Case study: Sydney Seaplanes

Scenic flights & fine dining

Sydney Seaplanes is a business that specialises in aviation, tourism and hospitality; all industries that suffered terribly during prolonged lockdowns and border closures. Sydney Seaplanes was able to benefit from Big Red Group’s extensive domestic sales and distribution channels as well as marketing initiatives throughout 2020 and 2021 to maintain strong sales throughout this period.

Following the pandemic, the Sydney Seaplanes business incurred a substantial and unexpected cost to get one of their largest aircraft airborne. With little trade during COVID, the organisation were in a less than ideal place to handle the expense. Big Red Group were able to assist with the purchase, instantly increasing inventory by 33% whilst branding a Seaplanes aircraft with RedBalloon livery, and working towards product, marketing & distribution improvements that will benefit both parties over the long term.

Aaron Shaw, Sydney Seaplanes owner says “Prior to this engine part replacement being installed, a major company asset, being a $3m seaplane was languishing in a hangar in Wollongong. Big Red Group’s cash injection allowed us to immediately get the aircraft back in the air and integrated into our fleet, adding significant capacity to sales as a result and enabled us to meet and benefit from the tail-end of summer demand. Going forward Sydney Seaplanes is now back at full fleet capacity which we hope to need as domestic and inbound tourism rebounds.”

Stephen Blake, Head of Supply at Big Red Group adds “Aaron & his team have been close partners for Adrenaline, Experience Oz and RedBalloon for over 15 years. Sydney Seaplanes is an iconic must-do experience for all Sydney-siders and beyond, and we are delighted to be able to help the brand cater for growth in demand after such a tough trading period.”

RedBalloon’s online marketing activities, promoting Sydney Seaplanes products and services were very well received, particularly given our internal marketing spend and resources were so massively reduced throughout covid.

Blake summarises: “We’re incredibly excited to enter this new phase of partnership and to promote the innovative new packages on offer with our close partner, Sydney Seaplanes”.

Partnerships Strengthened Through the Pandemic

Post Pandemic Revival of Hospitality Experiences for Trippas White Group

A partner of Big Red Group for 15 years, Trippas White Group offers incredible dining, entertainment and hospitality experiences across beloved Australian venues; managing 35 premium bars, restaurants, cafes, and event spaces; and delivering on-site catering and management services.

Throughout the pandemic, Australian hospitality venues and dining experiences had the unavoidable and strenuous task of maintaining their businesses amongst state lockdowns and ever-changing restrictions.

As the pandemic began in 2020, General manager of tourism services at Trippas White, Troy Parry forecast the likely challenges hospitality businesses would face. Despite these challenges, they were optimistic and have managed to navigate uncertain times to make it through.

Two years on, Trippas White Group reflects on the highs and lows of the pandemic, with Jay Yip General Manager of Tourism Trade Development explaining “The highest point for us was the opening of borders, and the lowest point was the lack of clear direction on management of COVID outbreaks.” The unprecedented nature of the pandemic caused confusion; “Uncertainty, including the amount of misinformation out there undermined consumer confidence. It is not just opening and closing for hospitality businesses.”

Jay Yip further explored why these sporadic closures had an impact on hospitality venues in particular; “We serve food so to open is also about prepping the food, it was heartbreaking getting everything together and then suddenly closing again.”

These challenges made Trippas White Group more determined to succeed, with 2022 seeing a big change in the external environment, and many restrictions easing. “International queries and bookings are starting to come in, we are now working to get venues up to speed to be able to open and trade at pre-pandemic rates.” said Yip.

With strategic planning and communication, they continue to thrive, with lessons to be learnt from the pandemic “Always have a plan B, C and D and remember communication is key to maintaining, building and developing strong relationships.”

The relationship that Trippas White Group and Big Red Group share speaks volumes. This was apparent throughout the pandemic, as soon as restrictions allowed, Big Red Group maximised the opportunity to enjoy Trippas White Group’s beautiful venues, hosting various Roadshows and Christmas Parties at the stunning Terrace on the Domain.

Through maintaining strong communication, providing bespoke funding support, and working collaboratively with the Trippas White Group, Big Red Group has taken the partnership to new levels.

