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Intrepid Travel

Planning holidays for 145,000+ travelers each year sure sounds like fun! Here’s how Intrepid Travel does it using the SafetyCulture platform.

950+ travel itineraries created annually

1,153 safety incidents reported on the SafetyCulture platform in 2023

<1% Intrepid travelers involved in an incident in 2023

Intrepid Travel logo

We use SafetyCulture for

Planning a holiday sounds like a fun job. But what about planning holidays for more than 145,000 travelers each year? Intrepid Travel will tell you it’s still fun – and also quite the challenge! The small group adventure travel company isn’t just responsible for ensuring travelers have a great time, they’re there to guarantee a safe and high-quality experience. 

With thousands of team members, 35+ offices, and 27 different operating companies in key destinations worldwide, coordinating operations involves communication, collaboration, and complexity between key players.

That’s a lot of moving parts! But Intrepid manages it seamlessly – and this is where the SafetyCulture platform comes in. We chat with Celia Brennan, Intrepid Travel’s General Manager of Global Operations, about how the company uses our platform to nail its operations towards a better way of working.


The journey toward quality and consistency

Intrepid Travel prides itself on its top-notch service, thanks to its people. First, there are the tour leaders – the frontline workers who accompany the travelers every step of the way. They’re ‘always on’ as they assess tours and spot issues on the go. Then there are the operations managers who look after the day-to-day running of the business at a high level, including managing contractors. Lastly, the various teams who, as a whole, monitor inspections, evaluate quality, and even audit for sustainability. 

Intrepid plans all different types of global travel, which inevitably comes with various risks. “We operate in seven continents, in over 100 countries, with multiple types of trips — and they all have different safety requirements,” Celia explains.

While they focus primarily on small-group adventure travel, the company also does some B2B trips for big coach tours and luxury brands. “And again, there’s a different type of risk with those operations,” Celia adds. 

But safety isn’t the only value underpinning Intrepid’s operations — it stays focused on maintaining consistent brand quality across its different trips. From ensuring various destination management companies (DMCs) have branded trucks to T-shirts, and other materials ready for the travel season. 

Now departing from spreadsheets and silos

Even before using SafetyCulture, Intrepid had safety pinned as priority number one. “We’ve always taken safety very seriously, but we needed to invest to keep pace with the right systems and tools,” Celia explains. 

Previously, the company had relied on manual systems, like spreadsheets, for risk assessments and audits. And while it meant they could record all the data somewhere, it was often difficult to make sense of that data to take action. For example, a tour leader might spot a broken window lock or a room that wasn’t cleaned properly at a hotel and record it in the safety audit spreadsheet. A different team member would report the same issue in the spreadsheet the following month, having missed the previous log. The team never missed flagging a problem; they just didn’t have the right tools to notify others immediately.

“Before SafetyCulture, teams couldn’t see the scale of the issue. We couldn’t look over spreadsheet data and go, ‘We always have a problem with that hotel’ because we couldn’t see how many other times there’d been issues with it.”

Celia Brennan
General Manager of Global Operations, Intrepid Travel

“There was limited visibility on that,” Celia says. “You’ve just tick-boxed something, but there was no effective way to assign corrective action. There’s been no significant change. We had quite good incident management and monitoring systems, so we could report on trends or incidents as they happened. But we couldn’t follow that up with a good auditing tool. We couldn’t say, ‘Hey, that happened, let’s take some action on the ground.’”

Considering the company runs hundreds of trips at one time, Intrepid had the added challenge of the sheer volume of data they deal with constantly. “We audit our itineraries annually, and then any other issues that were coming up were raised by a leader via the end-of-trip report,” Celia explains. “There was no simple way to see trends, such as whether every itinerary in Vietnam had that same issue.” 

That lack of visibility and a holistic perspective was a challenge in and of itself. “Teams didn’t know how big a problem this was because they couldn’t see the scale of the issue. It just didn’t work. We couldn’t look over that spreadsheet data and go, ‘We always have a problem with that hotel’ because we couldn’t see how many other times there’d been issues with it.”


Grounded: how the pandemic improved Intrepid’s processes 

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. An undeniably tough time for everybody — particularly businesses in the travel industry. But rather than look at it as a setback, Intrepid viewed it as an opportunity.

“Obviously, travel was completely shut down, so we weren’t running trips anywhere, so we took that time to look at the way we were operating,” Celia reflects. 

The timing was right. After a period of significant growth in 2019, Intrepid’s auditing processes needed an upgrade. “We were struggling to keep pace with that growth,” notes Celia. So when shutdowns forced Intrepid to press pause on travel, they used that time to look at their processes and improve their internal operations.

“We knew when we reopened that the amount of auditing to meet COVID regulations worldwide would be significant. We needed a more sophisticated system. So that’s when we started working with SafetyCulture,” Celia continues, with the company officially coming on board as a customer in 2020. 

