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Wendy Wu: From humble beginnings to industry leader

Daisy Doctor

The most successful businesses are often borne out of complete accidents; accidents that were of course, waiting to happen.

Speaking at the Travel DAZE conference yesterday in Sydney, owner of Wendy Wu Tours, Wendy Wu herself, described the humble origins of the business.

More than two decades ago, Wendy Wu had booked a trip with her then boyfriend around China.

Unfortunately, due to an unmissable job offer, the boyfriend opted out of the trip and Wu was left with a trip for two on her hands.

So what did the clever entrepreneur do? She sent out an ad in the local newspaper asking for a female companion to travel with her, and in return she would act as their travel guide.

And with that, Wendy Wu Tours began.

The company now offers a wide variety of group tours, private and independent touring options and tailor-made holidays to Central and Southeast Asia, China, Japan, India, Taiwan, Mongolia and South Korea.

However, the business had a few speedbumps to overcome along the way.

For one, the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s had a huge impact on the business as it shook up travel plans throughout China and other Asian countries, said Wu.

But it was the business’ expansion into a third country which caught Wu and her team off-guard.

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Breaking into the Australian, and then the UK market was doable, said Wu, on account of the similarities between Aussies and Brits, however it was the third country which forced Wu and her team to reassess their strategy.

“Our expansion into the third country was expected to be easy considering UK and Australian success. But we were being complacent, arrogance and stupidity is a strong sign of complacency,” Wu said.

“We were doing well so we completely forgot about all the hard work we’d put in originally.

“You can be doing very well, and sometimes you might not be doing well, but the most important thing is to not think you don’t need to work hard,” she added.

For Wu, the biggest issues were the internal issues.

“Our booking system took too long, so we developed our own technology.”

“You need to invest at every level of our business for it to be successful; teams make a business work,” Wu said.

Wu said the company is now focusing on the site’s technology as a priority; in March of this year, Wendy Wu Tours began taking payments online, and in July it was able to begin organising business-to-business trips totally online.

Looking to the future, Wu said it’s important to have a strong team, that has independence, trust and respect.

Wu promises to continue pushing boundaries and thinking of new ways to create unique travel experiences that customers will remember for a lifetime.


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