ll go home and use that new energy for great things.
Does the high-end travel industry have a responsibility to protect our planet? What’s your advice on this – where should brands begin?
Absolutely, high-end travel should be leading the charge to protect the planet, and should be taking steps to be sustainable and eco-friendly. A great place to start is by implementing localism, such as only hiring and buying locally, as that cuts down a lot of carbon emissions. Also, it’s a good idea to be taking steps to be more eco-friendly as an organisation from the ground up, such as becoming a B Corporation; becoming carbon-neutral; educating staff; or making changes in office policy that use less paper or electricity – there are lots of places to start from. But the most important thing is to have sustainability as a core value for you and your brand. If you have a foundation of values that incite you to want to do better for the planet each day, that will inform your daily operational decisions and help your brand make more responsible choices.
How can high-end travel brands protect and empower local communities? Why is this important?
Working with local communities by hiring people and offering initiatives like educational workshops and such is a great way to get locals and the next generation invested in conservation and the future of their environments. It’s important because localism benefits everyone involved, from the brand to the locals being hired and given a livelihood that’s invested in the place in which they live. Honouring heritage – either by offering to sell local handicrafts or let them offer lectures to guests about the history and culture of the region – is a great way of empowering locals and educating guests about the region. Both empowering and protecting local communities is important because they are part of what makes a place unique and special, and they have a right to live and work there, which should be supported and protected.
In today’s information age, it’s harder than ever for brands to grab their audience’s attention. How should brands tell their story in a way that resonates?
Storytelling is everything when it comes to getting travellers’ attention these days. They don’t just want to hear a list of what to do at a destination – they want a story. A story hooks you in, gets you invested. So uncovering the narrative of your brand and telling it in a unique way will get people more emotionally invested in your product.
“Both empowering and protecting local communities is important because they are part of what makes a place unique and special, and they have a right to live and work there, which should be supported and protected.”
To what extent does the design of a hotel or retreat impact guests’ experiences? What are the other important factors to consider in building or renovating a property?
A unique hotel can elevate a travel experience and push it over the edge from ‘good’ to ‘amazing’. Hotels that are designed to be different and offer different experiences are more likely to grab people’s attention, especially in today’s market where travellers are seeking personalised experiences that are different. A hotel should complement its location, not overshadow it or be a detriment to it. When it comes to building and renovating, be creative and work with the environment, as well as paying close attention to both the needs of the local environment and your guests. A good hotel should be able to balance both.
“A hotel should complement its location, not overshadow it or be a detriment to it.”
Who is your experiential travel hero and why? (This could be someone famous or completely unknown!)
I can’t speak for Cascada and EcoCamp’s founders, but I would say any tour operator or any hotelier who’s striving to create special travel experiences that connect travellers to the world is a hero in their own way.
[Photos are courtesy of Cascada Expediciones]
Want to join the maverickhood? Applications open in June – why not check out the PURE Awards categories so you’re ready to tell us how you’re Changing Worlds in 2018?