All posts by Chris Harrison


Price tag at Cape Hillsborough sunrise tour aims to protect animals and tourists

Operators of one of North Queensland’s top tourist attractions say they’ve had to slap a price tag on a previously free wildlife tour because of a massive influx of tourists threatening the experience. Cape Hillsborough, near Mackay, is best known for its pristine beaches, and more recently a unique wallaby and kangaroo sunrise tour that was featured on a nationwide Qantas inflight-safety advertisement.

As a result, the beach now attracts hundreds of tourists each week. They flock to the shore to watch the animals as they feed with the stunning sunrise as a backdrop.
The experience has been enjoyed by locals and tourists for free for more than a decade, but recently operators of a nearby tourist park say they’ve had to make some changes due to tourists putting the animals and themselves at risk.

The owner of Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, Ben Atherton, said tourist numbers had quadrupled in just over a year and, while that was a positive for the region, the animals had paid the price. “We began to notice lots of people bringing down loaves of bread, chocolate bars, packets of chips, just all the stuff we shouldn’t be giving to wildlife, just to get a good photo,” Mr Atherton said. “When they’re being fed that by tourist after tourist, every day, the animals end up really crook, they can end up with lumpy jaw [bacterial infection] and all sorts of digestive issues. “But the biggest thing is, when that food runs out the animals can get quite aggressive. Not knowing that there’s no more food there, the animals will attack the person. That’s what we’re trying to prevent. We needed to keep everyone safe.”

Mr Atherton said that just after Cyclone Debbie there was a “massive influx of media coverage”. “Plus we were still riding off the back of the Qantas ad which was viewed by nearly 63,000 people a day,” he said. “And after that the dynamics just changed. The crowds just went nuts. We used to get 10 people a morning, now sometimes we get 140.”
Mr Atherton said the challenge was keeping the crowds safe as well as the animals.

The wallabies’ safety is paramount.

Hoping to provide a solution to the problem, Mackay Tourism stepped in to help regulate the experience by adding a price tag to the previously free tour. The tours will now cost $22 a head and $14 for children from May 21. The revamped tour will offer visitors a guided experience with a trained tour guide and headsets with commentary about Cape Hillsborough’s history and conservation.

Mackay Tourism General Manager Tas Webber said the move was necessary. “We believe management of the experience is what we need to do to make it sustainable for the long term,” Mr Webber said. “We’ve put measures in place to make sure there’s no physical interaction between humans and the wallabies, to make sure everyone can enjoy it and get what they’re after. “We were worried there would be some adverse interactions. This way we can ensure that doesn’t happen and the wallabies’ safety is paramount throughout the whole experience.” Mr Webber said controlling the experience would also help prevent incidents like the one at Lake Macquarie in the Hunter Region of New South Wales two weeks ago where a kangaroo attacked a tourist, leaving her requiring more than 15 stitches.

He said while the beach would not be closed to the public, he hoped the guided tour would encourage tourists to become educated about the animals, the region and the need for such sustainability measures.

Will the tourists still come?

Sunrise Wallaby Experience tour guide Samantha Tilden said she thought visitors would embrace the changes. “It’s just to keep it going. We’ve got the best interests of the animal and the visitors at heart,” Ms Tilden said. “It’s exciting to see such big numbers coming through. It’s great for our area. This place is beautiful, but we want to keep it that way for everyone.” German tourist Marianna Gil said she supported the idea and would still visit, with or without the fee. She said the price might better control numbers, making the experience more intimate and enjoyable for visitors. “We heard about the kangaroos and wallabies and really wanted to see it,” she said. “It is so amazing but we expected fewer people. “I think if you have to pay, put a cap on the number of people that can come. That would be better. The experience is still so worth it.” English tourists Gareth Davis and Faye Harrison agreed, saying they would still pay the price if it meant the animals were better looked after. “I thought it was great, but a lot more people than I expected,” Mr Davis said.  Mr Atherton said the fee was a small price to pay for what was on offer. “We just want this experience to survive,” he said.

Source: ABC

GUEST POST: Lost, hospitalised and then found in Sydney

All too often we hear the bad news stories about our backpacker friends as they work, travel and explore Australia. Of course the vast majority of what is going on out there is young people enjoying our wonderful country in safety and security. When things do go wrong it is good to know that Australian organisations and authorities are here to support them.

Visitoz/Australian Working Adventures is a small family company based in south-east Queensland specialising in training backpackers for rural/outback work and then arranging work for them. When one of their customers, Asterix (not his real name, to spare him further blushes), a 20-year-old young man from Belgium went missing, they were able to recruit the assistance of a number of friends, industry contacts and the authorities to track him down and quickly reassure worried parents at home.

