All posts by Mike Barrow

Mike arrived in Sydney in 1989 as a typical British backpacker with $17 and one phone number. He also decided Sydney was paradise living in a three bedroom unit with 17 other backpackers. He eventually managed to get a proper job in a small backpacking publishing company. After spending four years trying to get residency, Mike finally 'got in' and set up his own company, Travel Maps Australia in 1993. In 2000 the Company rebranded to THE WORD and in 2014 started The Byte. Mike lives in Sydney's northern beaches, keeps fit and healthy and wouldn't live anywhere else.

Backpacker survey results by Adventure Queensland

Please see below results (as well as attached) for Backpacker surveys that Adventure Queensland helped to facilitate for the Queensland Government’s Department of Innovation, Tourism Industry Development last week.

Backpacker Survey:

–        Majority of the respondents are holding a current WHM Visa

–        78% chose to stay in Australia during this time

–        61% have between 4 to 9 months remaining on their Visa’s

–        Over 50% is looking for work.

o   Common feedback is that individuals are searching for work in farms, but there is none/finding it difficult to obtain one.

o   Financial strain is a concern

o   Pausing Visa’s and granting extensions.

Hostel (Operator) Survey:

–        Most respondents were from Far North or North Queensland.

–        60% of respondents are hosting backpackers at hostels

o   Accommodation also ranges to private properties, hotel/motels or on a farm

o   Concern was raised from one respondent on safety and quality of onsite farm accommodation.

–        Major centres of Brisbane are housing between 40 to 90 people. Regional areas are hosting between 10 to 35 people at a time.

–        Weekly rates for board are averaging at $184.97 per week or $26.42 per night.

o   Key notes are around support for individuals to find work, assisting farms and other employers to get the workers to them.

Source: Adventure Queensland

Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program

​Latest news

Bushfire recovery efforts to count as ‘specified work’

On 17 February 2020, th​e Government announced changes to the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa program to assist communities to recover from recent bushfires.

WHMs can now count paid or volunteer bushfire recovery work in a declared disaster area, carried out after 31 July 2019, as ‘specified work’ towards eligibility for a second or third WHM visa.

Bushfire recovery work for up to 12 months with one employer

From 17 February 2020, Working Holiday Makers (subclass 417 and subclass 462 visa holders) assisting bushfire recovery efforts can now do paid or unpaid work for up to 12 months (instead of 6 months) with the same employer or organisation without requesting permission from us.

Cap increase for Thailand

The annual cap for the Work and Holiday visa has been increased to 2,000 for Thailand.

Cap increase for Poland

From 1 October 2019, the annual cap on Work and Holiday visas has been increased to 1,500 for Poland.

Commencement of reciprocal Work and Holiday arrangements with Ecuador and Greece

From 1 July 2019, eligible young people from Ecuador and Greece can apply for a Work and Holiday visa to visit Australia.  The annual visa caps of 100 for Ecuador and 500 for Greece also apply to Australian citizens who want to work and holiday in those countries.

Cap increases for Argentina, Portugal and Singapore

From 1 July 2019, the annual cap on Work and Holiday visas has been increased to 2,450 for Argentina, 500 for Portugal and 2,500 for Singapore.

Mandatory online lodgement for Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa

From 1 July 2019, all applicants (except from the People’s Republic of China) for a Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa must lodge online through ImmiAccount. Paper applications are no longer accepted.

Third Working Holiday or Work and Holiday visa

Visa holders who carry out 6 months of specified work while on their second Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa or Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa, or on a bridging visa in certain circumstances, may be eligible to apply for a third visa. The 6 months of specified work must all be carried out on or after 1 July 2019, so a successful application cannot be lodged before January 2020.

Source: Department of Immigration and Home Affairs

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Pallets with Purpose: A Get Lost Travel Group Innovation

The Get Lost Travel Group have traded buses and passengers, for pallets and power tools, launching an inspirational diversification during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Under normal circumstances, GLT employs 70 staff nationally and carry over 100,000 passengers each year on our tours throughout Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. But like most tourism businesses around the world, our company was devastated by the COVID-19 crisis when tour operations came to a standstill in early April. 

CEO Paul Beames was heartbroken after standing down the entire workforce. “I went to the depot determined to change the destiny for our crew. On the way, I tripped over a bunch of wooden pallets on the nature strip from the neighbour’s factory. I sparked a conversation and discovered they were destined for landfill. I commented that was such a waste as they were in perfect condition and the neighbour happily offered them to me and said he could offer a steady supply.” 

Paul continues, “with plenty of space in the depot and a shed full of tools, I started knocking together some prototypes. It blew me away how funky some of the designs from the wood grain polished up. I looked around and thought, we have all this vacant space, massive workbenches, lots of tools and a lot of talented people. I knew if I could convert the space into a furniture factory, I could re-employee some of the guides who had been stood down. And Pallets with Purpose was born.” 

