Surf Camp rolls with the punches

Surf Camp rolls with the punches

Guy Olbourne of Surf Camp Australia in Gerroa is relieved the Federal Government has extended its JobKeeper scheme, albeit with some format changes.

“It will enable us to keep jobs while we work to survive over the next six months.”

Mr Olbourne has run his operation for 20 years, developing a niche product specifically designed for the young international traveller.

“All of a sudden the border closures necessary to contain COVID-19 turned the taps off.

“Our income is down over 90 per cent on last year.”

JobKeeper is allowing him to keep 13 people on staff, compared to the 24 he had.

“Our two main markets were international students on weekends and international holiday makers wanting to learn how to surf,” says Mr Olbourne.

“Maybe five per cent of our income was coming from the domestic market.”

Marketing through hundreds of international agents, he had 6,500 stay at his purpose built backpacker facility at Gerroa Discovery Park last year.

“We don’t just run surf lessons, but a whole hospitality operation.

“It was a great business employing plenty of local people and supporting other local businesses.

“My mindset is to keep turning the wheels, keep the business running, and have the whole community benefit from it.

“I have key full time staff I want to keep. They are integral to the on-going make up of the business.”

COVID restrictions have reduced the number of people who can be accommodated at the camp from 90 to 20.

Mr Olbourne says he wants to stay true to the business’ roots by continuing to offer low cost group deals to keep the money coming in to pay the bills.

“We are marketing our fully inclusive surf camps to a wide range of groups, from families wanting to get together and fitness groups, to country sports clubs wanting to use the trip as a fundraiser.

“It is a new experience trying educate the domestic market on what I do, and convert that into bookings.”

To that end, the Camp is being featured on Sydney Weekender, and is participating in a Coles supermarket promotion.

“Our industry is quietly confident we are going to recover and that Australia is going to be looked upon positively within the world youth travel market,” says Mr Olbourne.

“That sector is well known to be the most resilient within international travel, and will recover first.”

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