Day 2 welcomed Gap Adventures of Toronto, Canada. Gap Adventures is the world’s largest independent adventure travel company in the world and the students were privileged to received three Gap Adventures sessions throughout the week!
CEO, or ” Captain” as he is known by his team, Bruce Poon Tip, enlightened, educated and led the class for nearly 4 hours of interesting lecture and conversations on Gap’s unique business models, leadership and cutting edge company culture. The students also got a preview of the next item on the morning’s agenda, Planeterra, Gap’s foundation dedicated to giving back to the communities that its clients visit.
Bruce began his session discussing the beginnings of the company in 1990 (started on credit cards when the bank wouldn’t give him a loan,) which began after he couldn’t find a tour operator that provided the unique and authentic experiences he craved that the all-inclusive and tour bus companies were providing as the industry norm at the time. Starting with tours in Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica, Bruce was able to grow the business from one small group of Canadians he brought down to Ecuador that year, to a company that take passengers on over 1000 different trips today. Delfin, the first person who helped Bruce by allowing him and others to visit his home in the rainforests of Ecuador that year, still works with Gap Adventures today. With the business that the company has brought into the area, Delfin’s family and community now have a school and community support, something they would not have had without Bruce’s vision of sustainable tourism coming into the area.
Besides ensuring great tours are being lead around the world, Bruce spends a lot of time building the internal company culture at Gap Adventures. Working behind the scenes has become a unique place to work, with Gappers (as they’re called) getting together often to celebrate success and spend time together. Bruce recently gave up his CEO title to pass it on to the people who interact with travellers first, the tour leaders and sales staff. They are now recognized as ‘Chief Experience Officers’, and other Gappers are free to choose their titles.
There is an internal ‘Culture Club’ department dedicated to fostering and continuing fun and connectedness around the world with events and engaging videos and projects. Six core values: We Love Changing People’s Lives, Do The Right Thing, Embrace the Bizarre, Lead with Service and Create Happiness and Community guides everything that is organized by the company and are well-loved by Gappers. Especially Embrace the Bizarre! And to keep a staff of over 800 engaged around the world, Bruce uses and encourages Gappers to use Twitter to stay connected. Some days Gappers in Lima tweet and chat with Gappers in London and sometimes Gappers in Nairobi reach out to Gappers in Bangkok.
I pulled a lot from Bruce’s talk and especially leadership. I struggle with leadership and I appreciate the entrepreneurial leadership style; it gets me really jazzed and motivated, I think Gap’s going to explode! -Maggie, student & UVM Continuing Education Coordinator
Bruce was full of excellent knowledge, personal case studies and endless energy. The Captain kept everyone focused and the students (and instructors included) left the session totally inspired!