A leading online working holiday company has struck deals with major international partners including Topdeck Travel and G Adventures to roll out a tour offering, branching out into a vertical its CEO expects will generate 25 per cent of revenue within three years.
Founded in 2008 with the mantra "Be more than a tourist", Gold Coast-based Global Work & Travel has rejigged its business model during the pandemic and saw its monthly site visits rise from 500,000 to 1.7 million between June 2021 and March 2022.
With a loyal following - only 22 per cent of whom are in Australia - who use the company's services to have experiences abroad for work & travel, study or volunteering, the group already has a captive target audience for new services.
From village tours in northern Thailand to sailing in Croatia, Maori cultural experiences in New Zealand to 'beachin' and boardin' in Hawaii, the new tour division will be delivered in partnership with Canada-based G Adventures and its UK sister brand TruTravels, Australian outfit INTRO Travel, Topdeck Travel, and Barcelona-based 'travel party' brand Stoke Travel.
Between the five partners there are more than 100 products across 19 countries in Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Central America and Africa.
“This tour product is a natural add-on for those in our network who’ve already done one of our so-called ‘gap year’ travel experiences,” says Global Work & Travel CEO and co-founder Jürgen Himmelmann.
"Most of our customers work or study abroad once, given the nature of its commitment, but they're not immune to the travel bug and often aren't ready to stay put back home once they return.
"Our new tour offerings allow our customers to keep on exploring, in a new, shorter, more familiar way."
The move comes as emerging contenders are vying to fill the void left by the closure of STA Travel during the pandemic, and the opportunities of a youth travel bounce-back as the world opens up with demand from two years' worth of missed rites of passage for young people globally. Travello is another Queensland-based business that has made its presence felt in the market, while Melbourne-headquartered MyDeal (ASX: MYD) recently launched its Australia-oriented tourism and experiences marketplace Amazed.com.
Himmelmann discusses the effect on the market after Swiss multinational STA's collapse following 50 years of operation, along with the shuttering of Flight Centre’s (ASX: FLT) Universal Traveller brand.
"This means there are very few dedicated youth travel organisations offering package tours, and other things that young people want to do abroad," he says.
"COVID fractured the youth travel market. We aim to piece it back together as a fully digital organisation and help drive the industry back to near where it was before the pandemic."
He says in the past few months the company's website has transformed into a fully operational e-commerce machine, transformed and developed over the pandemic border closure period to prepare for a scale-up once borders reopened.
"Over COVID, we’ve gone fully online from an initial phone-based sales model, and our team’s investment is already paying off. We knew the youth travel market would be the first to bounce back, given the strong demand we had since even when the borders were closed," Himmelmann explains.
"Our customers seem to be enjoying the digital experience, given that’s what most of us are used to now, and they’re confident booking online if the tech experience is high quality and fluid.
"We then maintain real human support by our 100-plus team throughout the whole travel experience."
He concludes his mission is to make Global Work & Travel the online destination for all youth travel, with more add-ons likely in the pipeline.
"This will be the first of many partnerships with worldwide product operators. There will be more tour products in the future and we're also working on a flight booking engine and more in-destination activities and experiences," he says.
"We'll also be introducing hostel and accommodation search and adding booking functions in due course. This will all be tied in with our own custom built customer-only social network."
Global Work & Travel is based in Australia with offices in the Gold Coast, London and Vancouver, with its additional new Melbourne office about to open.
Some 34 per cent of the company's website traffic is in the UK, followed by Australia (22 per cent), the USA (18 per cent), Canada (12 per cent), Ireland (4 per cent) and New Zealand (3 per cent).
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