Welcome to our new member – Student Horizons
Interview with Jamie Wansey, Founder & Managing Director
Tell us your story. How did Student Horizons get started?
Student Horizons started out in a little shed in our back yard in 2012! After working in educational travel for 18 years it is something I am incredibly passionate about and an industry that I wanted to give back to. Our journey begun taking Kiwi High School students all around the world on predominantly sports trips. In 2015, we set up our second office in Brisbane, Australia and have become a leader in sport, music and educational group tours in both countries.
What makes Student Horizons different from your competitors?
Safety is at the core of everything we do at Student Horizons and this has been a key reason why many schools continue to use our services. This is ingrained in the fibre of our business from our staff training right through to safety checking every partner we use around the world. As Student Horizons has grown, we’ve been able to give back to the communities that have supported us by forming the Foundation of Student Horizons and running non-profit events like the ASPIRE International Youth Music Festival.
Aside from our commitment to safety it is of course our people that set us apart from others organisations.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
It’s very difficult to highlight one story that stands out from the rest! Something that our team take great pleasure from is seeing how students react and develop in totally foreign environments and ultimately grow during their touring experience. Being able to provide these experiences for thousands of young Aussies and Kiwi’s has been incredibly rewarding over the years.
What can we expect to see from Student Horizons in the future?
Our BHAG for 10 years’ time is that Student Horizons will be delivering 10,000 unique experiences per annum in the development of better human beings.
We are proud to have started our journey towards B Corp accreditation. We aspire to become a better educational travel business for a better world. We have a way to go and the commitment we are now placing on our social and environmental responsibility will help us in all decision making going forward.
Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a strong emphasis towards STEM subjects and service. With global digitisation being accelerated even further throughout COVID-19 we expect this STEM focus to continue and form a key part of our educational experiences. Another growing trend is incorporating a service element into every tour. Instilling gratitude and a ‘giving back’ ethos in the next generation is a core focus of our tours and something that will continue as we look to further integrate the Foundation of Student Horizons with our everyday operation.
How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with Student Horizons?
Student Horizons performs in-depth safety audits for our entire supplier network on an annual basis to ensure that every hotel / coach company / attraction meets the high level of safety that we pride ourselves on. We also provide in-person risk assessment sessions at every school where students are confronted with scenarios that could occur. Our staunch commitment to our people, processes and policies in regard to safety and incident management helps to keep our young travellers safe.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
With so much change happening across the global travel industry we wanted to make sure Student Horizons was at the forefront of these changes and could emerge from 2020 as a leader in the new travel landscape. Joining WYSE Travel Confederation and being part of its world class community was a natural step to ensure we are ahead of the curve.
Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event?
We have attended the Stay WYSE Conference (Amsterdam, 2019) and recently attended the first virtual WYSTC. Being based in Australia & New Zealand we have a huge geographical distance between many of our major partners in Europe and the US. Having the opportunity to meet with these partners at a conference is invaluable and helps us strengthen key relationships throughout the world.
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing currently?
The last six months have been horrific for everyone involved in travel and we have witnessed first-hand the financial impact on parents, our travel partners and also on the team at Student Horizons. Every part of the travel supply chain has suffered in some way and going forward, the word safety will be paramount in everyone’s mind. This will be viewed in two ways with two big questions:
- Is it safe to travel to a particular destination?
- How safe is my money in the event of another COVID-19 type situation?
Physical safety has always been a cornerstone pillar of how we operate and we have an enviable track record of safely running 400 trips and taking over 12,000 students overseas. Organising safe travel is a specialised business and once educational travel resumes, we will be operating to the highest levels of COVID-19 Safe travel standards.
We are currently collaborating with World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) who are leading the definition of industry best practices around safety in a post-COVID-19 era. For us, putting the safety of the students, teachers and staff remains at the core of everything we do.
Our approach to safety is focused on 3 key areas:
- Our People – making sure our staff are trained to the highest safety standards and are experts in COVID-19 Safe travel.
- Our Partners – we will ensure that every partner (airline, hotel, transport provider) shares our commitment to COVID-19 Safe travel and has robust policies and procedures to keep our students safe.
- Our Policies and Procedures – we are adapting our Risk Mitigation and Incident Management framework to make it work in a COVID-19 world – we’re already working with our insurers, scenario planning new situations such as quarantine and Managed Isolation to develop a series of new protocols for situations that only a few months ago seemed very farfetched.
Safety of funds
The global travel industry is now grappling with the challenges of consumer protection and defining the new commercial agreements that will become the basis of future travel. Many travel associations and bonding organisations who have historically provided some protection to consumers are now also facing challenges themselves. As their members suffer financial distress and membership levels drop, pressure will be applied to their consumer protection funds as members fail.
Right now, we are playing our part and immersing ourselves in global discussions around consumer protection to identify global best practices which we will implement in our business.
All in all, it’s a complex landscape and for a small business like ours and we can’t solve the world’s travel problems on our own. What we can do is engage widely, make sure we are connected to the leading thinkers globally and obtain the highest levels of accreditation in our industry to ensure that consumers can have confidence in doing business with us in the future.
Rest assured consumer protection is at the forefront of our minds right now. We know it will be at the forefront of our customers once travel resumes.
Travel remains critical for young people in terms of expanding their horizons and becoming global citizens and it’s heartening to see the continued support of schools and parents that reinforce this view.
Student Horizons is guided by a single-minded vision to enrich the lives of young people by making overseas and domestic school tours accessible to all students. Through travel, Student Horizons strives to be the leading school trip travel agency that provides experiences to students in a range of disciplines that are equally as life-changing as they are life-shaping.
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Full Member
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