Earlier this year I had the privilege of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.
The experience was all booked online through Chimu Adventures, who are Australia’s leading travel company to South America.
I recently asked Greg Carter, one of the founders of Chimu Adventures, to tell us what sets them apart from their competition.
What is Chimu Adventures all about?
Chimu Adventures was founded with the idea of creating an online travel company which specialized in Latin America, offering good value independent packages for clients over the world, as well as offering niche product to remote and little travelled locations in the region.
How did Chimu Adventures get started?
As an idea in a London pub in 2002 with Chimu’s founders Greg and Chad. After a few years of working evenings and weekends whilst still doing “day jobs”, and a few headaches later we were up and running!
Where did the name “Chimu Adventures” come from?
We used the name as we had a strong interest in that part of Peru, as it was off the main tourist trail, which suited our philosophy of opening up less travelled destinations.
Plus the name is quite catchy!
Who is your main target market?
When we started Chimu we were interested in mainly the trekking and backpacker markets.
Due to our enormous growth in tailor-made packages and Antarctica we have shifted our focus to the over 45’s, those who wish to travel independently and not be part of a large bus tour.
We still cater for our “core” of trekkers but the baby boomer market is where we aim.
How is Chimu Adventures different from other tour companies?
Chimu offers modular style tours which allow the traveler to create their own experience.
Our shortened tours can be combined to form a perfect tour for our clients, or modified to suit their time and budget. Despite being an online company we pride ourselves on our customer service, and our second to none destination knowledge.
All our sales consultants and staff have spent considerable time in the region and for us this makes the difference!.
When you match this with our competitive pricing due to our low internet cost base, we believe it’s a pretty good formula.
How do you go about marketing Chimu Adventures, and what method has proved the most effective?
Chimu Adventures spends the bulk of its marketing budget on AdWords and Search Engine Optimisation, because we find we get more qualified leads from our clients, and we enjoy the fact we can easily control our spend as well as gain instantaneous results on our click through rates through AdWords.
Through trial and error we have found online marketing is by far the most effective, followed by trade shows where we have the opportunity to speak to customers face to face and gain exposure in the eyes of the travelling public.
How does Chimu Adventures give back to the local communities in which it operates?
Chimu Adventures was founded with a core focus to “give back” to the communities we operate in.
We only employ local guides, use locally run hotels where possible rather than chain hotels, and our reservations are done by our local teams, creating employment in the countries we operate in.
We also finance a number of microfinancing projects through our Chimu Adventures development fund.
All staff members contribute by nominating projects for us to finance. We try to fund projects which partner our core interests in the environment and giving opportunities to youth.
Chimu Adventures was a finalist in the prestigious Telstra business awards in 2009 in the sustainability category.
Chimu Adventures is a carbon neutral company, and enables customers to make their tours carbon neutral. Why is this important?
Travel is one of the leading causes of global warming. As a travel company we do accept this fact.
We try to run a paperless office, and also offset the emissions caused by our vehicles. We recycle our refuse on tour and in the office environment and also help staff by paying for half of the cost of a bicycle if they would like to cycle to work, amongst other ways.
We believe it is our responsibility to the areas we operate in as well as the world in general by being carbon neutral.
How has the rise of social media affected Chimu Adventures?
Chimu is increasingly investing time and budget into the rise of social media.
We currently have a student studying the influence social media has on travel bookings as part of her final year project and internship with Chimu Adventures. We see this as being a growth area for us in the coming 12 months.
Social media offers a perfect platform to provide reviews on our products and gain instantaneous feedback from travelling clients.
We find our special offers and important communications receive instant results when using this form of media.
How important is word of mouth and recommendations for Chimu Adventures?
Word of mouth is perhaps the most important recommendation we can receive.
In our targeting of baby boomers it helps alleviate the concerns of our potential travelers that we are operating mainly in an online environment.
Word of mouth or “travelers tales” also have a much stronger impact that blogs or online reviews, despite being received by a smaller audience.
We actively encourage our past travelers to tell their friends and associates all about their experiences on a Chimu tour.
Are there any special offers that you have made that have increased sales?
In the past two seasons we have had a few exclusive Antarctic offers which have proved to be very successful.
Exclusivity on these sales was due to the fact Chimu is one of the largest Antarctic wholesale companies in Australia and our product knowledge of the destination is exceptional.
We believe that knowledge of our staff is key to increased revenue, and when added into the mix with an exceptional offer the results can be spectacular.
Chimu Adventures is a South America and Antarctica tour company run out of Australia. How does that work?
Chimu has a network of local Chimu offices in Lima, Cusco and Buenos Aires. All our reservations are done in these cities.
We also have direct contracts with ship owners for our Antarctic product, as well as a range of specialty lodges and tour companies in South America that give us a large, well balanced product range.
Our local office is a key differentiator to our competition as it gives us quality control on the ground as well as providing 24 hour support to our travelers whilst on their tour.
Our sales, marketing and administration are done through Chimu Adventures Pty Ltd, a fully financially bonded and licensed travel company operating in Sydney, Australia.