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Noah Brodsky's on a mission at Lindblad Expeditions

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Noah Brodsky in Greenland, which he called 'stunning ... an amazing place that is so under-appreciated'
Lindblad Expeditions has spent decades convincing people that Antarctica, the Galápagos and the Arctic are amazing places to visit. With demand for expedition travel now exploding, Noah Brodsky's mission is helping travelers understand 'why Lindblad is the best way to go.'

He called Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic 'the most authentic, incredible, adventurous, exciting, safe experience you can have to travel to these environments. We need to be sure our marketing reflects that.'  

Brodsky joined as chief commercial officer a little over five months ago from the Travel + Leisure Group, where he was president and chief brand officer for Travel + Leisure Co. Previously, he served as chief brand officer for Wyndham Destinations. Earlier roles were with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Starwood Hotels and Four Seasons Resorts.

Lindblad's edge

The biggest thing that sets Lindblad apart, in his view, is 'our incredible staff — our naturalists, our certified photo instructors, our National Geographic explorers that are unique, tenured, experienced experts in all the regions we go to.'

And the ships 'tell the story: why us,' he added. It's vital to convey why each is 'special for the places we go to,' whether they're smaller vessels with a shallow draft with viewing close to the water or larger and more stable with less environmental impact.

The right ship for each destination

Brodksy said company founder Sven-Olof Lindblad's 'ethos has always been focused on having the right ship for each destination. Looking back at the historical explorers, they each carefully planned the ship for their voyage. For us, it's very important as we continue to match the right ship to the destination.'

Brodsky has been been busy getting to know the Lindblad experience first-hand.

In early July he traveled on National Geographic Resolution to Greenland — an eye-opener.

'It was stunning. There's a great mix of animals, culture, scenery  — Icebergs, fjords, the Greenland ice sheet. thousands of years of history,' he said. 'Hiking through amazing archaeological sites and the animals — whales, seals, sea lions. It's an amazing place that is so under-appreciated.'

Other trips included a short cruise from Vancouver, BC north along the fjords, then back to Seattle, and the new National Geographic Islander II's naming voyage in the Galápagos ('mind-blowing, incredible') and a short New York Harbor cruise on National Geographic Sea Lion for a company marketing meeting.

Life-changing travel

After living plastic-free for a week in the Galápagos, 'I came home and wanted to change my  life ... That's what travel like this can do. It can inspire you to think about the world differently. That's really exciting to be a part of, as a consumer or as an operator.'

He'll soon be heading to Costa Rica on National Geographic Quest and then on a bike trip in Portugal with Lindblad sub-brand DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.

Brodsky's keen to experience Antarctica, too, and hopes to take his young son to Alaska.

'If I went to a new country every year, it would take me several lifetimes to get to all the ones [we visit],' he said.

Rounding out his team

Brodsky oversees all the Lindblad Expeditions Holdings brands —  including DuVine, Natural Habitat Adventures, Off the Beaten Path and Classic Journeys, noting 'each one has its own strong sales and marketing team.'

Recent key hires were former Windstar Cruises President John Delaney as head of global sales for the Lindblad brand; he also oversees revenue management, and Vanessa Picariello, VP brand and communications. Picariello worked with Brodsky as senior director, brand publicity at Travel + Leisure Co. and as director, brand publicity, Wyndham Destinations. Earlier, she led global public relations for Norwegian Cruise Line.

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Vanessa Picariello

Brodsky's pleased to have a 'strong mix of cruise industry and Lindblad veterans.' He said they all have an inspirational founder in Sven Lindblad who's 'as passionate and inspiring as ever with an Incredible perspective on the world ... and what we can accomplish in making the world better for future generations.'

Current focus

The company launched three ships during the pandemic — its first polar newbuilds, National Geographic Resolution and National Geographic Endurance and Galápagos year-rounder National Geographic Islander II (converted from Crystal Esprit).

'We need to continue to recover from the pandemic and sail full ships at full rates,' Brodsky said. 'To do that, It's a mix of marketing, improving our digital experience, ensuring our onboard experience continues to be world class and continuing to develop and grow our relationships with the travel advisor community.'

Over the summer, airlift was a challenge. Japan programs were canceled as the country hadn't opened to international cruise ships. Itineraries touching Russia, including a Northeast Passage expedition, also were replaced.

In reporting third quarter results earlier this month, the company put occupancy at 81%. Operating areas included Alaska, the Arctic, the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Canada's Northwest Passage, the Galápagos, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and South America. Lindblad was among the first back to places like Papua New Guinea, Colombia and Greenland.

Good community partner

Brodsky witnessed almost the entire population of a small Greenland town coming out to greet his ship.

Lindblad is welcomed where it operates because 'We are actively working to be a good partner in all these communities and keep them safe and keep our passengers safe,' he said. The aim is to be a 'good explorer at places with people or without.'

Azipods, for example, enable some ships to use dynamic positioning, instead of dropping anchor in sensitive areas. The company is serious about reducing waste. It builds positive community interactions and has been a big supporter for years in the Galápagos with the National Geographic Lindblad Expeditions Fund having raised $16m to fuel 250 community grants.

Onboard retail features local artisans, giving 100% of the proceeds back to them, while the ships' art is from the destinations, too.

'In every touchpoint ... we're thinking about the world we're living in and making a postive impact and inspiring our guests to go home and make a positive impact, too,' Brodsky said.

With COVID-19 travel restrictions falling away, Lindblad will resume in additional geographies over the rest of 2022 and throughout 2023. Booking trends are strong, 'way outpacing where we were in 2019 for 2020.'

Digital transformation

Digital transformation is one of Brodksy's fortes.

As earlier reported, Lindblad is implementing the Versonix Seaware reservations platform early next year. That's expected to greatly help travel advisors.

On the customer-facing front, digital tools are being harnessed to tell the Lindblad story to a wider audience.

Traditionally, customers were older, with the time and the money to take a far-flung trip. But the audience is getting younger — it now averages 59 — with multigenerational travelers in Alaska and the Galápagos.

Demand across every age

'There's demand for this product across every age,' Brodsky said. Improved shipboard Wi-Fi enables people to take longer trips to more remote locations. He himself had Teams meetings for work and Facetimed with his family from the Galápagos.

The company also sprinkles in some shorter trips. It's now possible to visit Greenland in an abbreviated five days in addition to a more comprehensive 19-day expedition.

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