UK’s largest independent youth expedition firm sets sights on ethical expansion

The UK’s top independent youth expedition company, which has influenced the lives of thousands of young people, has successfully funded its latest expansion with investment from Finance Wales plc.

Outlook Expeditions Ltd, based in Snowdonia, North Wales, is already the first company of its kind in the UK to launch a responsible travel training programme and be awarded CarbonNeutral® company status.

With the ambition of continuing to lead the youth expedition industry in promoting environmental awareness, it is now embarking on an ethical expansion that will see it adding to the 3,500 plus youngsters it has taken on educational expeditions around the world. In 2008/9 Outlook will turn over £3million and is targeting to double this over the next three years. Led by joint managing directors Matt Wells and Rhys Davies, Outlook was formed in 2001 to provide young people and schools with a professional educational expedition service.

Now operating in more than 40 different destinations worldwide Outlook offers teenagers the chance to take part in outdoor activity programmes and life-changing expeditions, including a combination of trekking through diverse landscapes, taking part in environmental or community project work and visiting places of cultural interest.

“We pride ourselves on being a truly unique business,” said Rhys Davies, who before setting up Outlook came from a background of co-ordinating and monitoring environmental and community development projects worldwide. “Not only are we enhancing the lives of thousands of young people through educational expeditions and outdoor activities, but we are taking the first steps to change the way people travel by placing ethical and environmental issues at the top of our agenda.”

As part of Outlook’s expansion, Finance Wales plc, a provider of commercial funding to businesses in Wales, is investing £730,000 debt and equity in the business through the conversion of an existing £260,000 loan and additional £470,000 capital.

Matt said the investment from Finance Wales plc will allow them to proceed with their growth plans. “We are very pleased with the follow-on funding from Finance Wales which endorses our business model and allows us to invest for the future. The investment not only secures our capital base, but will allow us to develop our unique selling point as the largest independent provider of youth expeditions in the UK with a truly ethical policy at its heart.”

David Staziker, Investment Manager at Finance Wales plc, said the follow-on investment would underpin Outlook’s expansion. “With an already high quality product and strengthened environmental and ethical stances, Outlook Expeditions Ltd has a unique selling point to a young audience that is fully conscious of its green responsibilities. The additional financial investment gives Outlook a firm capital base which will allow the company to continue it growth and significantly increase its client base through enhanced working relationships with schools, teachers and youth leaders.”

The investment will support Outlook as it looks for ways to sustainably improve its operations and further develop its unique responsible travel training programme supported by its specially commissioned online carbon calculator. As part of the investment and expansion, David Wood MBE MC has been appointed chairman of the company. In addition to its foreign expeditions, since its inception Outlook has also supported nearly 50,000 young people through UK-based outdoor courses, teacher training and education programmes.

The participants’ training includes responsible travel workshops, how to keep an expedition Environmental Log and an introduction to carbon offsetting. Participants choose for themselves whether to pay to offset their expeditions through The CarbonNeutral Company – one of the world's leading carbon offset and carbon management businesses - which Outlook commissions to offset the emissions of its own operations. The aim of the programme is that pupils gain an increased awareness of their individual impact on the places they travel through and how to turn this into a positive when possible.

“We believe that travel promotes awareness and that awareness drives action. Every decision has a maze of pros and cons to weigh up,” added Rhys. “We are not saying we have all the answers but we hope that by taking part in our expeditions and programmes, young people will develop key life skills and be better equipped to form their own opinions on global issues.”

In addition to youth expeditions, the company runs outdoor activity courses at its headquarters in Llanberis, Snowdonia, and at its Scottish facility in Perthshire, as well as at individual schools throughout the UK, often leading to long and short overseas expeditions. The company also provides teachers and youth leaders with Link Teacher Training courses to enhance their personal and professional development. Employing 32 full-time and 70 freelance staff, it is planning to increase its full-time complement as part of the latest expansion. More information about Outlook Expeditions Ltd can be found at www.outlookexpeditions.com.

Business advisors on the deal were CIL (commercial due diligence), Simple Effective Solutions (management due diligence), Hugh James (legals for Finance Wales plc) and M&A Solicitors (legals for Outlook).