“Obviously, travel was completely shut down, so we weren’t running trips anywhere, so we took that time to look at the way we were operating.”

Celia Brennan
General Manager of Global Operations, Intrepid Travel

Next stop: transforming audits into action

Since using the SafetyCulture platform, Celia has seen many meaningful improvements throughout the organization. But if she had to sum them all up with one word? Action. 

“For me, Actions is the most important part of the platform. We can see that we’re making improvements and doing something with the information we have,” she explains. 

Intrepid uses Inspections to conduct thorough audits of itineraries (aka trips). But it’s not enough to identify those issues — they must follow through and resolve them. (Bon voyage, spreadsheets!) With SafetyCulture, the entire team has a way to not only flag problems on different itineraries, but also to take the steps to fix them.

The recent Morocco earthquake is a fitting example. “We had a lot of groups on the ground,” Celia notes. They could take photos of impacted areas and check their information with local authorities. “It meant we had a record of where it was safe to return,” she continues. “A big incident happens, and we’re using SafetyCulture to take that data, record it somewhere, and inform our decision-making.” 

Using Analytics, it’s easy for Intrepid to understand how many issues they’re resolving and what they still need to action. When the company needs to communicate with the global operations teams, whether it means announcing a new template, issuing a reminder, or offering genuine recognition for a team member, Celia says Heads Up allows them to relay that information efficiently and effectively. 

That visibility and streamlined communication has translated directly into better, safer trips for travelers — but it’s also measurably improved things for tour leaders.

“The people who get the most out of SafetyCulture are our tour leaders,” Celia says. “They’ve got a million different things to do every day. They’re sharing their local knowledge, managing a group of people, translating, and juggling restaurant bookings.” 

“Before SafetyCulture, they had to add a clunky spreadsheet to their workflow. It just didn’t work,” Celia says. “Now, things are easy, thanks to the platform. They just snap a photo and answer a quick question. It’s still giving us meaningful data, but not taking any of their time away from running the trip.” 

“Things are easy, thanks to the platform. Tour leaders just snap a photo and answer a question. It’s still giving us meaningful data, but not taking any of their time away from running the trip.”

Celia Brennan
General Manager of Global Operations, Intrepid Travel

The trip so far: smooth sailing for Intrepid Travel

Better and safer travel is the most meaningful benchmark for Intrepid Travel. But beyond that, the organization has seen plenty of other benefits from using SafetyCulture. 

Intrepid first used SafetyCulture to deal with a backlog of audits – which they quickly cleared. “Last year, we completed that list, which was a massive milestone for us,” Celia says.

Another major moment? Achieving consistent processes across 27 operating companies. “We rolled out a global system, and now every operating company manages safety similarly. Before SafetyCulture, we had different variations in multiple operating companies,” Celia says. “Now it’s just the one. That consistency in operations is pretty powerful.”

Celia says that even some quick, back-of-the-napkin math shows a clear return on Intrepid’s investment in SafetyCulture. Previously, it took an operations manager about two hours to review each itinerary in a spreadsheet — and they might have 100 itineraries at a time. Now, it’s all done more or less instantaneously.

As for Celia, it’s given her the time and opportunity to focus on the company’s growth rather than having to manage so much of the nitty-gritty. “I can look forward and go, ‘Okay, what do I need to actually spend time on to help build operations?’ And it’s not going over these numbers again. I can just glance at them and know they’re done and I can trust them.”

For Intrepid Travel, using SafetyCulture has paid off in plenty of ways — including smoother workflows, improved efficiency, and better visibility in operations. But they play a role in the most significant gain for Intrepid: delivering the highest-quality travel experiences for its customers.

“SafetyCulture has been transformational for us. We’re so excited to see where it goes next. It’s becoming one of our core systems throughout the business.”

Celia Brennan
General Manager of Global Operations, Intrepid Travel

On the horizon: the Intrepid journey ahead

The company plans to find other innovative ways to weave SafetyCulture throughout the organization. As Intrepid looks to the future, the team is excited to find ways to use:

  • Assets to better manage bikes, first-aid kits, camping gear, and other equipment they need for travel. “We don’t have global visibility over that, and it’s critical from a warehousing perspective,” says Celia.
  • Training for its tour leaders. Intrepid runs immersive five-day training every two years. “We’re interested to see whether we can have something in between that trains leaders while on the road,” Celia explains.
  • Sensors to streamline restaurant ordering and stocktake, as well as hotel cleaning and quality control.

Good things are ahead for Intrepid, particularly with the company’s recent purchase of the Daintree Ecolodge, a boutique rainforest retreat in Australia’s Tropical North Queensland. It’s the first step in Intrepid’s plan to grow beyond tours and expand into accommodation. “SafetyCulture has been transformational for us,” Celia says. “We’re so excited to see where it goes next. It’s becoming one of our core systems throughout the business.” 

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