Casting around for ideas for a new career choice after leaving a well-paid career in banking and taking two years out to teach in India, Kripa Hadani drew on her slightly unusual approach to taking a holiday for her new business venture.
“I would look for three main things when I planned my holidays,” she said.
“Firstly, I was often a solo traveller so I’d look for a group that I could join. Secondly, I liked to travel to places where you could meet and interact with the local population. And thirdly, I like active holidays where you’re actually doing something rather than just seeing the sights.”
After planing several holiday adventures for herself that ticked all of these boxes, it occurred to her that there might be others interested in spending their holidays doing more than sitting on a sun lounger all day.
“I remembered really enjoying the trips I made with adventure travel companies, and I really wanted to bring those experiences to more people in the UAE and the Gulf region. So that’s what triggered the idea for the business.”
Ms Hadani co-founded I Love Adventures in JLT in Dubai with her sister in late 2014. The company works with five global travel firms – including Exodus Travels, Grand American Adventures and Intrepid Travel – that offers adventure travel experiences in over 120 countries worldwide.
Such experiences cover a wide range of themes, ranging from cycling and climbing holidays designed for fitness fanatics, to more gentle yet no less adventurous trips to the Amazon jungle, the forests of Borneo, or a culinary tour of Dehli.
And while many of us have gotten used to booking our holidays online with the likes of booking.com, Ms Hadani says that people still value being able to speak to someone to help them organise their trips, especially within the field of adventure travel.
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“People in this market are still getting used to the idea of adventure travel, particularly if they’re looking for a more active holiday and wanting to join up with a group,” she said.
“We’re finding that people really like to speak to someone with someone who can help them plan their holiday and really tailor their experience to their needs.”
“If you’re taking on a challenging trip like climbing Kiliminjaro, people want to be able to have a discussion about the kind of equipment and items they need to take with them and what preparation they need to do beforehand. All of this information is available online, but we provide a local contact point that you can chat to on the phone or come in and meet with in person if you need some assistance.”
I Love Adventures services have proved particularly popular with solo female travellers who are keen to find a holiday experience off the beaten track but are reluctant to travel on their own, according to Ms Hadani.
“The security of the group setting is something they really like and that’s why they want to pick a trips where they can go with others.”
The company has found itself particularly popular with teachers who are looking to make the most of their time in the UAE by exploring adventure holiday destinations in Africa and Asia.
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has so far proved to be one of the company’s most popular destinations, as well as cycling trips in South Africa that coincide with the country’s annual Cape Argus Cycle Tour in March.
I Love Adventures has had a steady uptick in business since its launch about 18 months ago, booking trips for around 100 customers this year. Much of the company’s marketing has been achieved by word of mouth referrals and social media, its Facebook page having received over 3,600 likes so far.
“People that have been on the holiday with us have loved their experiences and come back with excellent reviews,” says Ms Hadani.
“We have a number of repeat customers coming back for their second and third trips.”
The company has also participated in a series of community fairs and school events to publicise its services, and also sponsored last year’s RAKBank Ride cycling event.
Ms Hadani and her sister funded I Love Adventures from their own personal savings, without having to take out large loans for the start-up phase. The company, which expects to break even later this year, is still considering its funding options as it seeks to expand, and has already received five expressions of interest from would-be partners.
“For the first year we really wanted to just test the concept out and see if it was one we were happy with,” said Ms Hadani.
“We haven’t taken anyone on board yet but it’s encouraging that there is a community out there that’s looking for new business ideas and are willing to fund the right people.”
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