Big Red Group completes acquisition of joint venture to solidify support of North Queensland tourism industry

Big Red Group completes acquisition of all shares in Experience Oz North Queensland from co-owner Destination Cairns Marketing

3 April 2024: Big Red Group, Australia and New Zealand’s largest experience marketplace, has completed the acquisition of a joint venture previously held with Destination Cairns Marketing (DCM).

The company has acquired DCM’s 50% share by mutual agreement, following two years of collaboration. 

The move reaffirms Big Red Group’s commitment to supporting local businesses and the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef Region – in addition to providing unparalleled experiences to domestic and international customers.

Under the new structure, Destination Cairns Marketing will retain ownership and management of its tour desk operations in North Queensland, with General Manager Greg Ferguson continuing to lead these operations. 

The Local Agent management team will also remain intact, with Sam Ferguson taking up a new role as General Manager at Local Agent North Queensland, while Deborah Dominick will carry on her role as Business Development Manager. 

In addition, the appointment of Georgie Saddler in the newly created role of  Market Manager for North Queensland will help to bolster Big Red Group’s presence in the region for the mutual benefit of all industry partners.

David Anderson, CEO of Big Red Group, said:

With a series of both economic and extreme weather challenges, we know it’s been a particularly hard few years for experience operators in North Queensland. However, this acquisition has been two years in the making – and it underscores our belief in the boundless potential of NQ as a tourist destination. 

“We remain extremely committed to investing in the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef Region, fostering industry growth and supporting local experience operators. We’re excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and look forward to creating unforgettable experiences for tourists in NQ.”

Sam Ferguson, General Manager of Local Agent North Queensland said:

“This acquisition represents a significant milestone for Big Red Group – and I’m delighted to have taken up the role of GM for Local Agent North Queensland. We’ve been working together for some time now – and this feels like the next logical step as we continue to support the recovery and growth of this remarkable region.”

The acquisition comes hot on the heels of Big Red Group’s partnership with the Australian and Queensland governments for the ‘Tropical Dollars’ tourism recovery initiative, developed to pump much-needed funds back into the region’s visitor economy.

Pictured: David Anderson (L) and Sam Ferguson (R)

Big Red Group report uncovers ‘glimmers of hope’ for Australia’s tourism and experience industry despite recovery slow-down

The new ‘Seasonal Experiences Index’ reveals the state of the nation’s tourism and experience industry through the Spring/Summer season.

February 27 2024: Australians are continuing to invest in domestic tourism and experiences this year, despite ongoing economic uncertainty and the cost of living impacting discretionary spending habits. 

Launched today, the Seasonal Experiences Index: Spring/Summer 2024 report from Big Red Group found that while experience booking volume is down year-on-year, there are pockets of growth emerging across the nation. 

The report, which analyses booking data from over 750,000 experiences taken between September and January, has revealed that post-pandemic recovery, ‘revenge travel’ and government-backed stimulus projects helped deliver a bumper year for the industry in 2022 – and it’s been hard for many operators to match this pace in 2023.

However, there is cause for optimism, with key highlights including: 

  • China’s inbound rebound: Data points to a 111% increase in forward bookings over the Lunar New Year – with eastern markets leaning into experiences that hero Australian cruises (+8,175%), tours (+2,540%) and culture (+1,900%). 
  • Aussie culture vultures: Cultural events are driving bookings, with this year’s record-breaking Australian Open boosting Multi Passes (+436%), Spas (+444%) and Attractions (+4,518%), while Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is anticipated to have a similar impact. 
  • Domestic’s not dead: Despite borders reopening, domestic trip demand remains strong, with a 34.4% increase for City Getaways nationwide and 188% jump in Western Australia.
  • Australia’s gone al fresco: Picnics have grown by a quarter (23.5%) year-on-year – and it’s Gen-Z driving the trend, with ‘luxury’ and ‘mystery’ options proving popular for dates. 
  • Stimulus delivering strong results: While Christmas storms devastated the tourism and experience industry in Gold Coast, the government-backed GC Summer FUNds initiative helped to provide the region with a 279.9% boost on 2023’s bookings.
  • Getting more bang for their buck: Spending-savvy Aussies jump on multi-experience tours that offer multiple activities for one price tag, growing the category by 10.3% this year and boosting the popularity of local safaris, mountain trails, and even ghost tours.
  • Seasonality is still a key consideration: Despite the ongoing economic situation and consumer confidence faltering, the warmer months remain crucial for Australia’s tourism and experiences industry, with Spring/Summer outperforming Autumn/Winter by 21%. 

Commenting on the report, David Anderson, CEO & Co-Founder at Big Red Group, said:

“With post-pandemic recovery softening, economic uncertainty ongoing, and extreme weather events posing a persistent threat, there’s no doubt that Australia’s tourism and experiences industry is up against it at the moment – and this is reflective of the challenges people are facing across the nation.”

“However, data from our latest Seasonal Experiences Index has shown us that bright spots are emerging in each and every corner of the industry – and we remain optimistic about Australia’s ability to recover, albeit at a potentially stabilised rate. 

“With inbound tourism from China slowly but surely starting to rebound; Aussies leaning into experiences to help them build ‘once in a lifetime’ moments around key cultural events – such as the Australian Open or Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour;  and stimulus projects proving extremely effective in supporting tourism recovery for those who need it, there are bright spots of recovery and growth ahead. 

“And with over 750,000 experiences taken across RedBalloon, Adrenaline and Experience Oz so far this season – we’re confident that the appetite for stories over stuff remains. We don’t anticipate this fading any time soon.” 
To read the ‘Seasonal Experiences Index: Spring/Summer 2024’ report from Big Red Group, please click here.

Big Red Group partners with Go Ballooning

Go Ballooning to launch a new wheelchair-accessible experience

Big Red Group has entered into partnership with Gold Coast-based Go Ballooning to launch a new wheelchair-accessible experience.

Go Ballooning have procured a newly designed balloon basket where a special doorway provides easy access for those of all abilities and mobility to enjoy a Balloon flight. However, unfortunately the challenges don’t end at the balloon basket. Because Hot Air Balloons often land in muddy fields, access can be difficult to achieve for those with restricted mobility.  

To help overcome this hurdle, Big Red Group purchased a large wheelchair-accessible 4WD bus to transport customers to and from their balloon flights. This one-of-a-kind vehicle will help level the playing field and provide a dignified and seamless way for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility to discover the exhilarating joy of Hot Air Ballooning.  

Head of Supply, Stephen Blake comments “Hot Air Ballooning is a joyous experience, and we want to make it available to all. Big Red Group is delighted to assist Go Ballooning to increase accessibility to their flights, whilst growing their overall capacity to cater for the growing demand in the Ballooning category” 

Go Ballooning CEO Murray Blyth adds “I have been in the Hot Air Ballooning industry since 2001 and our new Big Red Group 4×4 bus is going to be a total game changer. I am constantly reminding our amazing team that we are not just in the ‘Hot Air Balloon Industry’ we are in the ‘Memory Making Industry.’ We are now going to be able to help so many more people with accessibility issues create an amazing once in a lifetime memory. Thanks to everyone in the BRG team that helped make this happen!”