“Throughout the pandemic, the dining category has suffered more than most, with an unpredictable supply chain, staff shortages, and sudden closures. We’re delighted to provide some certainty for Trippas White in terms of guaranteed bookings, as well as running events and developing innovative and exclusive product across their group” said Stephen Blake, Head of Supply, commenting on the partnership. 

Yip agrees, “Big Red Group has been a great supporter to many Australian businesses by keeping a team working. Through their insights we managed to find ways to pivot our business with new products that can withstand restrictions except a lockdown.”

Yip continues, “Working with Big Red Group has allowed us to extend our market reach quickly and easily.”

It’s through the hard times that partnerships really come to the fore, and the mutual benefits that this partnership continues to deliver, will ensure it thrives well into the future. ​

Growing the Experience Marketplace

Fastnedge on Leading Big Red Group’s Tech Transformation

Since its inception in 2017, Big Red Group has grown to become the largest experience marketplace across Australia and New Zealand. Its growth has been fuelled both organically, and through bringing strategic acquisitions into its portfolio of leading experience brands.

Integration of those acquisitions have presented both operational challenges and unique opportunities. Whilst RedBalloon was the flagship experience brand first acquired by Big Red Group, the addition of Lime&Tonic and Adrenaline have bolstered the company’s reach to diverse audiences with different experience preferences. With very little brand overlap, these acquisitions have been fundamental to Big Red Group’s growth trajectory, which even throughout the pandemic, has been significant.

One of the great challenges of any acquisition is the integration of tech platforms, a challenge which Big Red Group is currently tackling head on as it undertakes a significant operational transformation which seeks to consolidate tech stacks and streamline efficiencies, unlocking the true value of each acquisition.

Leading the transformation is Big Red Group’s Chief Operations Officer (COO), Jemma Fastnedge, who joined RedBalloon when it was in its infancy in 2003. Over ensuing years, Fastnedge worked her way up from product management through to growing RedBalloon into one of Australia’s leading e-Commerce platforms, delivering double-digit growth year-on-year as the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). ​

Following a short career hiatus focused on raising children, Fastnedge returned to RedBalloon to develop reward and recognition platform REDii, which was acquired by Big Red Group shortly after RedBalloon. Keen to continue a career within the fast-paced and constantly evolving world of e-Commerce, and aligned with Big Red Group’s company ethos in valuing experiences over material goods, Fastnedge joined the business. 

Fastnedge immediately took the helm of Big Red Group operations, leveraging her extensive industry experience with an intrinsic passion to drive the company’s mission forward – to shift the way people experience life.

An outcome focused leader with inherent problem-solving skills, Fastnedge has continued to hone her craft over the past four years with Big Red Group, and is well placed to lead and embed the current transformational program of work. Surrounded by a high calibre team, and continually bringing new talent into the business to support operational growth, Fastnedge is excited at the outcomes ahead.

“Working in this sphere is so incredibly rewarding, to see the material difference we are delivering to the business every day, and knowing that we have the full support at the highest levels needed to execute. We have the remit, we have the funds, and we have the right team. It’s an exciting and truly pivotal time for the business.”

If there’s one thing Fastnedge could change? She would like to see more women embarking on STEM careers, with less than 20% of women comprising Australia’s ICT workforce. “I’d like to be able to positively influence and mentor more young women, helping them to understand the real-world opportunities in applying ICT skills into business. Sometimes you just need that one great mentor who can set you on the right path.”

As for Fastnedge’s own aspirations, what’s next beyond completion of the transformation program in 2022?

“That’s the wonderful thing about working for a growth business, you never know what’s around the corner, that’s what makes every day so interesting.”

For insights into a career at Big Red Group and to explore current roles, please visit: ​

Google Integration

Big Red Group Integrates with Google for Activities Booking Links

Sydney, NSW – 24 September 2021

Now attractions & tour operators can work with Big Red Group experience brands Adrenaline and RedBalloon to show booking links on Google.

Big Red Group, the largest experience marketplace in Australia and New Zealand, today announced the launch of a new integration with Google, allowing attractions and tour operators to show free ticket booking links directly on Google Search.

