Five Minutes with David Butler, Owner, Offbeatours

The UAE-based tour operator Offbeatours offers visitors an intrepid travel experience.



• Do you think people are getting weary of standard luxury holidays?

I’m hoping enough people are looking for a challenge of going somewhere different. People are surprised that I’m doing trips to Afghanistan thinking it’s not possible. And I say it’s possible and it’s possible to do it safely if you go to the right places and have the right information and security in place.

• What has been the response since you launched in March?

I have had a dozen actual trips since March and I’ve got more booking down for September and October. I’m still working on increasing the reach and going beyond the local region to a much wider audience.

• Is there adequate market potential?

It could take a couple of years to really get going. We’ll keep working on creating more awareness and I’m also expanding into other destinations fairly quickly. Other than focusing on Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq I’m looking at expanding into India, Armenia and Pakistan but only after we’ve looked into the security situation there. Also looking at travelling to the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

• What kind of holiday experiences do you offer?

We look at offering a cultural experience. Understanding the people, their customs, getting to know their food and enjoy the scenic experience as opposed to a conventional holiday experience like white water rafting or bungee jumping.

• Who are your competitors?

We don’t have any direct competition in the region. No-one in the region is offering tours to Afghanistan.

• What are the prerequisites for going on one of your trips?

Travellers will need to take a travel insurance to risky places that covers them for acts of war. Obviously no children are allowed and you’d need to be fairly fit in order to hike around villages that are at times at an altitude of over 7500 feet.

• Who are your target customers?

Most of the interest is coming from 30 to 50-year-olds and mostly western expatriates. There is absolutely no interest shown by local people even though we’ve advertised in the Arab press and even though I’d like to sell Yemen as a solid destination as it’s 10 degrees cooler and is an Arabic speaking destination.

• Do you see interest in such destinations growing?

When I’ve created a far greater global awareness. Because it’s a small niche market I’ve got to work harder as it’s not like the concept appeals to one in 10 people – it’s more like one in 200 people would be interested. So I’ve got to get to tens of thousands to create a market.