With the expedition cruising market on the cusp of unprecedented growth, Ben Alexander spotted a gap in the market for a platform to present the product online.

A little over 12 months ago, Ben launched his specialised travel agency iExpedition.com that focuses on polar cruises and works in both the retail and wholesale spaces.

The business has gone from strength to strength, recently taking out the Small Business Category in the 2018 Sunshine Coast Business Awards.

We spoke to Ben to learn more about his new business.

 

When did you start the business and why?

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Image by: Krystle Wright

I launched iExpedition in July 2017, after close to a decade of experience in the expedition cruising industry. Having previously worked for expedition operators and wholesalers in marketing and sales roles, I saw a gap in the market to present the product online in a platform that allows travellers and travel agents alike to easily search & filter, compare and enquire/book online from a complete collection, rather than a small sample.

The market is on the cusp of unprecedented growth and we want to be the leading platform that travellers and agents look to for destination and product research, and then to find their own perfect expedition experience. Not just for polar, but for worldwide expedition cruising destinations.

 

What’s different about your business and how can Agents benefit?

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Image by: Krystle Wright

iExpedition pulls together the complete collection of polar expedition cruises, a bit like a hotel booking site and then allows travellers and agents to search from over 1,000 expedition voyages to the Arctica and Antarctica.

Agents can benefit by using iExpedition.com for their clients that are interested in exploring the Arctic and Antarctica by easily searching and exploring our database with their clients at their desks. So they can work with their clients on the platform to find the best-suited voyage.

Agents are able to search by an exact departure date, rather than a month. They are then able to apply our filters based on the clients’ personal travel preferences to narrow down the available selection of cruises (screenshot below of filters).

For example:

  • Their clients may have a particular focus on wanting to cross the Antarctic Circle.
  • Travel on a ship with no more than 200 people.
  • They may wish to travel on one ship in particular.
  • They may want to see a particular wildlife species.
  • Or participating in an adventure activity such as kayaking might.

 

Our hope is that iExpedition will empower Australian travel agents to sell expedition cruises to their clients more effectively, by providing them with transparent information in an easy-to-use platform.

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What sustainable practices do you employ given the sensitive region you’re operating in?

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Image by: Krystle Wright

We’ve had sustainability at the forefront of the business since its inception. We partnered very early on with Carbon Neutral Australian and developed our ‘1 Tree For Each Day At Sea’ program. From our very first booking iExpedition has committed to planting 1 tree for every day each of our clients is at sea. To date, we’ve committed to planting more than 1,400 trees and it is our hope that as we grow, so to will our sustainability program to potentially be 2, 3 or 5 Trees for Each Day At Sea.

We are so thrilled that our Australian travellers are helping us to help replenish key biodiversity regions in Australia like the Yarra Yarra in WA.

 

What does winning this award mean to you?

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I was humbled just be a finalist in the 2018 Sunshine Coast Business Awards, so winning our category was a huge surprise.

I’d never have imagined that at the end of our 1st year of operating that we’d be standing alongside the best travel businesses on the Sunshine Coast.

Winning this award totally puts the last year into perspective for me. Anyone who’s started a business know’s how very hard it is, how much you and your family compromise and sacrifice. Winning this award feels like all the pieces of a very big puzzle that was 2017/18 coming together.

It’s, of course, inspiring us to dream big and set even bigger challenges for iExpedition leading into 2019.

 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business?

You’ll be spinning many plates, together at the same time and you won’t have the answers on how to keep them all spinning. Find great mentors and ask them to be there for you.

I’ve been blessed by the kind generosity from so many past colleagues, acquaintances and even business people I’ve admired by so much of their time and invaluable advice. Don’t ever be afraid to ask.

 

Ever been to the Arctic or Antarctica? Share your experience below.