All posts by Chris Harrison


REPORT: Backpacker and Adventure Industry Forum, hosted by YHA Australia

The Backpacker and Adventure Industry Forum, hosted by YHA was held this week at Byron Bay’s Community Centre. Approximately 150 delegates attended the event, mainly YHA hostel managers but also local operators, a strong Gold Coast contingent, plus transport and adventure reps and of course The Byte as your media.

Julian Ledger, CEO YHA Ltd, gave a briefing on industry updates, followed by Kristy Carstairs, Tourism Australia, highlighting the in market TA campaign, giving an insight to how the $10m youth market campaign is being wisely spent.

It was great to see Greyhound Australia finally back at a youth sector lectern, with Alex de Waal, CEO Greyhound Australia, launching the new Greyhound campaign (Whimit) and being open and honest about the paths our national coach carrier is taking.

The inimitable David Cox, Youth Specialist, Destination Gold Coast, presented on the success of their marketing strategies aimed at the backpacker and youth markets and how marketing has changed from mass marketing to peer reviews and social media. ‘Personalise or perish, engage with your market’, were the takeaways here as your market are also your brand ambassadors who can make or break your business.

Questions to our learned panel opened up with: “what can industry do collectively for tourism”? Tourism Australia’s Kristy Carstairs was very upbeat indicating the youth sector in Australia does exceptionally well compared to other countries around the world. Government haven’t been on our side regarding tax for working holiday makers and there has been plenty of bad publicity around treatment of workers on farms. Focus groups held recently in the UK and Germany by TA shows these agendas do not even register with travellers coming to our sunny shores.

The initial phase for TA’s spending has been completed. UK and Germany working visas have slowed down and this is where the next phase of TA spending will focus. Look out for Kristy next week at the WYSE conference in Sydney.

All in all a vibrant and well presented morning, kindly hosted by YHA.

What do you think industry can do better for backpacker / youth tourism in Australia?

Written by Mike Barrow

Backpackers get set to see Australia with Whimit – travel without limit.

Greyhound Australia has launched an Australian-first unlimited coach travel product targeting the young, wild and free backpacker market. Whimit is a significant and unique travel experience innovation offering travellers newfound levels of freedom and Greyhound believes it is set to revolutionise the Australian travel and tourism industry.

Whimit is a new way to explore Australia – a travel pass sold in days, and not by distance or destination, allowing people to travel on a whim without limit on any route, in any direction, on Australia’s largest coach network. Greyhound Australia Chief Executive Officer, Alex de Waal, says the product is the new evolution of coach travel.

“Whimit is our vision for the future and brings to life the idealistic view of what exploring Australia is all about; freedom of travel without limit.” “No plan, no worries! Unlike other products on the market, Whimit lets travellers see Australia on a whim with no restrictions, so they can come and go as they please for as long as their pass is valid” Mr de Waal added.

“The 18-30-year-old backpacker audience demands more value and less restrictions, so we have created a value-packed pass starting from seven days at $249 through to a 365-day pass enabling a year’s worth of travel around Australia for the daily cost of less than a coffee.”

Tourism Australia Managing Director, John O’Sullivan said youth travel was a critically important part of the visitor mix, contributing 25 per cent of all Australia’s visitor arrivals and 46 per cent in spend.

“We all know that young travellers in Australia are seeking fun and adventure but in most cases they are also travelling on a budget. Greyhound Australia has been helping backpackers get around our country for many years and it’s great to see them taking new and innovative approaches to continue doing so, in ways which are affordable and offer flexibility,” he said.

To celebrate the launch of this exciting new product, official Whimit launch parties occurred nationwide and Greyhound has teamed up with some of our favourite Aussie experience operators to give away the ultimate Aussie adventure for four people valued at over $30,000!

Participants can enter the $30,000 ultimate Aussie adventure competition via Instagram – and as Greyhound are saying ‘you’ve got to be in it to Whimit!’.

Freedom seekers were also encouraged to get on down to launch festivities at one of Greyhound’s ticketing locations on Wednesday 2 May 2018 for big surprises! Some were the first to crack in-store fortune cookies and change your destiny with adventure-themed giveaways, including an epic 45-day Whimit pass.

More information at

In an increasingly cashless society, how many forms of payment are you taking?

We’ve all walked into shops around Australia and seen the sign on the counter or attached to the register says “cash only”. We can assume the only mean Aussie dollars too right! Are they limiting themselves? What about debit and credit card payments? Around the world more and more people are not even carrying cash, and in the travel industry, if they are, it may not even be in the right currency.

So as a business in the tourism industry, what forms of payments do you take? – apart from cash (or maybe you don’t even want cash to count at the end of the day anymore!).

So, what are the other options? Obviously debit and credit cards and AMEX for those willing to pay the extra fees, but what about UnionPay, PayPal, WeChatPay, Gift vouchers, BarterCard, plus that cash in other currencies (doesn’t take that long to look up an exchange rate anymore?) and what about bitcoin and the cryptocurrencies? It may not be cash, but its all money baby!! and if these guys (below) can do it, so might you!

