Wander, an innovative hotel chain startup with an eye on sustainable tourism, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise up to $5 million to build out a portfolio of luxury short-stay cabins in some of Australia’s most remote locations.
Wander, a Sydney-based company founded by Cassandra Sasso and Cameron Crispin, currently operates nine WanderPods at two locations at Kangaroo Island in South Australia and the Scenic Rim in Queensland, with plans to grow its footprint with another four more locations identified.
“Wander is a network of off-grid WanderPods that are situated in the most beautiful country in Australia,” Crispin says. “They are designed to create a space for connection to country, connection to self and connection to community.”
Wander works with landowners to establish its WanderPod network, securing the sites on a leaseback arrangement.
The company designs, builds and operates ‘light-earth touch’ proprietary modular WanderPods in regional destinations, with the pods rented as luxury self-contained cabins in the short-term tourism accommodation market.
Since its launch in December 2021, Wander has raised more than $3.13 million in funding, while generating $2 million in revenue and hosting more than 5,000 guests.
The current crowdfunding campaign under way on the Birchal platform is seeking a minimum of $500,000 and up to $5 million to accelerate its growth plans. The final amount raised will determine the number of new locations that Wander will commercialise.
The company currently has plans for to roll out its WanderPods at locations in the Grampians, in Victoria, the Snowy Mountains in NSW, Nightcap in NSW and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
Sasso, the Wander CEO, says business was founded on the principle of addressing a deficit in sustainable luxury accommodation options in remote areas of Australia.
“WanderPods redefine luxury offering a solution for guests to experience deep immersion in nature without the trade-off of quality, comfort or sustainability,” she says.
“We thought instead of doing 100 rooms in one location, let’s do one room in 100 locations.
“We are partnering with local landowners in the regions, connecting with local businesses and co-designing the experiences, the food and beverage with the amazing scenery we have in Australia.
“As a designer my passion really lies in trying to make meaningful spaces for people, getting them to connect with any environment they are in which is why we came up with the WanderPod to connect people with nature in comfort and give them that space for a mindset change.”
Sasso says the cost to build a conventional four or five-star hotel room averages $600,000 and can take three years to build. WanderPods cost up to 25 per cent less and can be manufactured in 16 weeks. The company says this is up to five times faster than conventional construction methods.
Sasso came up with the idea for Wander in 2019, inspired by a decade working in hospitality design. Both she and Crispin are designers by profession.
“In a time of recovery for Australia, Wander is passionate about providing an ecosystem around all of our WanderPods that supports local regional businesses and people,” Crispin says.
“We’re doing it all in the context of a quality accommodation offering that the regions desperately need.”
Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison says with the return of international travellers to Australia, demand for premium accommodation in the regions is on the rise.
“With the luxury travel segment increasingly seeking out experiences with a commitment to sustainability offering exceptional accommodation immersed in Australia’s world-class landscapes that respect the natural environment is something that can be very appealing to these travellers,” Harrison says.
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