Steppes managing director Justin Wateridge has enlisted the help of 16 high profile speakers to kick off the event, which it’s hoped could become an annual date in the calendar to provide inspiration and highlight the role of responsible tourism for today’s travellers.
Alongside Fiennes will be National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year Alastair Humphreys; one of the UK’s most respected naturalists Chris Packham; TV vet Steve Leonard; and champion freediver and ocean conservationist, Hanli Prinsloo.
The Beyond Travel Festival takes place at the Royal Geographical Society in London over the weekend of September 17 and 18 with four main talks each day, along with a range of other sessions.
These include a panel discussion with heavyweight conservationists, seminars by travel authors, photography masterclasses, art exhibitions, travel clinics - including some by Steppes’ own in-house specialists – talks from documentary makers and film screenings, such as the award-winning Virunga.
Wateridge said: “The festival has been born out of mine and Steppes’ genuine love of travel and while we have held many one-off talks at the RGS in the past, I wanted to create something more in-depth that would allow us to really spend more time with clients and fellow travellers – and also give them time to interact with our speakers too. This just seemed like a natural progression.”
It’s hoped Beyond Travel will attract around 2,000 people over the course of the weekend and Wateridge said that while about a third of people attending were likely to be Steppes’ own clients, the festival would also be “something of great interest and excitement to others”.
“It’s not designed to be something that preaches either – more something which offers key takeaways on how people might do things and travel differently,” he said.
Saturday’s theme will be conservation and wildlife, whilst Sunday will focus on the theme of “beyond the ordinary”.
Wateridge added: “I’m delighted so many of my personal heroes have agreed to speak and also that we can showcase some of the brilliant people we work with.”
All profits from the event will be shared amongst Steppes’ partner charities, including Tusk Trust, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, WildCRU, I am Water and Restless Development.