Experience Travel Group
The company was founded by two Brits, Tom Armstrong and Sam Clark, who had fallen in love with Sri Lanka in the late 1990s/early 2000s and decided to start a travel business with a difference. They were there when the tsunami
of Christmas 2004 hit and for six months were involved in aid work on the ground, before they finally (re-)launched their company as "Experience Sri Lanka" in 2006 (note: now renamed Experience Travel Group
They had travelled around and lived in Sri Lanka for extended periods and gained such experience in it that they made it their company's mission to pass this insight on and offer an alternative to the usual, predictable mainstream beach-resort and Cultural Triangle package tours. They do cover that sector of the holidaying market as well, but offer so much more beyond!
Since the early days with the sole focus on Sri Lanka they've expanded in both the size of the company and in terms of what countries they cover – currently nine (and hence the change to the non-country-specific company name now). This includes several countries of prime interest to the dark tourist too. Note, however, that the company is not as such a specialist in dark tourism. But they are exceptionally open to it and are able to cater for such special interests very well too.
I personally used them four times, first for a holiday (honeymoon, in fact!) in Sri Lanka
in 2006/2007 (i.e. I was among their early customers) and then again for a longer, intense field trip to Cambodia
in 2008/2009. It was especially in the context of that latter trip that I really tested Experience Travel Group
's expertise in putting together a tight, tailor-made package with an intense focus on dark tourism to my exacting specifications. And they delivered! Read the pages about the relevant countries and you will see!
Then in the summer of 2014, I went on an even longer and more demanding trip that was in large parts put together with this company's help – and this time it was to Indonesia
. More recently still I used them again to put together for me a specially tailored trip to India
, over the Xmas and Newy Year's period of 2016/2017, again with a specific focus on dark tourism for parts of the trip.
I may also go back to Sri Lanka
before long (to check out the more recently opened-up northermn parts I couldn't go to in 2006), and won't even look beyond Experience Travel Group
when organizing/booking that trip.
Experience Travel Group
have been supporters of my dark-tourism website project from its earliest days (Sam in particular) and now I can give back support to them by placing this sponsored page
here. So, do go and visit the Experience Travel Group
website (external link, opens in new window). You won't find anything with specific reference to dark tourism there, but contact them with your itinerary specifications and they will try their best to make it happen.
If you do end up booking a trip with them make sure you mention that you saw them advertised here on dark-tourism.com! (Here's why
Their focus on offering the best experiences in the various countries of their expertise includes the luxury end of the travel world (especially with regard to accommodation) but they also have eco lodges and more adventurous things in their portfolio. They're not for backpackers, though, and won't offer just individual excursions or such patch-work elements. Instead they want to give their customers a well-structured package as a whole. It can be as tailor-made as you want (and doesn't have to, but can, include international flights), but it's holidays they sell, not single components thereof.
But that does not mean they wouldn't make it individual for you. They do. There are pre-packaged holidays in their catalogue but their real special expertise lies in tailoring a trip to an individual, and always in close consultation with the client They don't just want to take (namely your money) but are clearly passionate about giving their clients the best experience for their specific requirements and wishes. To achieve this they also co-operate with various carefully selected specialists on the ground within the respective countries.
From my own experiences with them I can vouch for the overall quality of their services. Naturally, not everything always works out perfectly on the ground in the countries concerned. Glitches are part of the experience in these parts of the world. Such as when one of my guides in Vietnam
, namely for for a DMZ tour
, turned out not to be quite the proficient expert in Vietnam War
history that he had made out to be. This resulted in some involuntarily funny deliveries such as "here strong shooting, boom boom, terrible!" (such inept commentary aside, though, we still saw
everything we wanted to see).
On the other hand, most guides provided were not only expertly competent but also went way beyond the call of duty. For example, in Thailand
when we rode the Death Railway
it was our guide's suggestion to get off a stop earlier and walk the Wang Pho viaduct (an option that wouldn't even have occurred to me as a possibility!). She was also of invaluable help with regard to food & drink
. Without that help I would never have experienced the real Thai cuisine (namely at roadside stalls where no English is spoken and no "amends" to Westerners are made – so for someone like me who likes it hot and spicy
– and at the same time semi-vegetarian
– it was heaven, all thanks to the good services of the guide provided by Experience Travel Group
Speaking of food & drink
– I already knew they provided expert guidance in this area from that first trip to Sri Lanka
, where our driver-guide, once he realized we wanted the real thing, also made sure we got the most authentic food, including the proper heat level! And in Bangkok
, one of Experience Travel Group
's co-founders, Tom, even took us on an evening "food safari" with his Thai partner, namely to one of the totally non-touristy open-air food markets that so characterize that country's culinary culture. Without that guidance we wouldn't even have known about or dared to go to these markets outside the normal tourist areas.
So if you're like me and would like to combine your dark with the delights of genuinely authentic food as well as some exceptional accommodation, then you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone better than the Experience Travel Group