Get to Know Richard Launder
Name: Richard Launder
Occupation: President and CEO
Years in the travel industry: 39 years
Years with Destination America: 1999 – Present
What roles and/or experiences have you had with Destination America (DA)?
President (1999-2003), President and CEO (2018-Present)
What were you doing before joining DA?
Before working for DA, TTC, and Contiki, I worked for Barclays Bank as an investment analyst.
What is your favorite part about working in travel?
The never-ending sense of discovery about the itineraries, experiences, hotels, meals, local specialists that we are able to present to our guests. Destinations keep reinventing themselves, there is always something or someone new or different to consider. And of course, reading client travel questionnaires and recognizing the impact we have on people’s lives, in bringing them joy.
As an active hiker myself, I recognized that we often designed itineraries that excluded experiences, not because they weren’t interesting but because they were too challenging for some guests to undertake, but not too challenging for all guests. So why not create a more active style of trips for those that want to be a bit more adventurous? So many baby boomers have made a point to remain active and healthy in their daily lives and want to carry that through into their travel experiences too. It is a megatrend in the travel industry that will play out over decades.
Furthermore, we know hikers want choices, they don’t all want to hike the same trails, they don’t all have the same levels of experience and fitness, they don’t all want to walk at the same pace, and they do not want to hike in large groups. So, we wanted to create itineraries that do offer choices, that allow for hosting map orientations and then letting everyone decide what they want to do, and at the pace they want to walk – wherever that is possible.
What destinations are best for individuals who want to ensure a more active experience?
We have applied “Active” to the great outdoors and to hiking primarily, so that lends itself to National Parks, National Forests, and State Parks.
Is there anything guests should do ahead of time to prepare for this travel style?
Yes, guests should build up a minimum level of fitness to enjoy the hikes. This is not about technical ability; it is about wanting to hike perhaps 4-10 miles each day. Guests should bring the right clothing and good hiking shoes/boots, in order to be comfortable. Know the season you are traveling in and bring appropriate clothing. Know what altitudes you might be hiking at. Hiking on a trail at 10,000 ft is quite different from 2,000 ft, our bodies react differently. These are all important considerations to enjoy your trip.
Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks is a favorite because of the extraordinary places we get to visit and hike in. 5 National Parks, 3 Utah State Parks, a Navajo Tribal Park, and a few other little secret places to explore as well. Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP, Goblin Valley SP, Kodachrome Basin SP, Coral Pink Sands SP, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend; that is an iconic list of places. Every day is awesome.
What kind of active itinerary do you see DA developing in the future?
DA is a market-led company. We can only be successfully designing trips that people want to buy. That said with critical over-tourism in some parts of the Americas we are also aware of under-tourism elsewhere (to some of the lesser-known parks) and it is to these areas that we are excited to talk about and share. That is where we find the wide-open spaces, the mountains, and trails that are not crowded. Active trips aren’t limited to hiking and so, I see diverse activities such as mountain biking, rafting, horse-riding, kayaking, outdoor photography, cultural engagement all having important places in our designs.
So, Colorado, Southern Arizona, New Mexico, the Dakotas, California’s High Country, Montana, British Colombia, New England, the Hudson Valley, Quebec, Peru, Ecuador, Chile. These would all be fun!