*As seen in The Logbook. Issue 4.
Adventure Access is an adventure tour operator on the Tibetan Plateau who specialize in custom built itineraries combining outdoor elements such as hiking, mountain biking, mountaineering and immersive cultural experiences. Including all aspects of this timeless land to create a complete package, the tours include national parks, cultural and religious sites, and Tibetan Homestays.
Founded in 2010, Adventure Access were the first foreign owned adventure operator based solely in China. This uniqueness has given them the opportunity to offer a one-of-a-kind perspective to their tours as well as helping them grow a significant reputation in the area. However, China is an incredibly vast country and it has changed significantly over the last 8 years which has opened many opportunities, as Business Founder and main tour leader Brian Glorioso, who has lived in Western China’s Tibetan regions since 2001, explains.
“Mass tourism is China’s dominant tourism approach,” he says, “But in the Tibetan region we are leading with sustainable adventure tourism that is largely driven by local involvement. This is the biggest opportunity because it gives us an even easier job at differentiating ourselves and offering something special.”
According to him, others are seeing that it works as well, and this has been the catalyst for significant growth in the past two years when general tourism has declined in the region.
It is a young approach and Brian has eight years’ worth of experience already under his belt, most people in the industry do not understand how to do it well. Taking full advantage of this lead and of the interest in sustained adventure tourism they added a US based component to their business in 2017.
“We work primarily with inbound travellers or expats who are living in Asia,” he says, “But it is also good to see that we have a growing number of domestic Chinese clients. I consider this a reflection of our quality, consistency and reputation in this field.”
FRIENDS AND FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS.
Relationships are at the centre of all that Adventure Access does. It is the key piece of their work as the day-to-day success of operations in Eastern Tibet is entirely dependent upon the help they receive from their local friends. These close friends being the business partners that they work with. For new programs to be developed and sustainable development to be nurtured, all of it has to occur within the circle of local relationships that have been built.
“Relationships are the ‘infrastructure’ of the region,” Brian says.
Adventure Access is a family business and in addition to their small staff number, Brian’s wife and he play a very involved role in the business. This does mean that their children can grow up being in the outdoors and involved and learning the value of the natural heritage of the country. This is very important to Brian and he counts himself lucky that he’s able to operate a successful business, in a country that he loves, with his family.
“For me, Adventure Access is the true blending of our passions, hobbies, and love for this particular part of the world,” he says, “We love the people here and are working to foster an ecosystem designed around adventure travel and sustainable development. It is a win-win.”
AMDO OVERLAND EXPERIENCE.
Currently the main service on offer is the extraordinary Amdo Overland Experience. This combines the best cultural elements of Tibetan farming and nomadic communities with important monastic centers. A client has opportunities for a growing number of experiences involving hiking and biking trails and some of China’s most notable national parts.
“Weaving all of the rich experiences of this breathtaking location into a single narrative that the traveler can totally immerse themselves in and become part of the local story is what this experience is all about,” Brian says, adding, “Our guides know how to combine the elements of local encounters with exhilarating adventure to create a seamless flow through some of the most beautiful parts of the Tibetan Plateau.”
Working closely with experts is one of the ways that Brian is making his business strong for the future. He isn’t a believer in the saying, “If you want something to be done right, do it yourself,”, instead they include other partners to help them do what is essential while they keep themselves focused on local relationship and client needs.
“We keep ourselves focused on the relationships at the local level and on operating outdoor cultural experiences for our clients while leaving the rest to the experts,” Brian says, “For example, for marketing, we work with trusted marketing partners to do great work that we wouldn’t be able to do ourselves. Same goes for web design and development. We just keep them informed of the stories that are taking place and they work with that. The trick is finding the right people to work with and maintaining those key connections.”
Setting up the business wasn’t straight forward or easy, Brian reveals. As the first foreign invested adventure operator in China, there were major hurdles to overcome. Things like convincing officials, filling out paperwork, repeated applications and many hours on the telephone. He explains it took two years to register the business. And, once registered, it took a great deal of time and effort to gain the trust of the local leaders to operate at a level that could grow extensively over the years.
“Time and patience were key, and this region is a great place for both!” he says, “We never went away and have simply been around long enough to see our hard work pay off. Paperwork and registering in an office will take time, but you cannot rush things when it comes to earning people’s trust.”
Adventure Access is a business directly related to lifestyle because of their love for the outdoors. It grew organically as a business around this passion. It’s not surprising then that Brian sees a complete difference between travelling and vacationing.
“Travel involves exploring something new,” he says, “Vacationing involves pulling away and resting. Our travels are usually quite active as we all love hiking and climbing but we’re lucky because we don’t have to travel to spend time in the outdoors. This means we can be quite selective in our activities and as the family has grown and the kids have gotten older we’ve been able to take them on longer trips and do more.”
When not travelling away, one of the keystones to the routine that keeps Brian and his wife energized, fit and healthy are triathlons. Which according to him is a great way to unwind and improve not only a person’s physical condition but their mental focus too.
A LEGEND ROUND THESE PARTS.
There was an extensive documentary filmed and produced on the region a few years ago and Brian’s family was contacted and included into the documentary. The producer explained that he decided on this because everywhere he went their name kept popping up.
Elaborating on this Brian explains that he’s not thought of as an individual but as part of his family.
“We are probably most known as the family that has become a part of the fabric of the Eastern Tibetan plateau,” he says, “This sort of reputation is important to me because it means locally we are trusted, we have been accepted. We have become part of this wonderful, endless land.”
ADDRESS: China, Sichuan, Chengdu