Travel Agents

This travel agency diversified well before the pandemic, and now it’s looking to franchise

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

A travel agency with a twist has taken the COVID-19 slowdown as an opportunity to breathe new life into its business.

Barrow & Bear is a Queensland-based travel agency and cafe that’s been on the scene for about three years now, so the coffee quirk isn’t a COVID-19 forced pivot. But the business model has been a lifesaver.

The company’s managing director, Callum Whitehead, told Travel Weekly it took a while to get the balance right at first, but travel restrictions have given him a chance to find the right concept.

“One of the main reasons I put a coffee shop in is because coffee pays all the outgoings,” Whitehead said.

“We run that business to ensure all our travel agents, all our travel expenses, all our baristas and all the cafe staff are paid by the revenue made by coffee.

“The travel revenue is profit.”

Previously, the store featured a coffee machine down the back with the travel business upfront.

Now, the cafe is front and centre, with a neat office for the travel side of the business toward the back.

“When COVID hit, we were really quiet, so we took the opportunity to redesign our shop and get it ready for our clients when travel picks back up,” Whitehead said. 

“Everyone loves to go out on weekends and have a smashed avocado on toast or to sit and have a coffee, so this is our point of difference.”

Now, Whitehead is encouraging other travel agents to shake up their business models too.

“We have a franchise model that we want to get out there now,” he said.

“I think it’s the way forward for travel agencies. We are going to need to get used to change. We can’t just rely on the agency to bring money anymore.

“We need to have diversity in our industry because its happened before with the GFC and terrorism attacks. Coffee keeps the balance all the way through no matter what.”

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