Export Finance Australia’s loan helped Townsville tourism business Sun City Watersports Pty Ltd (Trading as Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive) purchase a larger vessel to support growing international tourist demand.
The Far North Queensland city of Townsville receives around 1 million visitors every year – and it’s easy to understand why. Located next to the Great Barrier Reef, the city boasts the world's largest living coral reef aquarium and access to Magnetic Island. It’s also the gateway for one of the world’s top-10 wreck dives, the SS Yongala.
For more than 30 years, family-owned dive and snorkel tour operator, Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive have been delighting tourists with trips to Townsville’s extraordinary reef and the Yongala wreck. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, as Director Paul Crocombe explains.
“When we started, we had to charter various boats,” Paul said. “We were let down a few times with unreliable operators and unreliable boats, with maintenance and operating procedures below our standards.”
In response, the business invested in its own boat, enabling it to grow. The addition of another vessel meant they had one boat for reef day trips, and another for diving trips to the Yongala wreck – so they could make the most of both attractions.
Surviving in a challenging industry
Paul says that the business has faced its share of challenges, including variable weather conditions that can see occasional cancellations due to rough seas, and Townsville’s distance from reef diving sites.
“We’re located a lot further from the reef than say, Cairns, so our fuel costs are much higher.”
A downturn in 2011 also put the business under pressure. Undeterred, Paul decided to pivot his focus to fill a growing demand for ‘edu-tourism’ – providing education through tourism.
He joined forces with James Cook University and a group of tour operators in Townsville. Together, they now offer edu-tourism to visiting American university students, sharing their knowledge and love of the marine environment.
“One tour operator takes them into the rainforest, and we take them out to the reef to do reef surveys and learn about the marine environment,” said Paul.
He believes that this new market segment, along with strong networks with local and international travel agencies, have helped his business survive where others have failed.
“We’re one of the few Townsville operators left,” he said.
In fact, over recent years, Paul’s experience and reputation have seen his business flourish, and his vessels regularly booked to capacity.
Growing the business with Export Finance Australia’s help
To meet growing international visitor demand, Paul decided the business needed to purchase a third, larger vessel. A bigger boat would allow him to take 35 people out at a time instead of 21. It would also provide a more comfortable trip to the reef in rougher conditions, reducing the number of cancelled trips.
“In our current vessels, we can only go out when it’s under 20 knots,” Paul explained. “A larger boat can handle up to 25 knots.”
With three boats, the company could also operate three trips at once – one for reef day-trippers, another for Yongala wreck dives, and a third for multi-day diving tours. But despite a profitable business and long track record in tourism, finding funds for the new boat proved to be another challenge.
“Banks are very reluctant to lend money on boats,” said Paul, “And even more so for tourism.”
That’s where Export Finance Australia can help – with a range of finance solutions for Australian businesses that provide tourism services to international visitors.
After discovering us through a business coaching program, Paul applied for a loan and proved that he had enough international visitor demand and the marketing skills to grow his business successfully.
We provided Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive with a $575K loan to support the purchase of a third vessel.
“The Export Finance Australia loan means we can maintain our lead in the area of reef education,” said Paul. “Like a tree, if a business isn’t growing, it’s dying. So standing still isn’t an option. Their support means we can take the next step to grow the business.”
 Townsville City Council, Tourism and major events, 2014.