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Our Story

About Us: as told in conversation with Anuruddha Bandara, founder of Experiential Journeys and Eco Team.

Can you tell us a little bit about the beginnings of your first Travel Company?

The first company I set up was actually Eco Team and not Experiential Journeys. When I first started setting up mobile camps inside the Udawalawe National Park in 1998, establishing a fully-fledged Eco Adventure company in just 2 years wasn’t the exact plan. Nothing creative was happening at that time in the industry due to the war, and this new concept of a fully-serviced mobile camp in the jungles became a hit. To expand and move to other areas of adventures, and to set up camps in other wildlife locations, Eco Team was established in the year 2000.

 

Were Foreign Tour Operators interested in working with you?

My primary objective was to be a service provider to fellow DMCs. I wasn’t aiming to work directly with any FTOs. With a “Sri Lanka’s First” concept, I envisioned the local DMCs to take Eco Team to the world and make Sri Lanka famous in the Eco, Nature and Adventure arena. The strategy was to tap into the niche segments and move away from mass tourism.

 

Did it go as planned?

With quite a few DMCs it did – we’ve built partnerships with certain DMCs who still prefer us to date. Mutually beneficial alliances have allowed both parties to grow together. However, the majority of the DMCs in Sri Lanka were comfortable with the domains they’ve always operated in and were not willing to take a risk and go for something new. They preferred to just give FTOs what they’ve asked for. Honestly, it was frustrating to be dependent on other DMCs; we’ve met quite a few who didn’t see the bigger picture, mostly because the experiences suggested and adventures designed were alien at the time. It was one of the initial obstacles we faced being “Sri Lanka’s First”.

 

How did you overcome this obstacle?

I separated the two businesses and set up my own specialised DMCs and Brands – a collective interest shared by the company’s stakeholders. There was a gap in the market; many FTOs were not finding what they wanted in a traditional DMC model. And although Eco Team handled certain specialised DMCs directly from inception, we thought the time was right to separate the two businesses. Thus was the birth of Experiential Journeys.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your team and culture?

We have a wonderfully diverse and passionate multicultural team from Sri Lanka and overseas. Our key personnel have half a decade of experience in the travel business, and almost all our team members started their tourism careers with our group – we think of them as the essential gears imperative to make all this work. In most cases, if you are trained to be a one-size-fits-all gear (which is how mass tourism runs) you tend to have tunnel vision. The combination of experience from our seniors and unconventional ideas from our juniors worked well with the niche markets we are in to and propelled growth exponentially.

Our team culture is based on our core team values that are brought into the word FAMILY: Focus, Accountability, Milestones, Innovation, Leadership and Youthfulness. We strive to live by it.

 

There are 750 registered DMCs in Sri Lanka. It’s estimated that there is a similar number in the informal sector. How do you find Experiential Journeys a mark amongst immense competition?

We’re a different league; you can’t benchmark the quality of apples with oranges. We don’t play in the same field other DMCs do; if you need a standard, cheap, ‘round tour’ with brochure-based Sri Lankan highlights, we may not be the best option for you. There are hundreds of others who have built concrete bases on that very field. Our game and where we play is different; we serve our clients on the foundation of our 6 core team values plus 4 service values – Focus, Accountability, Milestones, Innovation, Leadership, Youthfulness, Exclusive Experiences, Genuine Encounters, Spaces with Character, and Passionate Sustainability. It’s a game changer.

We design unique and memorable experiential journeys – not tours. Competition that actually steps up to the plate is very few.

 

You have pioneered many initiatives and experiences in the Eco Adventure domain. Have you done the same in the DMC domain as well?

Yes. Quite a few of the experiences we’ve created are original, exclusive and rich in culture, where some island natives you meet on our experiential journeys haven’t even interacted with overseas travellers before. There are no scripts or charades, what you get is real. Your opportunity becomes their opportunity as they are able to earn a decent income, whilst simply continuing to go about their day to day activities.

In addition to our own brand of accommodation in the group, we are proud to have inspired many small and medium scale entrepreneurs to create accommodation units of their own, with character and high levels of service, in an effort to be integrated into our experiences.

 

Tell us a little more about yourself.

People tend to see me as a hedonist with a little more than a mere penchant for adventure, but it’s really the other way around. Social and environmental responsibility, sustainable business practices, and a love for conservation for both plant and wildlife isn’t just a corporate ethos or a CSR activity of mine. It’s a calling. A purpose. Immersive and guiltless adventure are simply the spoils.

 

 

Team Behind Exj

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Anuruddha Bandara

Anuruddha Bandara, also known as AB, is an award-winning entrepreneur who has built a reputation as a niche tourism specialist, explorer, and management trainer.

He has travelled extensively to all parts of Sri Lanka and, impressively, 16% of the globe, including six continents. As Founder/ CEO and Master Crafter of Experiences & Encounters, he has navigated Experiential Journeys, to become the most sought after destination management company in Sri Lanka.

As Founder and President of the Sri Lanka Wilderness Foundation, he has taken environmental conservation to a national platform and believes in its conservation through tourism.

