Do you try to stay active while on vacation? If so, you’re not alone. An Expedia survey conducted earlier this year found 53 percent of U.S. residents believe it’s important to exercise while traveling. While sightseeing on foot was cited as the most popular way to stay physically active while away from home, some travelers also said they engage in biking and running, often in the hotel gym.
But what if you prefer to make exercise the centerpiece of your vacation and not just a way to balance out a few indulgent restaurant meals? For travelers who live an active lifestyle and want to maintain it while exploring new destinations, there’s nothing better than an adventure with Backroads.
An Authentic Way to Experience the World
Backroads was founded in 1979 by Tom Hale, a former environmental planner. Though he didn’t know much about business or biking when he began, pedaling 5,000-miles around the western US introduced him to the joys of active travel. Believing it to be the best, most authentic way to experience the world, he organized Backroad’s first group adventure to Death Valley in 1980.
“We’re heading into our 39th year here at Backroads,” K.C. Hoppe, the company’s manager of travel industry programs told RewardExpert. “Tom is still here as president, which I think really sets us apart from some of our competitors who have sold their companies or had changes in management. It has really been Tom’s passion, drive and intuition that has moved the company forward and has played a strong roll in our success over nearly four decades.”
Though it began with bicycle-based adventures, Backroads now offers a whole lot more. Guests can choose from biking, walking, hiking and multi-sport itineraries on almost every continent. The company even added river cruise tours three years ago.
“We’ve continued to look for new audiences to bring to Backroads,” Hoppe said. “Active travel isn’t just for serious bikers or marathon runners and triathletes. We really have something for everyone.”
She noted that though the average age of Backroad’s guests is between 45 and 65 years old, the company offers itineraries suitable for families with younger children and teens as well as adult couples, friends and solo travelers.
“We cater to anyone who is open minded, intrepid and ready to explore,” she continued. “Our guests love being active, fit and healthy, and they want to maintain that lifestyle while they are traveling.”
Group Trips with Flexibility and Independence
According to Hoppe, active travel—which the company defines as journeying through a fascinating region under one’s own power—quickly becomes addictive.
“Once people experience it, they are hooked,” she said. “It’s just such a fun, unique way to travel. Rather than sitting around on a cruise or in a motor coach, you get to have a great time outdoors while meeting local people and seeing local sites. You get to explore an area in depth, and once you do, you will want to do it again. We have a repeat and referral rate of about 80 to 85 percent each year.”
She credits Backroad’s trip leaders with keeping the repeat rate so high. “Our leaders are our hallmark to fame,” she said. “They are a core component of our trips.” In addition to a rigorous hiring process, every trip leader receives ongoing training throughout his or her career with Backroads. Each trip is overseen by three or four leaders, and guest groups are limited in size.
“All of our trips also offer van support,” she added. “One handles the trip chores, such as moving lugging from Hotel A to Hotel B and setting up the picnic lunch, while the other is dedicated to our guests. If they get a flat tire or want to get a ride back to the hotel, they don’t have to wait long for that support.”
She also noted that though Backroad’s adventures are group-based, the itineraries are very flexible and allow for a great deal of independence.
“All of our trips have daily mileage options,” she explained. “People can decide what route they want to take for the day and go at their own pace. Some guests want to ride really fast and long miles. Others want a more leisurely pace and a shorter option. They might ride to lunch and then take the van back to the hotel or into town to shop and explore.”