The JobKeeper payments, some ingenuity and pure determination, has allowed GLT to re-engage 20 Tour Guides so far, who have not only learnt a new skill, but they now have a reason to leave the house each day and support a company they love. 

Paul explains “I was in a position to help our team through this difficult period by providing purpose, employment, connectedness and above all else, positive mental health. Since we have re-engaged some of the team, I’ve had grown men break down in tears. We’ve all been in tears. Having a purpose and reconnecting (while practicing social distancing, of course), has been an incredibly positive emotional experience for all of us”. 

Industry legend Safari Pete has been a tour guide at GLT for four years. He recalls the moment he got the call from Paul about returning to work on Pallets with Purpose. “I thought it was very entrepreneurial to come up with this idea. But it was also a selfless act by Paul whereby he was putting the welfare of the team before himself or the business.” Get Lost Travel Pty Ltd – Autopia Tours – Wildlife Tours Australia – Boutique by Autopia 42 Macaulay Street, Williamstown VIC 3016 Australia +61 3 9393 1300 | +61 3 9393 1333 

Darren Donlen has also been a guide with GLT for nearly six years and is now the acting Foreman at the depot come factory, managing the prototypes and a team of 20. He said, “sitting alone at home by myself was lonely and beginning to feel like Groundhog Day. This business innovation has given me purpose, mental stimulation and socialisation with a bunch of great people”. 

With no tours running there is no income at GLT so the goal is to sell these 100% recycled hardwood products to cover some of the unavoidable outgoings until tours are up and running again. 

The Elevator Pitch 

Next time you’re after a piece of furniture don’t go and buy a cheap piece of crap from a foreign-owned multinational. Instead, buy local and support Australian businesses. Every piece of furniture we make is unique. We have used 100% recycled timber. The tables are as solid and hard as a diamond in a snowstorm, and the unique characteristics and marbling in the wood are stunning. You have a flip-top cavity in the centre of the table which you can out an esky in, remote controls, toys or whatever you please! 

But the most significant selling point is this furniture has been built with love, purpose and meaning. By purchasing one, you are supporting a local business and its passionate people through a difficult time. 

Find out more 

– Visit the Pallets with Purpose page on the GLT website to view products:

Source: Anna Heaton Tourism Consultant

Tourism is broken. It’s time for a new model

Survival of the fittest leads to cannibalism, evolution leads to dead ends. 

Covid-19 has devastated most tourism companies. Business was literally brought to a stand-still in what felt like an instant. What a fragile game we have been playing.

We do now have a choice, we can try and carry on and act like nothing happened or, we can use this opportunity to trim the fat and fix what was broken. 

We can’t count on the big players to do the right thing for the market. What is good for them isn’t necessarily good for the majority of operators and their customers.

All this talk of bailouts for existing businesses has me wound up. Many of those badly affected by the current crisis are dinosaurs who don’t deserve outside help and won’t benefit from external financial support as they won’t change.

The tourism industry has generally been performing badly for the last 2 years, particularly in Australia and particularly in the part of the market I have been most involved in – adventure and youth.

Right now, we have a huge opportunity to clear out the deadwood and change for the better. Some things have crept into our ecosystem that we need to stamp out or at least control better.

Distribution platforms messing with the market

We value simplicity and a ‘guaranteed’ way to get our money from numerous sellers. We don’t want unrealistic rules, to be pressured for increasingly greater commission, platforms pushing their products or even – and this seems unthinkable – using operators’ money and withholding payments. With new platforms and payment technologies we have options, we need to adopt them and make them work for our businesses.

Travel agents who don’t add value (OTA’s and traditional)

I’m all for paying a reasonable commission to agents who add value to the distribution chain.  For many retail stores the high commissions are wasted on unsustainable business models with limited unique customer reach. I choke when a cashed up OTA demands high commission then competes with our business in an online space.

Governments ignoring infrastructure requirements for visitors

Travellers in our market make the most impact on regions away from the cities. Yes, this is both positive and negative. It certainly helps regional economies as well as the national one. Governments can’t ignore the responsibility for infrastructure associated with this – more recycling bins and toilet blocks for example, otherwise it leads to local pushback. Don’t get me started about ‘bus parking’. The cost shouldn’t just be borne by the local communities who can least afford it, it is a national issue. Done correctly, these industry touch points can be become a positive part of our story rather than an eyesore.

