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19 March, 2021

Tour businesses join forces

A GROUP of small tour operators in Cairns are banding together and sharing resources to survive and thrive sustainably during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

By Tanya Murphy

Staff from Barefoot Tours and Cairns Canyoning are excited about joining forces with other tour operators at Allbout Cairns. (Standing) Adriarna Smith, Chelsea Handley, Bazz Goes and (front) Amanda Kenney, Dom Godwin, Kye Berry, Cameron Oostra and Keanu Otake-Hunt

A group of small tour operators in Cairns are banding together and sharing resources to survive and thrive sustainably during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

After meeting last year, Chelsea Handley of Barefoot Tours and Barry “Bazz” Goes of Cairns Canyoning decided to join forces and create the Allbout Cairns centre at 58 Grafton St which opened last month.

The centre’s aim is to provide a single central location for bookings, pick-ups and drop-offs for around 30 different tour operators, saving them thousands of dollars in fuel, rent, power bills, insurance and administration fees as well as lowering carbon emissions.

Mr Goes said for a single small business to run a shop was “way too expensive, even before COVID” and the loss of tourism during the pandemic had left him and many others struggling to cover the costs of operating.

“We’ve found that there are around 45 different small land-based tour operators from Mission Beach to Mossman and the Tablelands in a similar situation,” said Mr Goes.

“By joining forces, we can have all the guests collected in one vehicle and brought to the shop to fill out paperwork in one place, regardless of which tour they are going on.

“The centre also acts as a tour information hub, where each operator can have display space to show off and sell their product, and tourists can pop in and find out about the tour options.”

Members will share the cost of wages for the Allbout Cairns shop’s two dedicated staff, who will recommend appropriate tours to visitors as well as helping guests with check-in and paperwork.

Businesses can also send their existing staff to work from the shop and there are plans in the future to share further roles like accounting.

“Tourists who visit the centre will be shown how to book directly through each operator’s website, making sure all the money goes directly to the member businesses, cutting down on the commissions which normally go to booking agents,” said Mr Goes.

Tour operators who have signed up for the co-operative already include Falla Reef Trips and What’SUP Cairns.

The not-for-profit venture will also involve member businesses in charitable activities such as fundraising for good causes in the community.

“The long-term benefit is keeping tours affordable for tourists, keeping more businesses alive, and being able to keep providing jobs in the long term,” said Mr Goes.

“This is going to be a big two-year project that we’re working on, but the whole vision is there.

“We encourage tour operators to come in and have a look and see how it can work for them.”

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