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Explore’s travel agent bookings nearly double as Australian market surges; Aussie tours coming? 

Explore Worldwide has seen travel advisor bookings nearly double since 2019, with Australia leading the way in overall business growth, the adventure travel company says.

Explore Worldwide has seen travel advisor bookings nearly double since 2019, with Australia leading the way in overall business growth, the adventure travel company says.

According to Explore, one in five (19 per cent) total bookings are now made through agents compared to just one in nine (11 per cent) pre-pandemic. 

In encouraging news for the UK-based company, it also reported it had already exceeded its full-year (ending October 2023) financial year results less than halfway through its FY23/24. 

The result follows a record January for the company which included its biggest day of sales in its 42-year history. 

When it comes to the destinations that are seeing the most growth, Asia has made the greatest gains (up 51 per cent), with Sri Lanka up a whopping 139 per cent on 2023, while trips like Simply Japan (up 61 per cent) and Cycle Vietnam (up 74 per cent) are also booming. 

Aussie success

Leading the way globally for the company is its Australian market, which has generated 73 per cent more revenue for the full year in less than six months of FY23/24.

Explore attributes this success to a greater presence Down Under, including more customer service resources, a new marketing manager for Australia and New Zealand, and a growing focus on its trade business. 

Explore Worldwide Regional Director for AU/NZ Ben Ittensohn said the company had predicted a huge year for Australia and NZ.

“We opened our office here in Australia this time last year and since then have gone from strength to strength establishing ourselves in the market, fostering relationships with our trade partners and expanding our AU/NZ team to help drive this growth,” he said. 

“It’s been a bumper year so far, and if feels like we’re just getting started.”

Explore Worldwide Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand Ben Ittensohn
Explore Worldwide Regional Director for Australia & NZ Ben Ittensohn

In an interview with Karryon, Explore Worldwide Managing Director Michael Edwards said the company believes Australia will be “a major market for us within two years quite easily” – and that growth will be led by its key demographic of 40 to 50 year old travellers.

“That’s where we position ourselves. That’s a great age range for Aussies that want to travel. They’ve got the money, they’ve got the desire. They’ve been backpackers. They want to recreate a bit of that, but perhaps have a bit more discretionary spend,” he said.

“So we’re really well positioned in Australia… and I can only see us investing more and more into the market in the coming 18 months or two years.”

Australian tours coming 

Explore Michael Edwards
Explore Worldwide MD Michael Edwards

According to Explore, one in five bookings (20 per cent) are coming from its international markets – that is, outside of its traditional British base. 

“I think Australia and North America account for around 20 per cent of our market currently, but fast forward three to five years, I think that will be at least 50 per cent…which can only be good for the diversity of travellers,” Edwards remarked.

“Having like-minded people from around the world, being able to build new experiences that are particularly appealing to those markets… and then we may look at some domestic product as well. 

“We’re not launching anything currently, but when you have a decent customer base in a source market it enables you to build domestic programs, which does two things: one, it gives you that Explore experience closer to home; secondly, it can really have an impact on our carbon reductions.”

Travel trends

While bookings for the Explore are growing quickly, Edwards said customers “are not booking quite as quickly as last year”.

“Last year was like… the floodgates have opened. This year, people are having a look, probably having a few more discussions deciding where to go, and then we’re seeing that booking come in four or five days later,” he told Karryon

“It’s back to that more discretionary, ‘What do I really want to do?’, ‘What do I want to spend my money on?’, ‘What do I want to see?’ [approach]. 

“The summary of that is it very much feels like we’re getting back to normal trading patterns.”

Earlier this year, Explore Worldwide announced it had earned its B Corp Certification.