I thought it was time to check back in and see how Jump Tours has been doing in another Innovate or Die exclusive.
How has business at Jump Tours been over the last 18 months?
It’s been a turbulent period for the tourism industry, with a perfect storm of natural disasters, unfavourable exchange rates and a deteriorating world economy combining to create a very challenging marketing environment.
Despite this, Jump has continued to grow, driven in large part by a big swing towards online bookings.
What’s new and innovative at Jump Tours?
High end online booking capacity – customers can check availability and book seats in real-time with instant confirmation. Capacity management is a big area of innovation. I’ve experimented with different schedules, bus sizes and transfers to ensure that the investment in vehicles and staff is optimised.
The growth in passenger numbers has been accommodated entirely through more efficient use of existing capacity. Innovative value adds mean that customers can now upgrade their tour in areas like accommodation and optional activities, broadening the appeal of the product in the marketplace and boosting yields.
How has your marketing strategy evolved?
We’re still committed to offering the best value tours in Tasmania, but I want the brand to develop as one that motivates a young traveller to book for the quality of the experience.
Past customers are really becoming ambassadors for the brand now. The challenge is to channel that into a cult like following, to create a lasting advantage out of it. Social media helps with this and a lot of effort has been put into creating an online community that helps link past customers with potential future ones.
Resources previously used on traditional marketing like print are now directed towards things like product nights and joint promotions with backpacker hostels. In May this year we partnered with a hostel in St Kilda for their very successful Month of MAYhem promotion, the aim being to boost numbers in a period when the southern states are entering the slower winter months.
Have you felt any impact of the record high Aussie dollar?
While the high AUD may have affected the length of stay for short-term visitors, Tasmania tends to attract a smaller proportion of such travellers than other parts of the country. We get more long termers who tend to have working holiday visas, earn AUD and are therefore unaffected by the exchange rate.
In fact what most consider to be a threat could be seen as an opportunity – we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the developed world and as an American guy said to me recently “There’s nowhere else where I can earn as much money in a short period of time as I can in Australia”.
What has been the highlight of running Jump Tours so far?
It’s definitely the people you meet. With customers coming from about 50 different countries you always get to meet interesting people and no two tour groups are ever the same.
Personally a highlight has been the success of the company despite the fact that I have had to learn about an industry from the ground up without any experience or anyone to learn from!
What has been the toughest part?
In the beginning I would take two or three five-day tours back to back, come home and be so exhausted that I’d be in bed asleep by 7:30pm when I finally got home. This was with groups of 2 or 3 people, so the money wasn’t great either!
The hard slog of knocking on agents and hostel owners doors and trying to get them to take me seriously was also difficult – it took the industry about 2-3 years to realise that Jump is here to stay.
A source of frustration has been agents who simply push the product that pays them the most, with little consideration of getting the customer the best value or quality. It’s not easy offering value for money in an industry driven by commission.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received since starting Jump Tours?
A simple bit of advice that is of paramount importance – keep an eye on the cash flow – profits are great but if no one pays you things will go pear-shaped very quickly!
What is your favourite source of insights and information you have found for running your own business?
What’s next for Jump Tours?
On the micro level we’re developing relationships with complementary operators to offer products together, broadening our appeal without much extra investment or risk.
In a macro sense, the difficult tourism market has already resulted in some business closures and consolidation. Opportunities will arise as this process continues, the challenge for companies like Jump is to identify them and take action accordingly.