Travel abruptly came to a standstill in March 2020. Besides the sparse drive-cations dotting calendars, the trifecta of closed borders, limited flights, and shuttered hotels made the future appear bleak to both travelers and industry professionals. Under grave conditions, travel companies had days to figure out this new reality and if they would sink or swim. Harsh Patil, an entrepreneur and travel aficionado had created xplor.earth just three years before the pandemic, in 2017. Patil and his two female team members had to find a way to pivot to keep their customers engaged creatively and their industry colleagues abroad afloat.
A Unique Segway Into The Travel Industry
Patil started his career in Finance and Operations and also touched the music, fashion, and publishing sectors for over 25 years before a yearning voice inside his head persuaded him to follow one of his greatest passions: traveling. Patil did some serious soul searching after two successful and adventurous trips to Africa, where he hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro and immersed himself in nature on a safari to the Serengeti. It didn’t take long for him to realize his passions in life are travel, exploring, connection and adventure. “From all our previous travels, I had copious notes about places we’d visited, so I already had some of the elements in hand,” said Patil. “A fruitful career morphed into an exciting venture when I launched xplor.earth.”
How Xplor.earth Disrupts The Traditional Travel Industry
Xplor. earth’s mantra? One size does not fit all. One distinct element to their business model is that the employees visit each of the destinations the company offers. By having the crucial team members meet and vet the local guides, transport providers, and accommodations, they can put their best foot forward with genuine recommendations when putting together trips for their consumers. “It’s important to put our best foot forward and travel the countries extensively,” said Patil. “This way, we know them intimately. We are not selling ‘packages’ but building personal experiences from the ground up.”
Xplor.earth was growing, continuing to foster relationships, and creating a discerning reputation. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and travel came to a standstill instantaneously. The company had to figure out how to pivot its business model to keep the company afloat creatively. Patil and his colleagues decided that utilizing technology to bring the world to travelers’ homes could help keep them engaged within the safety of their homes.
“We at xplor.the earth didn’t still, though— starting with a rum cocktail live from Cartagena to a virtual wine tasting with a famed sommelier in NYC, we kept our audiences engaged within the safety of their homes,” said Patil. “With creative juices flowing, we launched what would be the first of its kind – a series of virtual but live safari sessions with Masai tribespeople in Kenya. We raised charitable contributions from attendees for all of these events, with all proceeds going directly to the guides, their families, and the Masai women. We engaged our audiences with live chats with children, Masai chefs and got a birds-eye view of daily activities in the villages. So successful were these that we conducted five such events throughout the summer.”
Additionally, as an Indian-American, Patil prides himself on giving a voice to people of color in the travel industry. “Travel is a universal language that brings peoples and cultures together so travelers can appreciate traditions and varying points of view,” he mused. Through word of mouth and the referral model that the company has, Patil recognizes the majority of xplor. earth’s clients come from diverse backgrounds. The team loves that, as a company propelling authentic cultural connections, their clientele is ethnographically diverse.
Patil feels so fortunate to explore the world that visiting new places physically gives him goosebumps. “Each region on Earth has something unique to offer: a safari in Africa, a cultural and culinary journey to India or Provence, a charter cruise in the Galapagos islands, or a history steeped vacation to Egypt,” said Patil. “Each region invokes a different sense of romance with my senses.”
It sounds like a cliche, but seeing new places and appreciating local traditions/cultures is the most rewarding element. And then to hear back from clients and see their eyes light up as they reminisce about their travels is the best payback.