I keep prices low by reducing commission rates, says WanderlustAU
Glenn Anderson is the founder of WanderlustAU, a travel consultancy business which aims to help everyone get the right product for the right price. This Whitsundays-based company caught our eye when its Facebook mission statement claimed to beat 90% of competitor quotes. We decided to get the official low-down from Glenn himself.
Tell us about your background within the tourism industry
I have worked in tourism since 2006. Working on tour boats in the Whitsundays and in various hotels around Australia. Starting as a deckhand on the boats before working my way up and studying to complete my Skipper’s ticket. I’ve worked for a handful of companies which allowed me to see the diversity in the tourism market. As a result, I have had the pleasure of talking about the industry in depth with everyone from Russian billionaires to 18-year-old backpackers.
Give us the run-down on WanderlustAU, what is your game plan?
WanderlustAU is a solo venture that has been created to enhance the desire to travel in Australia and surrounding islands. I achieve this by only selling the best tours in their respective price range and by selling them with a local’s discount no matter who is booking the trip. Too many packages on offer are currently including trips that should never be booked due to their many flaws such as, inexperienced, unhappy, underpaid tour guides, operating boats and vehicles that are far from safe, and just barely abide by laws and regulations to keep operating. These tours are inserted into the packages to make the overall price as cheap as possible, though for a small amount extra you could go from peasant to pleasant. We all know that its the tour guides that make or break trips. I refuse to sell below average trips.
We also focus heavily on finding the right trip for the right person, be it a goon-fueled party for the young and single or a quiet, tranquil tour for the newlyweds.
What inspired you to start up this company on your own?
My inspiration came from my seemingly unshakable habit of wondering how I can improve something. There are many problems within the tourism industry currently and my goal is to fix them, one day at a time, one tour at a time. If I could generate enough of a market, we could potentially irradiate inadequate tours. Though that is likely to be a 15-20 year mission.
You say you have access to over 26,000 products in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Asia, are you booking through a channel manager?
Yes, I am using the wonderful system put together by Website Travel, which makes bookings and payment incredibly easy. They currently have over 26,000 products and are increasing the range at a rapid rate. They also offer excellent help and support for people like me, always the guide never the agent.
How do you intend to keep your prices low?
Keeping prices low is simply a matter of reducing commission rates. Being independent I am able to drop commission to levels that a regular travel agent working in a large company could never do without losing their job. All travel agencies work on commission which needs to be divided between the employee, supervisors, managers and executives, which gives very little wiggle room on price. Agents have all kinds of tricks to sell, the most common being reducing the price because they ‘like you’ – they are simply bringing the tour down to a price close to what it should realistically be sold for.
What are some of the problems you have faced working in the backpacking industry?
I think its more of a market shift that is not properly addressed as its happening. Australia used to be cheap, even going back 6 years I remember working on a party boat that was full of 18 year old Europeans fresh out of school. Their parents had given them $5000 to disappear for 5 months in Australia, and they did, successfully. These days it seems you would need closer to $15,000 for the same duration and tours, which has shifted the market to a more civilized, older and educated crowd that have worked hard to save for their trip.
The new crowd wants different things and some operators are refusing to change, which to me is the single biggest problem. In saying this, some operators have taken the change and accelerated it to a whole new level, Ride To Paradise in the Whitsundays is a perfect example, they have taken a standard backpacker trip and turned it into a proper 5 star experience, with no real price increase.
What do you believe is the solution to these problems?
Honesty, like with every problem in life. Be honest to the backpackers, don’t book tours that are not up to scratch. Just because it is cheap and makes the company good commission does not excuse the agent from booking it. Backpackers come here for the time of their life, and to make stories that they will tell to their grand children. I would have thought that we, Australia, would be working together to make those stories the best they can possibly be, though unfortunately it is not the case. WanderlustAU works very closely with the tour guides, not the operators, which gives us a very in depth insiders honest view on the tours. We have friends who are tour guides strategically placed in all the main destinations along the east coast of Australia, informants if you like, whose names will never be revealed. It has taken a few years to get to this stage, and I am very excited to finally be putting it all together.
Take a look at WanderlustAU for yourself here and tell us what you think. Have your say
Interviewed by Alex Harmon