Asterix had simply disappeared off the radar. Neither his parents nor anyone else had heard from him for over three weeks and all that could be discovered was the he had been briefly admitted to the emergency department of a Sydney hospital. He was off email, off social media and not reachable by phone. As you can imagine this was very worrying for his parents back home in Belgium, particularly as they did not speak much English and could do little to find him from so far away. They contacted the Visitoz team.

Within 12 hours of raising their concern the team at Visitoz had posted on numerous social media channels, into the networks of backpacker and adventure travel providers and the Sydney hostels. Soon after that, they filed a missing person report with the Sydney police. Messages of support flowed in from all directions and within 12 hours of filing the missing person’s report, Sydney police had identified the hostel where Asterix was staying. They sent an officer to check and so all ended well.

Asterix had just dropped off line. His phone was broken, so without this method of communication and with limited funds he had found it difficult to make contact with home. Reliable communication methods to young travellers here in Australia are at a premium. Secondly, it reminds us all how lucky we are to live in a country with sophisticated, organised community safety and emergency services, as well as a networked industry that can rally fast to offer support. Needless to say this is a key strength of Australian Youth Tourism.

Visitoz/Australian Working Adventures would like to thank the Sydney Police and all the other friends and companies who offered support and advice during this time.

Written by Will Taunton-Burnett, General Manager/Director

BYTE REPORT: WYSE Exchange Australia 2018

WYSE Exchange Australia returned to Sydney last week, a 3-day event with two days of B2B meetings (Tuesday and Thursday), various networking functions and the inbound youth tourism sector’s leading  conference of 2018.

WYSE Travel Confederation hand picked international buyers, flew them to Australia and in partnership with DNSW hosted them so they could meet (B2B) and experience (famils) Australia’s best youth tourism products.

Feedback from the business sessions and social functions has been excellent, every seller The Byte spoke to had something positive to say and had gained new business from their time in sessions and functions.

Below is a group of takeaways from the sector’s conference, held at the Ovolo Woolloomooloo on Wednesday. There isn’t room here to discuss all sessions, but we hope to bring you some key takeaways from the main ones.

If you would like to know more, then connect with us, or your colleagues and competitors who did attend and try to keep an eye out for future WYSE Travel Confederation events in 2018-2019.

The first presentaion we’ll talk about came from our very own Kristy Carstairs from Tourism Australia (well we like to think she is still ours) and the second from WYSE Travel Confedation’s own Director General David Chapman.

Kristy started by telling the audience that the inbound youth market (18-35) to Australia still accounted for 25% of all visitors and still produced a whopping 46% of the total spend. Long stay, but still regarded as ‘high value’. She qualified that the majority of the broader youth market are actually international students and that as a result 50% of the youth market is Chinese.  Still, we also know that ‘backpackers’ and/or ‘working holiday makers’ make up a big portion of the total youth travel market too.

Some fascinating research (New Horizons IV) from WYSE Travel Confederation gave us the following:

The average spend on youth travel (per person) for Australia and New Zealand is about $11000, with Germany the biggest spenders, followed closely by the UK (hence why TA are currently running campaigns and carrying our market research in those important markets) and the USA.

Only 10% of youth visitors use destination marketing sites, 45% use information from family and friends, 30% use social media information and 25% use price comparison websites. This is all for pre-travel information, so ensure your current customers are having a great time and posting their fun on your social media platforms.

“TA’s current in-market global youth campaign targets working holiday visa holders, at the source markets of Germany and UK. Packaged with key distribution partners, we hope to see an upturn in the number of WHMs over the next few years. Tourism Australia went so far as to suggest that 417 applications have now flattened and are no longer in decline. Time will tell!

(Anicdotally, it appears the first 12 months of the new 15% ‘backpacker tax’ has raised over $1 billion for the Federal Government, in return this sector received $10 million (once) and that may be all we get).

With no further Federal Governement money specifically allocated in 2019 to this market, once the current campaign is finished, it’s our job as a sector to keep the pressure on our governments to allocate funds for further campaigns to the youth market. The suggestion is also that its now the job of our state bodies; BOA NSW and Adventure Queensland to work together and lobby the Federal Government.

A highly informative session came up next looking at Travel tech trends for the youth market. How are travellers expecting to interact with people and technology while travelling.  WYSE Travel Conferations invited tech experts from Travello (Ryan Hanly) and FareHarbor (Sal Percival) to give the audience some insights.

Travello is a ‘social app’ that connects travellers with each other and travel businesses with travellers and Ryan said the engagement with travellers ‘on the move’ (due to mobile connectivity) was expanding and young people are always looking to connect with like-minded friends and businesses. His key insight or takeaway was – Winding Tree a blockchain-based decentralized open-source travel distribution platform. One worth looking into!