This new functionality will help drive bookings by making it easy for users to click through and book tickets directly on Adrenaline and RedBalloon websites. Free ticket booking links mean that experience suppliers listed with Adrenaline and RedBalloon can show their offers to potential customers without needing to take part in paid advertising campaigns.

Google’s approach to Big Red Group came at an opportune time, with the integration augmenting Big Red Group’s focus on building strategic alliances and industry partnerships to benefit the thousands of suppliers that list experiences across its portfolio of brands. Google’s ‘Things to do’ was an ideal fit for Big Red Group that has the largest breadth and depth of experience products across Australia and New Zealand.

Big Red Group’s experience suppliers will benefit from the new channel to market, gaining crucial visibility in a competitive marketplace and the opportunity to increase bookings when products align with Google users searching for things to do by geographic location. Things to do is similar to Google’s current display features for hotels and flights, with ticket options ranked algorithmically based on a variety of signals, and users able to quickly compare products and purchase immediately through integrated sites such as Adrenaline and RedBalloon.

Big Red Group sees the Google integration as another step forward in its efforts to support and grow the businesses of its supply community, partnering more deeply with experience suppliers and digitally enabling them to expand their reach. As the experience marketplace continues to evolve, Big Red Group considers deep partnerships as essential to its future, increasingly working with government tourism entities and starting to invest directly into supplier businesses to bolster their operations.

Matthew Cavalier, Chief Growth Officer at Big Red Group concludes:

“Having both Australian owned brands, Adrenaline and RedBalloon integrating with Google on its Things to do program in Australia and New Zealand presents a unique opportunity for the experiences category and enhances our ability to expand our suppliers’ reach.”

Employee Benefits that Reflect the New Way of Working

The Great Discontent: Understanding Employee Attrition and Attraction

‘The Great Discontent’ has caused a revolution within the workplace; it refers to the lack of clarity organisations have had aligning values, benefits and initiatives to best suit their employees. Originally coined as ‘The Great Resignation’ by economists, studies have shown Americans were quitting their jobs at astronomical rates, with 7.6 million individuals handing in their notice to leave the workplace throughout 2021.

This is not an isolated issue, a worldwide survey of Microsoft global employees in 2021 showed that 41% of workers were considering quitting or changing their profession within the next year. This was attributed to out of touch leaders and the desire for flexible remote work to continue. To combat this, employees are being given opportunities that were once unavailable elsewhere, such as the hybrid model of office/home working, lower commuting costs, access to greater benefits and resources to support remote work.

This escalation can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ignited a rapid change in how employees work. Here in Australia, there has been a shift in how and where teams operate. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that 37% of individuals now work from home at least once a week, compared to pre-pandemic, where only 24% were working from home.

This flexibility within businesses was once seen as a benefit, however during the current climate it has become a requirement. Big Red Group recognises that flexibility is the future of work, seeing continuous innovation and building upon this concept as vital to supporting and excelling the employee experience.

In line with enriching employees experience at work, Big Red Group has been breaking new ground, recently introducing the benefit of a ‘30 days work from anywhere’ model. Travelling has been off the table for almost two years for Australians. Many are craving a flight to foreign lands, to explore different cultures or reunite with loved ones. This benefit gives opportunities for this to become a reality.

Flexible working options have also opened the door for a more global and diverse workforce. Diversity in the workplace has an abundance of benefits for organisations. Research has shown that if an organisation embraces diversity, it benefits in the form of enhanced creativity, flexibility and problem solving. Big Red Group is embracing this new chapter of workplace experience by including the concept of ‘flexing public holidays’, allowing employees to personalise their time around cultural days that have meaning to them.

The objective behind Big Red Group’s benefits is to enable workplace culture to transform with a growth focused mindset aligning to its Employee Value Proposition (EVP) of Leadership, Connection and Growth. While the ‘new normal’ within these fluctuating times is yet to be defined, businesses must actively recognise and act upon changes in employee expectations and needs, to create a focused employee experience that empowers, enriches and engages their teams now and for later.

Businesses would be wise to note, that this discontent within the workforce has contrasting outcomes, which may lead to either great attrition or great attraction. And this presents a tremendous opportunity for those businesses that are forward focused.