Comment (and other forms of money) welcome.

What is it like to be a busker in an increasingly cashless society?

Josh Thompson knows. He travelled the world for four and a half years as a busker and has seen audiences move away from carrying cash. To counter this, Mr Thompson and his busking partner have started taking electronic payments for their street performances.

“I think if buskers can keep up with that and have the technology available on the street for someone to just swipe and walk away, then that spontaneous feeling is still there.” Are audiences paying? Mr Thompson says busking audiences in Australia are hesitant to make electronic payments to buskers, but that this isn’t the case everywhere.

“In Europe and the UK, with apps and PayPal and everyone getting into bitcoin, people actually are paying buskers with digital currency,” he said. Marketing expert Julie Lee said she understands why some sectors of the market are hesitant to take up the practice. “If we’re thinking in general, pulling a bit of change out of your pocket is less identifiable, and has no safety and security issues involved with it,” she said.

Professor Lee highlighted that some people still have trouble trusting electronic payment systems. “There’s an idea that you’ve got a card that maybe has personal details on it, or that if you pay electronically you could be charged more than you’re willing to give,” she said.

Further reading

ABS, IVS and WHM stats to Dec 2017

The Department of Home Affairs WHV report for the six months ending Dec 2017 is not yet available. However, there is some useful data which can be sourced if you know where to look.

Going back to the Dec 2016 published report a comparison table looks like this:






The trends are clear:
–        A continuing small decline in 417s (eg 1st year down 3%)
–        A continuing increase in 462s (eg 1st year up 16%)

The contraction in 417 2nd year visas may be due to a tougher employment test and more people voting with their feet and giving harvest work a miss. While the growth in 462 visas is due to new countries coming onbaord and a couple of caps being lifted.

But is this the real story? What we know is that program numbers peaked in 2012-2013 at 258.000 and has declined 18.7% since then. It looks like the growth in 462 might start to counteract some of the annual decline in 417s, but it doesn’t make up for the 40-50,000 lost in the last 5 years. Add to that the decline in overnights (now down below 70 nights per visitor) and we can start to extrapolate some gross figures on how much less this sector is now worth. While all the talk is of growth in Asian and other mainstream markets (its now China AND India), the WHM market continues to shrink. This then starts to correlate with how many businesses (and business people) have left the sector during the past five years. Add consolidation, acquistion and mergers and we now have a far smaller group of operators than we used to and so also a smaller voice to industry and government.

Here are a couple more thoughts to consider and perhaps there is room for some debate.

There are some post GFC indications that there has been a shift in sentiment (in Japan due to years of weak economic performance) and it may be time and an opportunity (for Tourism Australia and the industry) to put more emphasis on the original and more lofty cultural exchange and educational objectives of the WHV scheme.

When its only promoted or discussed as a holiday (see hedonism below) or work scheme it takes a hammering from all sides, but this is only part of the story. It has a far greater role to play in cultural exchange, diplomacy and creating future personal and corporate connections.

That is life education not necessarily book learning for which we have student visas. How better for Japanese (and Korean for that matter) young people to become confident in conversational English than to spend a year living, working and travelling in Australia. Then return home and be able to contribute to Japan’s/Korea’s economic development as part of the global economy.

While in the UK, due to increases in tertiary education (typically £9000/year), students now accumulate significant debt and overall there is more pressure to get a career started. A working holiday can still be seen as valuable life experience, however the dominant image is hedonism rather than personal development prevails and parents appear to be becoming less indulgent and less willing to co-fund a pure ‘holiday’.

Comments are welcomed.

NEW PRODUCT: New tours of Sydney’s surrounding regions

The boys and girls at Get Lost Travel Group (aka Wildlife Tours) specialise in affordable, quality, small-to-medium group tours that offer unique itineraries to showcase Australia’s diverse landscape and spectacular beauty.

In 2018, Get Lost Travel launched three new products in NSW. The Blue Mountains Wildlife and Sunset Tour departs Sydney later than most Blue Mountains tours and avoids the peak-hour traffic. This also allows visitors to see the sun set over the rugged ranges of the World Heritage-listed National Park.

On their Hunter Valley Scenic Wine and Dine Tour, visitors enjoy wine, vodka, chocolate and beer tastings. Plus they can play bocce (see note below) and compete for a free bottle of wine!

While the two-day Port Stephens, Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains tours encompasses some of NSW most beautiful regions including a visit to Port Stephens for a dolphin cruise or sand-boarding experience. Tours depart multiple times per week from Sydney’s CBD.

Contact: Jared O’Meara
Tel: +61 439 217 227

The difference is right here: traditional bocce is more of a bowling game, whereas petanque is more of a tossing game, like horseshoes. Bocce players take steps before throwing, petanque players stand still. Bocce balls are usually rolled palm up, petanque balls tossed palm down, so they get backspin upon release. Who knew?