Skift Take

Intrepid Travel expanding the scope of its Australia trips is a way-overdue step for a company that has failed to fully take advantage of one its most lucrative markets.

Tour operator Intrepid Travel is buying a 60 percent stake in JOOB, an Australian destination management company, to expand in Australia with domestic tourism expected to boom in the near future.

“By having an Australian tour operator, that will enable us to offer fantastic Intrepid experiences to our loyal Intrepid consumers in Australia,” said Intrepid CEO James Thornton.

“We felt it was easier to get national coverage via acquiring JOOB rather than trying to set up our individual depots ourselves in each of the different states, which would have taken a significant period of time and energy. It can enable us to get revenue quicker by doing this acquisition.”

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Intrepid’s purchase of JOOB increases its Australia offerings by 45 percent, from 66 to 96. Thornton added that the acquisition enables Intrepid to run trips in Australian destinations it hadn’t before. Australia represents less than 10 percent of Intrepid’s overall global sales, with the company’s booking levels in the country currently at 70 percent of 2019 levels.

Thornton believes that Intrepid is well-positioned to take advantage of Australian travelers increasingly looking inward due to soaring airfares for overseas flights. Domestic tourism in Australia is expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels during the 2022-23 fiscal year and surpass them the following year. But the company views its new offerings, which will appear in its portfolio next year, as being attractive to more just than a domestic market. Australia has struggled to attract overseas visitors despite reopening to fully vaccinated international travelers in February.

“You get the capability to operate products for Aussie travelers domestically,” he said, stating the challenges of operating in Australia had prevented Intrepid from running more trips in the country.

“But you are naturally able to provide Intrepid experiences for travelers outside of the country. So it enables us to do both with this acquisition.”

Thornton added that Intrepid initiated the acquisition discussions with JOOB, a company the Melbourne, Australia-based tour operator has run trips with over the last two years. JOOB, which will become Intrepid’s destination marketing company in Australia, will run the majority of the tour operator’s trips in the country.

JOOB CEO Simon Mendelawitz will become the general manager of Intrepid’s Australia destination management company while continuing to run JOOB’s three brands — walking tour company Inspiration Outdoors, adventure tour specialist Waratah Adventure Tours and kayaking tour company
Sea Kayak Rottnest Island.

“For us, this is an opportunity to partner with one of the truly great travel brands, and extend our operation into all corners of the country. We can focus on what we are good at, and learn from one of best,” Mendelawitz said, adding that the deal will enable JOOB to run more trips on Australia’s Eastern seaboard.

Thornton said Intrepid eventually expects to take a 100 percent stake in JOOB, provided the two companies can hit targeted performance mechanisms. Its acquisition of JOOB is the tour operator’s fourth in the past 12 months, having also purchased majority stakes in New Zealand-based companies Haka Tours and ANZ Nature Tours as well as U.S.-based tour operator Wildland Trekking.

“The U.S., Australia and New Zealand (are) countries our customers traditionally come from, but don’t travel to,” Thornton said, adding the Intrepid doesn’t currently have plans for additional acquisitions.

“By acquiring Haka, Wildland and JOOB, it … enables customers from other markets to come and visit those markets. But it also enables customers who are from those markets to travel domestically.”

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Tags: acquisitions, australia, intrepid travel, mergers and acquisitions

Photo credit: Intrepid Travel is expecting to seem a boom in travelers on its Australia offerings Intrepid Travel