His passion beyond adventure travel and sustainability extends to photography, interior decor and architecture.    


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Bas Naus

Having specialised in Environmental Sciences in the Netherlands, Bas is acutely aware of the need for a sustainable relationship between people and the environment. Bas has been in the travel trade for over a decade and is a hiking and climbing enthusiast himself. He has worked as a tour leader for 3 years guiding Dutch groups around Asia and worked for 7 years as a product manager for an adventure tour operator in the Netherlands, making several trips to Sri Lanka as well.

As our representative in Netherlands, Bas continuously engages Dutch tour operators with Experiential Journeys in Sri Lanka. His passion for Sri Lanka, expertise on sustainability, and the destination knowledge are valued very much by our partners.


Haj

Haj

Hajreen Juhara, popularly called Haj, is a multi-talented and experienced individual. With a career spanning 21 years in customer care, in Sri Lanka and overseas, Haj understands the capacity of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka as well as the requirements of his clientele, more specifically, when it comes to Meetings / Incentives / Conferences and Events [ MICE]  

In addition to leading our MICE arm, Haj heads other divisions of the Group which involve Property Management and Air Travel. The challenge of finding solutions for complex MICE customer requirements and ensuring wow satisfaction is Haj’s forte and being appreciated by his clients continuously for the same.  

His interests other than travel extends to sports, specifically Cricket.


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Thibaud

Thibaud is no ordinary Belgian but a travel buff. Since a young age, he had his thoughts elsewhere but his own country. Urged to find out where habits and traditions come from, a compulsion pushed him to travel. Living in the country and learning from the locals, makes Thibaud a specialist in many languages like; French, German and Spanish. He has spent much time in Latin America and East Africa. However since 2017, it has been Sri Lanka’s turn.  


Working as Lead Travel Experience Designer for the B2C division at Experiential Journeys Sri Lanka, Thibaud astutely pursues designing quality holidays that open the treasures of Sri Lanka to travellers; constantly trying to innovate ways of sustainable tourism that can be totally unforgettable for our guests.



Migara updated

Migara

An IT professional, who eventually found that staring into a screen the whole day, is not what he truly made for. After trying out options in few industries, it didn't take too long for him to find his "perfect fit"; sustainable tourism coupled with customer care.

Being someone who has always loved nature & wildlife, enjoyed meeting new people, learning new things and sharing what he knows, the current role at Exj as the B2B/ FTO Coordinator has been a perfect match for his character, which he really enjoys being.

In addition to his passion for travel as well as the great outdoors, he takes care of the Sustainability and CSR aspects of the group and also plays a significant role in Marketing and Business Development.


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Nish

Nish is an accounting professional who decided to follow her true passion - turning her attention to the tourism industry; particularly interested in sustainable tourism. With more than a decade of experience in the field, Nish is an invaluable member of  Experiential Journeys.

A deeply spiritual person and a social worker, her convictions are firmly rooted in Buddhist philosophy. Nish is also a passionate explorer who loves trekking.

Nish heads the B2B division of Experiential Journeys and leads the Research & Development team responsible for finding new experiences, encounters and our style of accommodation.  

With a zest for travel as well as the great outdoors, she is well aware of the requirements and expectations of a modern day traveller.

 

Our policy in discouraging Animal Cruelty, Tourist Traps and Staged Tourist Shows

Animals Are Friends Too: Discouraging Animal Cruelty, Tourist Traps and Staged Tourist Shows

We at ExJ stay away from tourism experiences that are staged and involve animal cruelty and shopping traps that are contrived to exploit and deceive clients.

Even though some of the popular ‘attractions’ are not included in our programmes due to the above reasons, we have no objections in our clients making their own arrangements with our Drivers to visit these places.

 

Why we do not promote following attractions

 

Turtle Hatcheries

As this concept has serious negative aspects in terms of conservation, we do not encourage our visitors to patronize the turtle hatcheries, as not all of them are really turtle-friendly. We instead encourage them to observe turtles in their natural habitats.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

When we became aware that the animal welfare standards there were questionable, we stopped encouraging our clients to visit the orphanage. We are pleased to observe that the Born Free Foundation has now adopted similar measures.

Elephant back rides – Habarana

There’s uncertainty surrounding the attitude of this place towards animal welfare. There may be a few ethical operators, but in general, we are not in agreement with how the place is run. We all would love a photo of us riding an elephant, but is a lifetime of pain caused to these magnificent mammals really worth a few fleeting likes on social media?

Traditional Village Tour with a Canoe Trip and Bullock-Carts – Habarana

This is a tourist trap where a lot of the trip is ‘staged’ for commercial purposes. Such fake touristic experiences will not give our visitors an idea of what life in the country is really like, so join us as we show you the real side of Sri Lanka. And at the end of every vacation, always ask yourself, “Did you feel that your holiday was ethical, eco-friendly, and reduced environmental impacts?”


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Address: No: 20/68, Fairfield Garden, Colombo 08, Sri Lanka