Reward and recognition for distributed teams

Madeleine Robins shares insights for managing dispersed teams

Big Red Group People and Culture Director Madeleine Robins, has long been at the forefront of innovating ways to empower and connect employees. With a strong background in corporate culture, Robins has witnessed rising workplace challenges attributed to distributed teams, and applies her deep experience and knowledge into creating best practice programs for the Group.

In a recent online series facilitated by Employment Hero exploring the future of work, Robins discussed this increasing challenge, and the importance of reward and recognition in managing a dispersed workforce.

Stemming from the pandemic, there has been a significant shift in what the workplace means to individuals, particularly in how they feel valued within a team. Not long ago, a workplace was about being physically present in the moment, being in a room where leaders could see their colleagues and acknowledge their contribution. As workplaces become more distributed, global, connected, and flexible, businesses must find new ways to connect and meaningfully recognise their people.

At the heart of Big Red Group’s culture, is the desire to stay connected. As Robins states, “irrespective of the size of our business, it is still about connection […] wherever you work you still need it. It’s that connection that builds social capital and allows for a growth culture, the investment in connection is part of the work.”

As employees start to enjoy greater life balance fuelled through flexible and remote working, with more available time through eliminating the office commute, employers are left with little choice but to increase trust and empowerment. It’s a new working environment, and embracing change is the first step in ensuring long term sustainability.

When it comes to reward and recognition for distributed teams, Robins acknowledges that employees are in a developing space, and that their working identity is deeply tied to their sense of self. “One of our biggest challenges was that our team wants to be rewarded and recognised for more than the work they do. They want to be recognised for who they are as a person, how they lead and how they turn up.”

Robins has put structures in place to encourage and facilitate recognition with the help of online platforms and leadership development. These integrated systems of collaboration (such as Salesforce Communities and Microsoft Teams) and investment in key employee moments such as reviews, team meetings and one-on-ones give a collective ability for employees to recognise each other in the workplace. Coupled with a market leading employee engagement program – including ’ which drives regular cross team connection, Robins is confident employees feel valued and maintain that important human connection that enables a high growth business.

Whilst it has been challenging to adapt to a new style of working, with ongoing lockdowns preventing many teams from returning to a physical workspace, Big Red Group employees continue to make and maintain meaningful connections, despite the distance between.

In summary, engaging, recognising and valuing distributed teams is an ongoing journey for both individuals and the organisations they work for. Collectively, they must work hand in hand to make each unique situation work, while understanding the key drivers such as rituals, rhythms and behaviours. There is much growth, learning and discovery ahead.

As Robins concludes, “we’re challenging ourselves; our team is not the same, our business is not the same. I encourage businesses to take a fresh look at it and try something different.”

To hear the full webinar click here.

Fortifying the domestic tourism market

Supply partner SeaLink sails through the pandemic with determination

In the 10 years spent as a supply partner to Big Red Group, SeaLink Travel Group has grown exponentially, becoming the largest tourism and marine transport company in Australia, with locations throughout many states and territories

SeaLink General Manager of Global Sales and Distribution, Richard Doyle states that “travel is about connecting people, it’s about sharing the experiences and creating brilliant memories.” However, COVID put a lot of pressure and ambiguity upon SeaLink, they had the challenge of adapting to the reality of being part a touristnd marine venture in these trying times.

When the pandemic began, SeaLink knew that maintaining their momentum would require direct action. Their vast portfolio of island packages, famous lunch and dinner cruises on Australia’s iconic harbours and rivers, ferry trips and experiences like whale watching were all parts of their multi-faceted business. Each component would need a unique strategy to remain viable in a pandemic.

For the business, the most challenging aspect was the ambiguity of not knowing how long the pandemic would be when it first started, however, having transparency across the business to acknowledge this allowed stringent strategies to be put in place – tough decisions and honesty were critical.

Adhering to COVID safe guidelines was paramount in building customer trust and reassurance. Doyle states, “As we are selling experiences, we all have to make sure that our guests’ safety was priority number one when they undertake whatever experience they do with us, that has become key to our business success.” Analysing the national response to COVID guidelines in each state protected the business from any potential issues and ensured safety for every customer.

With Australian border closures and a complete ban on in international arrivals, the domestic market would become the main focus for SeaLink at this time. Doyle knew this to be the case, “We spent a lot of time in the early months of lockdown in March-April 2020 to really transpose and change our product. When we started operating again our ability to reposition and remodel our experiences was vital.”

