Gapforce set to welcome customers back for the first time in over a year!

There is no hiding the fact that the past 14 months has been devastating for the travel industry. The continued uncertainty surrounding the reopening of international travel has wreaked havoc on businesses, large and small, all over the world.

As a small tour operator specialising in Gap Year and Educational travel, we at Gapforce have been unable to restart any international programs since international borders closed back in March 2020. One ray of light we hold on to is the fact that the demand for travel experiences from the youth market remains stronger than ever. Even with the ongoing uncertainty, our enquiry levels remain consistent year-on-year, and we still receive regular bookings from customers determined to travel come what may.

And so the question is not if international travel will resume but when, and that is the challenge facing travel businesses everywhere – how do we survive and stay relevant during this time? Like many businesses, we at Gapforce have done a lot of soul searching over the past year and explored many different avenues. Providing online courses was a natural consideration but we learned quickly that our programs and our people are all about active, off the beaten track adventure, which does not translate effectively to online (although the process did enable us to identify effective new ways we can make better use of technology for engaging and preparing customers in the future so our effort was not all in vein!)

The second option we explored were outdoor adventures closer to home in the UK. However, this is not an area we are traditionally known for and there are plenty of other companies out there specialising in UK-based adventures so what will our offering be? We looked at arranging tours, volunteering and challenges and whilst we discovered some amazing experiences we did not feel these played enough to our strengths in order to be significantly different from anything else already on the market.

We then turned our attention to our training courses, in particular our Expedition Leader Training Course. This is our flagship course based in Costa Rica where we take people from relative novice through to Expedition Leader in a gruelling 16 week training program. We wanted to use our expertise in this area to develop some UK based courses enabling people to either get a taster or start their journey into the outdoor industry. From this, our brand new Outdoor Leader Training Course was born with the first group set to start in the autumn.

Building on this idea, we wanted to be able to offer a shorter summer course which would appeal to a wider range of customers. We wanted to develop a course not just for those looking at a career in the outdoor industry, but for anyone interested in experiencing the great outdoors, keen to learn some exciting new skills and be with a group of like-minded people. We wanted the course to be challenging enough to provide a sense of achievement, but also inclusive to as many people as possible by making it both achievable and affordable. After brainstorming a number of ideas, we settled on a 5-day Bushcraft & Survival Course which replicates the basic survival training from our Expedition Leader Training Course. Based in our exclusive camp deep in the stunning North York Moors National Park, participants will learn vital survival skills and techniques from our experienced Instructors including shelters, fire-building and navigation, whilst at the same time achieving their Duke of Edinburgh Award Gold Residential Award and John Muir Environmental Award.

We launched the course in March and we are delighted to be welcoming our first customers onto the course on 31st May. It has been a long road to this point and difficult to put into words just how much it means to us as a team to be welcoming customers back onto our programs. We are beyond excited and looking forward to using this as a springboard to re-building our business back stronger than ever so that we can continue to provide unique, lifechanging experiences for our customers!

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