fastest growing, remains humble and local
For TripADeal, the figures speak for themselves: revenue in excess of $100million for 2017; 75,000 travellers sent to various far-flung corners of the globe each year; a database that contains more than one million people nationwide; a team of staff that numbers 100, making TripADeal the biggest employer in Byron Bay. The company is a spectacular Northern Rivers success story.
TripADeal is an online travel store that offers discount package deals for destinations the world over. Founded in 2011 by two mates, Richard Johnston and Norm Black, the company capitalised on the changing nature of the travel industry in the digital age and created a business that, according to Australian Federation of Travel Agents CEO Jayson Westbury, is “taking on American giant Expedia and winning”.
That’s some achievement given TripADeal’s humble beginnings – Richard and Norm started out with Richard working out of a laundry in Bali and Norm from a Byron Bay office.
“In the early days we spent a lot of time battling to get some brand trust and to say it was a slog is an understatement,” says Richard. “We had to use all our guerrilla marketing skills to get customers to take a leap of faith and buy from us.
“I remember times when Norm and I would assume different personas to make ourselves sound bigger than we actually were. At a certain time each day Norm became ‘John’ from customer service.”
While those days are firmly behind them, Richard and Norm strive to keep a homely and accessible feel to the business and its many staff.
“Even in the midst of the chaos of being Australia’s fastest growing company, we have tried to keep it simple and lead the business as if it was still just the two of us in a tiny office in the Byron Bay industrial estate.”
Nevertheless, TripADeal have watched the accolades roll in: AFR 100 Top Fastest Growing Company award for two years running and Online Travel Agency of the Year at the 2017 National Travel Industry Awards are just two recent examples.
While Richard and Norm are extremely well travelled, the pair remains beholden to Byron Bay as a place to work, live, play and indeed attract talent.
But it wasn’t always like that.
“Being based in Byron was originally something we thought we needed to hide,” says Richard. “I guess the feeling was that a couple of blokes from Byron couldn’t possibly pull off what we were trying to do – there was no precedent for this scale of business in a town like Byron Bay.