Through partnerships, such as the one with Big Red Group, SeaLink were able to mobilise the domestic customer base. “Big Red Group has been an important part in getting us to that domestic market” Doyle stated.  Working within this partnership; the campaigns around celebrations such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day contribute and engage a wider audience for SeaLink, helping to sell the destination.

For SeaLink, the highest point during these times was when they successfully reopened and were once again welcoming guests back on board. With many new and exciting ventures on the horizon, SeaLink continues to grow and is looking forward to the international market joining the domestic market in experiencing the best that Australia has to offer.

Whilst there are still some unknown aspects due to the pandemic, SeaLink future-proofed their business by fortifying their domestic market, through deepening their understanding of it. Whilst the pandemic has not yet ceased, SeaLink knows they have put in the hard work to keep rebounding.

Doyle closes in saying “Even with this current state of lockdown, we know that customers really want to get back out there and travel and to see and experience Australia. We look forward to welcoming people back to help them create more brilliant memories.”

There is no doubt, SeaLink’s future remains bright.

Big Red Group CEO provides advice to small business

David Anderson shares top 5 focus points for 2021

Recently, Big Red Group CEO David Anderson took part alongside Adam Jacobs,  Co-founder of The Iconic, in a City of Sydney online seminar to share insights and advice to small businesses. The meeting brought together diverse brands, each with different products, seeking advice on how to grow their business in the current market.

Both leaders shared advice specific to each business, however as an overarching point, Anderson shared the top 5 questions every business owner should be asking themselves as they vie to remain relevant in 2021.

How can I ensure sustainable growth?

Having a growth mindset is essential to building business momentum, and overcoming the challenge of  stagnation. Whilst Big Red Group is experiencing strong domestic growth fuelled by international border closures, Anderson continues to question how to build underlying sustainable growth. This continuous focus on long-term growth is vital for the future of the business, particularly as international borders reopen, and Anderson sees partnerships and marketplaces as powerful ways to achieve this.

Do I maintain my competitive advantage?

In a crowded marketplace it can be difficult for businesses to stand out. It is important to recognise external trends and how they may change or apply to a business. During the pandemic, Big Red Group has continuously invested in marketing, people and technology to further grow its marketplace of trusted brands including Adrenaline, Lime&Tonic and RedBalloon.  Anderson knows it will take this kind of bold leadership to maintain its competitive advantage, particularly when international borders open. Small businesses should look to discover their unique selling points and take advantage of gaps in the market.

How do I realise a return on investment?

Appropriately investing time and effort is critical when calculating a return on investment for both small and large businesses. As Anderson states “I am a big believer in invention and innovation.” Trying different things, and establishing and monitoring the metrics around how they effectively help move the business forward ensures that resources are being utilised appropriately. And if the return is simply not there, don’t be afraid to cut the ties.

How do I attract and retain talent in a competitive market?

Maintaining and building capability in the marketplace through a dedicated and supported workforce has been particularly challenging throughout 2021. With the pandemic causing a prodigious shift in how the workplace operates, it is paramount that businesses intently focus on to how they attract, retain and support talent. They must continue to cultivate leadership, growth and connection to remain relevant.

How do I drive the right outcomes?

Having the appropriate trajectory of your business and making the correct decisions as you move forward determines where the overall business will sit. When these decisions reflect the implemented values, business can think about where they will be in due course. Having the metrics to support goals is critical in determining the efficiency of operations.

As the second half of 2021 unfolds, the landscape will continue to shift, but if businesses are true to their core and focus on what is within their control, they will find their way through.

Click here to see the full webinar.

Strengthening the experience economy

How agility and resilience has helped Paperbark Camp navigate their way

Paperbark Camp based on the NSW South Coast (Jervis Bay) has been part of the Big Red Group supply community for more than 11 years. Director of the luxury camping business, Camilla Hamilford has seen more than her fair share of challenges over the past 18 months including bushfires, flooding and Covid-19, testing the resilience of her team and business.

