January 20, 2021

Airguides: Tourism-Tech Sending Customers Directly to Wineries

By Angela Oemcke

Being in the #winetech game with our customer engagement platform, it’s safe to say the team at Cellr love talking innovation in the wine industry- and we think you will too. In this installment of “What the Tech?!” we got chatting with Bibi Jellema who is the Co-founder of Airguides, a tourism tech company that engages popular travel experts to curate unique itineraries for their customers.

This year Airguides explored the wine tourism vertical for their business model, through the FOMENT 2020 Wine & Tourism Tech Accelerator- and came out top of their class with the winning pitch. So let’s find out more about what Airguides is about, and what it can bring to the table for the wine industry.

I read that stumbling upon David Attenborough on a hike inspired the Airguides idea… tell us how it all started!

Paul (Co-founder) and I were in Borneo in 2014 and we met a local photographer who offered to take us on an Orangutan tour. We were super excited to see orangutans in the wild, but our guide said he wanted to take us to this “bat cave” as well. This is embarrassing to admit, but we weren’t too excited, as we just wanted to find the orangutans, but I guess you always have to trust the locals! When we arrived at the bat cave, we could see there was some sort of film set up. We didn’t think too much of it and entered the cave. Once inside the dark bat cave (that really stank like poo!), Paul reckons he could hear “the voice”. I of course said, no way. But yep, there he was. Sir David Attenborough in the flesh, walking past us in the bat cave, filming a BBC documentary about flying animals. We were completely starstruck. Bless our local guide (he didn’t know who David Attenborough was). Without any shame, he asked him to take a photo with us! We were so embarrassed (but so thankful at the same time). 

See the photo below for proof. Paul says he will regret his choice of pink singlet that day for the rest of his life! Sir David Attenborough was 89 at the time, and the nicest, most humble, and hard-working person in real life. While we were complaining about how the “bat poo stank”, he was in this dark cave, climbing up the walls himself. He even took the time to chat with us.

What inspired you to explore Australian wine tourism as a vertical for Airguides?

Airguides works in partnership with trusted storytellers to offer unique trip packages. The first Airguides trips we launched were created in partnership with photographers, so by default they had a photography focus. However, ‘Food & Wine’ have always been a part of our trip packages. We create personalised travel guides for our travelers, which also include recommendations about the lesser-known markets, restaurants, wineries and other local producers.

From speaking with our travelers, we noticed that there was a demand for more ‘Food & Wine’ themed trip packages in Australia and New Zealand. And what better ambassadors for these kinds of trips than local chefs and winemakers?

From speaking with our travelers, we noticed that there was a demand for more ‘Food & Wine’ themed trip packages in Australia and New Zealand.

The request for more specialised ‘Food & Wine’ trips is what made us explore Australian wine tourism. Not being familiar with the Australian wine industry as much and unsure how to get access, coming across Foment was just the perfect opportunity/springboard for us.

Talk to us about your experience with the FOMENT program- the world’s only wine and tourism tech accelerator.

We thought it was ambitious that the program was going to be delivered virtually and we were unsure what we were in for, but we are so grateful (and lucky!) we got in. Darren, Carla, Calli and Charlotte (the program team we directly worked with) were all absolute rockstars. We are still amazed at how well they pulled it off!

Especially being stuck in the Melbourne lockdown, it was incredibly nice to be a part of the Foment community. Not only did we learn a ton, we also met great friends across Australia and California (who knew you could actually make friends virtually!). The Barossa and McLaren Vale immersion weeks were set up very well. Via Youtube, we could follow along and it made us feel like we were actually there. Darren and Carla made sure to show us all the sights, pass on all our questions and Darren even gave us a (sneaky) behind the scenes look at the unique designs of the men’s toilet at d’Arenberg Very impressive indeed!

Furthermore, the mentors and the guest speakers all blew us away and we learned so much. Not only about wine and tourism, but also about business structures, marketing strategies and South Australia in general.

Why should Australian wine producers and regions engage tourism-tech, like Airguides?  

Great question. I think Darren said it best during the Foment program. Australian wineries are world-class in terms of quality wine production, but sometimes tourism is seen as a side business. We strongly believe it’s a huge value add to any winery. I think some wineries underestimate how incredible their properties are, and how interesting travelers find the whole wine production process.

Our advice to wineries would be to focus on building a unique and incredible experience, and let tourism-tech like Airguides send you customers!

Offering something like a Glamping experience at a winery is a match made in heaven! One of the least known about, but also one of the most innovative parts of tourism-tech is actually the B2B side. Wineries probably think it’s more challenging to attract travelers, when in fact it’s the opposite. Companies like Airguides are desperate for unique experiences to promote. 

To quote Field of Dreams: “If you build it they will come”. This could not be more true for tourism experiences. Our advice to wineries would be to focus on building a unique and incredible experience, and let tourism-tech like Airguides send you customers!

What travel packages are available and do you have a particular case study / success story you can share about a customer?

Airguides offers self-drive trip packages created by storytellers in Australia and New Zealand. We personalise each trip and take care of all your planning and bookings (incredible accommodation, lesser-known experiences and reliable transport). We have just launched our new website: airguides.com. Here, you can discover all our Australia and New Zealand trips. 

During the pandemic, our team has been working hard on creating new trips (5+ Days) and completely new (news scoop!) is that we will also offer ‘escape style’ packages (3-5 Days). 

Every now and then you get a customer journey that’s really mind-blowing when you really stop and think about it.

When we were quite early days, we had a couple from Florida, USA connect with us through one of our NZ based storytellers. They had followed Meghan Maloney (nature photographer) for months on Instagram, and through that connection wanted us to plan their dream honeymoon in New Zealand. It included glamping, wineries, scenic flights, and some of the best secret locations around New Zealand that Meghan had recommended.

They paid fully upfront, flew to New Zealand and trusted that there would be a campervan waiting for them at the airport! We couldn’t believe (and were really honoured in) the amount of trust they placed in us, and we went above and beyond to organise the most amazing honeymoon for them. We even managed to organise an emergency flight out after all the Covid cancellations, making sure we were there for them 24/7. Thank goodness (in the midst of the Covid crisis), our honeymooners were able to finish their holiday and they had a wonderful time:

“I cannot say enough amazing things about Airguides and the amazing honeymoon they planned for us.”

(Google review)

Sometimes we take connecting virtually with customers for granted, but it’s pretty wild when you think you can build that level of trust virtually.

General Airguides Summary

Airguides is the first platform where people can book trips created by storytellers. In partnership with the most inspiring photographers, filmmakers and chefs in Australia and New Zealand, Airguides creates unique, independent trip packages. Personalising each trip, Airguides takes care of all planning and bookings — incredible accommodation, lesser known experiences and reliable transport. Airguides trips have a strong focus on responsible tourism and regional destinations.

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