How to cut through the tourism noise - James Walker - The Outback Yacht Club

How to cut through the tourism noise - James Walker - The Outback Yacht Club

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Imagine a sailing club in the middle of the Australian outback, 1000km from the sea – tourism hotspot or recipe for disaster?


You may be surprised to discover that the Outback Yacht Club really does exist, in the middle of Queensland’s desert-like outback… and it’s a roaring success story!


The journey began when James Walker and his brother were looking to diversify their 2,000-acre cattle farm. They knew that busloads of tourists drove through the area, but on their way to other destinations – there was nothing to entice them off the bus and into the outback at that time.


This led the brothers to the idea of experiential travel. They managed to divert visitors off the traditional tourist route to take in an afternoon at their farm. Guests were treated to a real ‘day in the life’ experience of farming in the great Australian wilderness – this included a property tour, a glimpse into the family’s farming history, all washed down with a sunset drink at the bore hole. The brothers packaged up their story to give visitors an authentic outback experience while the spectacular scenery captivated guests with its wide-open spaces, stunning sunsets, and unfiltered night sky – suddenly the brothers had found a new market in the world of tourism.


Word soon spread and competition sprang up in the area ­– their unique offering was being diluted. So, keen to stay one step ahead, the intrepid Walker boys came up with a new plan that no-one else would ever think possible – to open a yacht club in the Australian outback!


The preposterous idea soon gained traction and before long, the world’s media were clamouring to get a piece of the story. The yacht club has since gained affiliate memberships with yacht clubs around the world, holds regattas and events, and sailing enthusiasts have made the journey specifically to sail at this little oasis in the Australian desert.


This remarkable story of reinvention shows that you can always find space in a crowded market – you just need to know where to look!


Here are James’s top tips for getting yourself noticed in the tourism business:


1. Develop your story: a good story is one that people relate to and are interested in, it’s the feeling of belonging that you can give to people. What we think of as normal and every day, is not every day for other people. So, for us, part of our story is the open space where you can look for 360 degrees and see nothing man-made. A lot of people have never experienced the unfiltered night sky with the milky way sitting above. We infused visitors with a story that they can take back to their friends and talk about around the dinner table. 


2. Create a sense of connection: human connection in tourism is massive – it’s not just about the thing or the place, it’s about making them feel like they’re part of something. So, we mix in stories about how our family came to settle in the outback, and the trials and tribulations of farming out here. You soon really connect with people – that’s what they’re looking for ultimately, a connection with someone they gain an affinity for and can always look back on and know they had a great experience.


3. Be authentic: experiential travel is about getting people to go home and talk about their experiences – you can’t get the same sense of connection with a museum. And if we can give them that authenticity, it forms part of our marketing – through word of mouth, people have the ability to come and experience what those other people experienced so well.


4. Come up with your USP: we felt we needed to separate ourselves from the market and do something that no other operators could compete with. So, when we set up the Outback Yacht Club, we wanted to attract a market that could be unique to us and that became our unique selling proposition. Now is the perfect time to reflect on what your point of difference in the market is – with the world wide web, you can target a particular niche and it really can work.


5. Don’t limit your imagination: you are only limited to the imagination you have. News is hard to come by, so think what story would work with a journalist – choose something memorable, that will stand out. When we opened our yacht club, we invited the media out for a press launch and it was priceless marketing for us. Think of it as free advertising or marketing and use these assets to leverage off.


Connect with the Outback Yacht Club on Facebook and Instagram



 James Walker is a fifth-generation farmer from Longreach, Queensland who is passionate about  Australian family farms and in improving financial performance through tailored initiatives including tourism.



Show notes


How to cut through the tourism noise


There is always a gap in the market if you look hard enough – that’s the message from James Walker who launched the Outback Yacht Club, a sailing club located in the Australian outback, 1000km from the sea!


Prior to that, James had built a successful business in attracting visitors to his cattle ranch in the outback. His unique outback experiences tapped into the market for experiential travel and saw visitor numbers grow from 500 to 6000 in just three years.


In this inspiring podcast, James talks about finding your niche in a crowded market, how to offer guests a unique experience, and why it’s a sense of connection that visitors all crave.




In this podcast, we discuss the importance of:


  • Finding your story
  • Connecting with guests
  • Offering unique experiences


Listen to James explain how to:


  • Be authentic
  • Define your USP
  • Not be limited by your imagination




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