As a small family owned operation with loyal and dedicated staff, they have managed each setback in their stride, responding quickly and efficiently to each unique set of circumstances faced. Staff and guest safety has been the priority throughout each ordeal, managing immediate threats and then reconciling the longer terms impacts.

Of all three major events, the bushfire was the most frightening and impactful, destroying their smaller glamping property ‘Flash Camp’ at Coolendel. And although Paperbark Camp was built to contend with floodwaters, there were some major inconveniences to deal with when the floods came.

But it was Covid-19 that sent the business to its lowest point. Shutting down at the beginning of the pandemic and standing down staff without knowing what the future held.

But after hitting the lowest point, then came the highest. With international borders closed and Australians relishing the opportunity to travel domestically once restrictions eased, Paperbark Camp capacity began to soar upon re-opening in June 2020.

Despite it being mid-winter, a traditionally slower season, Paperbark Camp was swamped with booking enquiries. Strong bookings have continued, and being located proximate to a major city has been advantageous says Hamilford, with people feeling secure in taking mini-adventures, with their homes not too far from sight.

Hamilford’s biggest challenge right now, which is an industry wide one, is finding hospitality staff, especially chefs, who are in high demand and short supply. An issue that they will likely be contending with for a while.

While confident that Australia is on the road to recovery, Paperbark Camp is cognisant that many in the tourism industry who are more reliant on the international market continue to suffer.

Hamilford says Covid-19 has reinforced the idea that connection with people and making memories is so important, with Big Red Group providing a channel to people who are looking to do just, through its leading experience brands Adrenaline and RedBalloon.

While the challenging months have tested them all, it has also made Paperbark Camp realise how agile they are, and has equipped the team with the ability and mindset to better prepare for, and embrace change. And after 22 years in operation, it has made the business look at different ways of doing things which has been beneficial.

While Big Red Group brands continue to provide customers looking for unique experiences to businesses such as Paperbark Camp, it is Hamilford and her team who supply the magic that keeps them coming back for more.

Big Red Group hosts industry partnership event

CEO David Anderson welcomes all to new workspace

June 8th 2021 – Big Red Group CEO David Anderson joined other leaders of the business in welcoming industry partners to its new eco-rated workspace at Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD.  The event attracted attendees from state, regional and national tourism agencies, along with small businesses from around Australia, many in Sydney for the 2021 Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE).

Anderson opened the event, commenting on the value of partnerships in driving economic recovery and growth within the tourism sector. With Big Red Group currently outperforming the market by more than 60%, and up more than 50% year to date (like for like, compared to 2019), Australians are engaging in domestic experiences more than ever before, fuelled by international border closures.

This has created new opportunities in the realm of partnerships, with Big Red Group’s leading brands Adrenaline and RedBalloon recently partnering with large government entities to extend their audience reach. These include:


  • Tourism Australia (Holiday Here this Year – ‘Get Amongst It’, Adrenaline)
  • Service NSW (Dine & Discover – RedBalloon and Adrenaline)
  • WA Tourism (WA Your Way – RedBalloon)
  • Destination NSW (‘Love Sydney’ – RedBalloon)

Jan / Feb 2021:

  • Tourism Australia (Holiday Here this Year – RedBalloon and Adrenaline)

Anderson says ”These partnerships highlight the value of collaboration to reach new audiences and channels. As the largest experience marketplace in ANZ with over 2200 experience suppliers onboard, our scale, trusted brands, and leading marketing and tech, positions us as a value-add partner who can enable government and industry to reach new audiences. It’s an incredibly exciting time, with these collaborations just in their infancy.”

With more campaigns around the corner, Anderson intends on making the most of the domestic opportunities while they are there and remains on track to deliver more than 1 million customers to Big Red Group’s supply network this year. On any given day, there are more than 500,000 Australians with credit to use across Big Red Group sites, highlighting the value to suppliers in being part of its marketplace.

And the most popular experiences this year?

Anderson says “Flying experiences such as tandem sky diving and hot air ballooning are at all-time highs, closely followed by driving experiences such as V8 race car driving. Country retreats and romantic getaways are also thriving, which is no surprise after a year of snap lockdowns – people want to get out and about, and spend time sharing experiences together.“

Fortunately, Big Red Group has more than 7,000 experiences to choose from, so the only challenge for people, is deciding upon one.