Penalty rates

Seriously, just because in some cultures they set aside a day to celebrate their god doesn’t mean that businesses should be forced to pay staff at rates which make their products unviable. Travellers don’t care what day of the week it is, they’re on holiday and we can’t expect them to pay 50%+ more if they want to travel on a Sunday. These rates result in fewer services, a poor customer experience and consequently less people employed.  We need to go back to the time when every day in tourism was the same – a great day.

Tourism Dispersal

Visitors need to be getting off the main tourist routes. This benefits everyone. There are a number of factors which resist this but my pet hate is homogenised bundles for the East Coast which aim to tick boxes rather than give visitors the best experience. These lead to poor word of mouth and ultimately fewer customers. We need to be serving truly engaging authentic local experiences.  These are almost invariably off the beaten track.

Backpacker travel shops

Some do a wonderful job but many are staffed by travellers who harass passersby, with very little knowledge about what is best for visitors to this country. Hustlers who don’t care about the individual and only recommend what best lines their business owners’ and their own pockets.

Instagram influencers

I sincerely hope that we get to a point where, unless they are properly qualified, no one takes them seriously.

The customers aren’t always right

Face it, some customers are just bad people. No matter what you do they will complain. Unfortunately, they have one sided forums available to voice themselves. These need to be given less air – or at the very least – we need a right of reply ‘this person is a wanker, you shouldn’t listen to them’. Google, TripAdvisor and associates, we need to work to the AirBnB or Uber model where we can rate our customers as well.

Unnecessary overhead

Big fancy offices, full of staff, miles from the action, are a thing of the past. Embrace technology, automate your processes where-ever possible. Focus on having your human resource adding value to customer experience rather than doing menial tasks. It will allow you to enhance your product and shockproof your business for the future.

Sales people running the show

I’m not sure when this became a thing (and maybe it’s a bit rich coming from me) but there seem to be many businesses run by people whose main experience is in sales, they have little product knowledge or focus. When they come up with an innovation it is rarely more than the same old dog with a new hat. Surely as an industry built upon the best of human experiences, we can do better.


This term has been hijacked over the years. Yes, removing plastic bags is important but we need structural change to ensure the longevity of our industry. We can achieve this by allocating resources better and eliminating business models that waste precious tourism dollars or export to foreign entities. We need to spend less on facilitating transactions and more on supporting the markets that host our customers. Our future as a destination depends on industry and government working together to provide an ecosystem that recycles revenue domestically and reinvests in the businesses that foster our long-term growth.

Lastly and most importantly (and related to the above) – Drive your business forward with customer-focused innovation.

If you invent a new bungy jump, people really will beat a path to your door – believe me I saw it happen first-hand.

We are lucky that we live in a time when it is possible to cost-effectively make significant and beneficial changes to tourism businesses. We need to embrace digital technology to enhance our businesses, to create new or enhanced experiences and to cost effectively access customers. We need to automate our processes, to get closer to the customers, to earn more revenue from our existing clients, and to improve their experience with unique offerings.  

Post-corona virus it’s going to be a whole new world, and I’m bloody excited. 

With all of this in mind, who and what should we be getting behind?

Comments most welcome….

Written by Neil Geddes

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Traveltalk poll: how many people use physical travel agents?

Traveltalk asked 500 consumers about their travel booking habits – and the results are in…

The relevance of bricks and mortar travel agents in an increasingly tech-focused world is a topic of much discussion. 

But according to a new survey commissioned by Traveltalk, the simple fact of the matter is that consumers are still using physical travel agents in great numbers.

Conducted by research firm dynata, the study found that while nearly two in three (65%*) people use booking sites (or online travel agents) to book their travel, one in three (30%) people still use traditional agents. 

Only half (53%) of the travellers polled book directly with airlines, hotels and other businesses, while just over one in 20 (6%) use another third party. 

When asked why they book their travel a particular way, perhaps surprisingly, ease of booking proved more important than cost. 

According to the study, the vast majority (83%*) of travellers flagged ‘convenience’ as a reason for booking travel the way they did, followed by ‘cost’ (54%), ‘security’ (25%) and ‘expertise’ (23%). 

“The fact that one in three people still book their travel through physical agents shows the value consumers place on face-to-face communication and consultation when it comes to organising something as important as a holiday – which for many mightn’t come around too often,” TraveltalkMedia director Debbie Sproule said. 

“It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise though, as the poll results reveal that convenience matters most to consumers, while security and expertise also figure highly in decision making. And travel agents offer the traveller all of these.” 

The Traveltalk survey polled 500 consumers (52% female, 48% male) from all adult age groups across every state and territory in Australia. 

Poll percentages refer to the total people in % rather than the summary of all percentages.

ED: OK, I know this is a generic survey across all ages for Aussies, but the question is: is this the same for the inbound youth and adventure market in Australia and NZ? Comments please….

Source: Traveltalk

Sourced by Mike Barrow