Salvatore is from one of the new kids on the block. FarHarbor only set up (originally from Hawaii, now headquartered in Denver) in Australia 9 months ago, they now have 15 staff in their Sydney office and say they’ll have 50 by the end of 2018.  How you might say? Easy big $$$ behind them.

So while we know 80% of tours and activities bookings are currently made ‘offline’, like all other sectors this one is evolving and we will see change. FareHarbor wants to be part of that change and is offering operators great incentives to drive ‘direct’ (IE non trade, non ITO, non OTA) business. Sal suggests its all about improving a business’s online presence, improving a customer’s (or website vistitors) online experience and ‘going direct’.

Also, IT’S A FACT (must be Google said so) – “85% of leisure travellers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination” Source: Google Trips.

Hang on, have I got this right? 80% of bookings (in the tours and activities space) are made offline and 85% of these bookings are made in destination. So why is all the ongoing hype about digital (online) and in-market?? Just asking Ok!

Moving on now to the last session we will discuss in this report – Risk v reality: Australia’s visitor safety reputation and the media. A panel session with Laurie Berg (UTS), Peter Mackey (NSW Dept of Industry), David Cox (Gold Coast Tourism & AQ) and Sam Badans (YHA & BOA NSW).

Tied in with visitor safety is also our international reputation for looking after our young visitors. To understand this issue one might search ‘labour’ or similar on this news site or read the report Wage Theft in Australia. These are the findings of the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey conducted by universities around Australia.

While some of the research methodology might questioned (as was in the session) that findings to reflect some major issues we carry around pay and wage theft in this country.

Peter Mackey went on to discuss this issue in the context of international students and intra-nationality theft. David and Sam presented one action that our own sector is taking as a solution or aid to temporary migrants, this is still in development but is looking promising and suggests that we as a sector are taking action.


WYSE Exchange Australia

  • Over 100 stakeholders in the Australian inbound youth travel industry
  • 30 qualified international hosted buyers
  • Expert industry speakers and government representatives
  • In partnership with Destination NSW
  • Participating buyers send 97,310 youth and student travellers to Australia every year
  • Participating buyers send youth and student travellers to Australia from 33 countries









WYSE Travel Confederation believes in the economic and social power of youth, student and educational travel. They believe young people can make a positive impact on the world when they go abroad, and when they return home.  Scotland has just declared 2018 the Year of Young People to spotlight the contributions of youth to communities and create new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally. WYSE Travel Confederation heads to the country’s capital, Edinburgh, for the 2018 World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) on 18-21 September. During WYSTC they will share new findings from their New Horizons Survey of more than 57,000 young travellers worldwide.

WYSTC 2018 in Edinburgh is the next opportunity for the Australian youth tourism sector to connect with the innovators and leaders of a vibrant and valuable youth travel market. And with Tourism Australia again supporting an “Australian Village” your exhibition costs are already covered!

Written by Mike Barrow and Chris Harrison

Work and Holiday visa arrangements signed with Austria and Czech Republic

Australia has recently signed Work and Holiday visa agreements with Austria and the Czech Republic. Australian, Austrian and Czech nationals between the ages of 18 and 30 can now apply for Work and Holiday visas (visa class 462). The visas allow for Australian and partner country nationals (Austria and the Czech Republic) to travel, work and study in each other’s countries for short-term stays. Interested Austrians and Czechs must have either completed a tertiary qualification or have successfully completed at least two years of undergraduate study, among other things. Employers may hire individuals on Work and Holiday visas for up to six months.

Austria and the Czech Republic joins 22 other countries that have work and holiday visa arrangements with Australia, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, Uruguay and Vietnam.

Australia’s current Work and Holiday program allows foreign nationals to visit for up to one year, during which time they may study for up to four months and work for up to six months for any one employer.

RIP Wicked Travel, finally the now disrespected brand leaves our lives

I don’t need to repeat the journey we have all taken with Wicked Travel over recent times, but what I would like to bring to you attention is its final demise.

You see Wicked Travel and Greyhound Wicked Travel (both versions of that name, before and after the liquidiation of Wicked Travel) are no more. Greyhound Australia have closed a few more under-performing stores and are now in the process of rebranding and realigning the stores they have left under their own umbrella.

There are five stores remaining (for now), these are Sydney (Pitt Street), two in Byron Bay and two in Cairns. The other Sydney stores in George Street and Bondi Beach both closed last month. Greyhound Australia also has a ticket office in Eddy Avenue, but there are currently no plans to sell 3rd party travel from this site.

The journey for this transition has clearly not been easy, but that chapter has closed and a corner has been turned. Greyhound stands behind all staff and its now a company (and travel brand) that is on the move. This can be seen by the new Whimit campaign and its in-store launches.

Well done Alex and the rest of the team at Greyhound Australia. Congratulations, good luck, onward and upward.

Written by Chris Harrison

Photo credit: Greyhound Google+