Where are you located?
Sunshine Coast, Queensland and Auckland, New Zealand.
Brief summary of your business?
Student Horizons is a leading educational school travel company, providing life-shaping educational, music and sporting experiences in Australia and around the world. Our unifying purpose is to enrich the lives of young people, delivering “experience for life”.
Which destinations do you specialise in?
Student Horizons specialises in delivering school trips for students and teachers across Australia and around the globe. Popular short-haul destinations are New Zealand and Fiji and popular long-haul destinations include the USA, the UK and Europe. Domestically, Canberra is of course a rite of passage and far north Queensland is hard to beat with two world heritage sites. We are also seeing strong interest in our Outback tours.
What are the advantages to your business as a SETO member?
SETO membership brings a sense of belonging for the people in our business. We are already seeing a collegiality among members and this no doubt will assist with general wellbeing. As a board member of SETO, I can personally speak of the growing friendships I have made already with likeminded, passionate educational travel veterans. We have all been through some hard times and hence the collegiality that SETO fosters for the people in our sector is particularly valuable.
What have been the greatest challenges to your business in 2022?
The start of the year was difficult with the Omicron wave impacting confidence but in Term 2 we started to see a surge in tour enquiries and the enquiries have kept on coming. Despite strong enquiry levels the selling environment has remained challenging with low air capacity and high fuel prices resulting in high airfares and overall tour prices that are not attainable for many schools.
A lack of people in our business has also made it challenging in being able to keep up with the high level of enquiries.
Consumer travel forecasts, where are your customers enquiring to travel?
We are observing elevated levels of enquiries across the following international destinations: New Zealand, Fiji, USA, UK and Europe, Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia, and domestically Canberra and Far North Queensland.
How has your business changed and adapted since the global pandemic hit?
Like most businesses we had no choice but to reduce our cost base to a tiny % of pre-pandemic costs to survive. This unfortunately meant we had to relinquish offices and let go of many amazing people.
We adapted our product offering, developing new domestic educational products for Student Horizons with a focus on Canberra, Far North Queensland and the Outback. We are particularly proud of a unique “experiential careers program” we developed that received exceptional feedback from clients, partners and suppliers alike. We will retain these domestic offerings within our product portfolio that will sit alongside our international experiences.
Student Horizons will remain a leaner business with a refined focus on technology. We continue to add value to our integrated in-house sales, product, operations and client cloud platform. These improvements are helping us to simplify processes, gain efficiencies, save time and costs and add value to our client’s overall experience.
Looking forward what are you excited about over the next 12 months?
Quite simply we are looking forward to getting back to doing what we love. We have multiple school groups travelling to a raft of destinations domestically and around the world in 2023. We also expect some late international bookings for next year now that most schools and school associations have relaxed internal travel restrictions.
We are anticipating unprecedented levels of new enquiries in Term 1 next year if the last two terms are anything to go by. There is evidently a strong desire from teachers and school leadership to be once again offering experiential travel opportunities to their students as part of a holistic education.
Based on existing bookings made over the last 12 months and future demand forecasts we are thrilled to be finally able to look at staff recruitment in 2023.
On a personal note, I am excited to be back out there leading some of our groups as Logistics Director to Fiji, New Zealand and Canberra.
The fire is back in the belly. Bring on 2023.
Jamie Wansey - Founder, Student Horizons