“We started off as 2 men and a second-hand laptop and this is where we are now.” Greg Carter, Co-Founder of Chimu Adventures joins Weekend Afternoons on 2UE each sunday to talk about travel with a difference, Chimu Adventures and the best destinations in South America and Antarctica. Have you missed lasts sunday’s broadcast? No worries, read all about it below or subscribe to our FREE podcasts on iTunes.
Radio interview with Greg Carter – Co-founder of Chimu Adventures
Great to have your company here on 2UE, weekend afternoon. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Sydney or not, we will be here till 6:00pm and we are going to talk travel. Every Sunday we will be talking travel with Chimu Adventures and to kick off the show and tell us more about it because we need to familiarise ourselves, is the founder of Chimu, Greg Carter. Good day Greg.
Good day Trevor. How you doing?
I’m very well. What is Chimu?
What is Chimu? Well Chimu Adventures, we’re an adventure travel company so we specialise in taking people right through Latin America and as far as Antarctica. So it’s a slight difference in temperature ranges.
Yes, so would you say we are talking about a different style of travel?
Yeah, it’s a different style of travel. I suppose a lot of people hear the word ‘adventure’ and kind of freak out and think we are taking people on rafting adventures down the Amazon river and mountain climbing and things like that but for a lot of our clients, the adventure starts when they jump on a plane.
These adventures, they are actual destinations. It doesn’t have to be what you are actually doing at the other end.
Absolutely, yes. It’s just the fact that if they get on that plane in Australia then flying over to South America, that’s where the adventure begins. And it doesn’t have to be an exact event or as laid back as you like really.
Yeah right. And so what makes you different in terms of adventure travel, let alone travel generally?
I suppose with Adventure travel, we’ve been doing it for quite a few years. We’ve been around now for 13 years. The way we operate, we have our own staff on the ground over in South America. We have our own offices throughout the continent. So it gives everyone a big peace of mind and gives us quality control.
Especially if you’re going somewhere you never thought of going before.
You want that support and back up. It’s all well and good, you can be given a card that has a free call star number to get in touch with someone from our local office, you get a bit of assurance through that I guess.
Absolutely.You never feel like you’re on your own and sure it’s an adventure destination but we really take care of people very well and the idea is to be with them every step of the way.
So it gives you a taste of the kind of things we’ll be talking about over the next few weeks.
We can talk about whatever you like, all sorts of things. We can talk about the fantastic destinations that we operate in from places such as Brazil, especially with the Olympic games coming up. You’ve got Peru, you’ve got Machu Picchu and Central America.
Have you already seen an increase in the interest in places like Rio because of the Olympics? Just the attention they get…
Sure, constantly asked my opinion on the Rio games. Every year there’s always something coming up. Every four years with the Olympic Cycle so look, I mean Rio, I think there’s going to be a huge boom in interest after the Olympics. If you haven’t been to Brazil, you certainly will see plenty of it over the coming months. And it’s just one of those destinations that visually describes it and being a Sydney boy myself, somewhere like Rio’s just got a big visual impact as Sydney does. And it hits a lot of people hard. They really want to go there and see it.
How did you get into it?
How did I get into it? So Chad is my fellow co-founder and we founded the business thirteen years ago. We’ve been in the ski resort while we were at university working as lift operators in California as many young Australians did, and travelling around and many years later we found ourselves in London. When we got to London, Chad told me that he’s looking to go to South America and he’d already spent some time down there and in a rad about way, pretty much said, well do you think you know a bit about South America and you’ve certainly help me put this trip together that I’m planning? He goes, I want to start a business. Why don’t we start a business doing this? And that was over a period of pub and the rest is history really.
Right. So where was that? Where was your first trip in kind of Latin America?
Well I met my wife many years ago, same time I met Chad actually and she’s from Peru and that let to me taking off into an adventure down there for 6 months and then travelling around South America a little bit.
It’s a good adventure.
Getting to know it a little bit.
So what sort of places are we talking about and let’s go straight to the heart of what the audience is probably thinking as well. I don’t want to pigeon hole the audience too much but I probably feel like I might be a similar style traveller. I’m a Western civilisation traveller. I’m not a fan of the Asian countries. I just like going to you know – I like America. I like those kind of things. Draw me – what is the thing apart from this visual majesty of the job but what is the thing that makes travelling to those kind of areas just that little bit special for a holiday? You know you got four weeks holiday a year, rather than wasting it in you know, LA and Washington or New York, what makes it so special?
The good thing about South America it’s just so diverse. And that’s the big thing that really gets a lot of people. I mean South America itself is a huge continent. I mean you talking about countries such as Brazil that’s bigger than Australia and that’s just one country. So there’s a huge variety of people in there. You got indigenous people who’ve lived there for thousands and thousands of years. And you got a huge European influence as well, similar to Australia in some way. South America was a Spanish colony for three, four hundred years. Most of the countries – Brazil was a Portuguese colony, so there’s huge influence, a lot of colonial architecture, amazing cathedrals and museums and…
As a tourist, what’s the getting around like, especially for people who don’t like to have to find their own way and things like that? Is it easy to get around these places? Is it daunting or you rely heavily on the preparation 05:50 info you getting from people like Chimu?
Yes, the big thing about South America is as I said, it is very diverse. So you have these amazing areas and a lot of them are quite isolated. Amazing cities such as Machu Picchu, for example which is an Inca citadel which is behind the Peruvian Andes. All these places access is limited. Machu Picchu for example, there’s pretty much two ways to get there, which is a train ride or a four day hike should I say through the mountains.
Okay, I’ll try the train.
I thought you’d say the train.
Which I’m hoping most people do. I mean I guess the 4 hour hike is not a bad thing for a lot of people. It’s a different style of preparation though. You know when you travelling and you thinking about a hike as well, so then we talked earlier about the fact that there’s a difference between adventure travel and what people may perceive as being adventure travel and just the concept of just travelling somewhere different is in itself an adventure. What percentage of people do want to put adventure on top of the destinational adventure?
Yeah I mean, I suppose it’s what you class adventure. As I say it’s exactly right. Some people getting on the plane see it as an adventure. Some people’s adventure might be taking a four day hike. Some people might be going to a meal and trying something different than they have eaten before. So, everyone has some kind of element of adventure in their trip they do with us. As I said, it’s not necessarily something – it might be a…
Yeah, it doesn’t need to be hard racing and you know, jet boat ride as you might think of a kind of New Zealand adventure. It may be simply an adventurous food to around a place that you’ve never considered before.
So how do you find those things? Because the idea of you know, sleeping under the stars in a desert, is that something that exists and you just connecting people with or do you have a role in creating some of those adventures?
Sure. The beauty about what we do is a bit of both. We spent a lot of time over in South America. I personally spent a couple of months over there a year. We have a big operation over there so I do spend a lot of time over there but it’s finding those small like kind of lesson name products and putting it together and marketing it and putting it together as a package here in Australia for people.
Do you – is there any kind of…and this is getting a bit nerdy, is there any intelligence you use like what people are searching for, the high rating you know style rated and things on Trip Advisor and stuff like that, do you look at those things and go we need to bring that into our adventures and make that something that people are going to desire that we can add so much more value to because rather than just going, getting that things apart of an airline ticket, let’s look at the whole package and make sure that things are part of it because it’s so popular.
Absolutely yeah. We certainly look at trends and we look at what’s popular and a big thing in South America actually and a lot of people kind of say well it’s a back-packing destination and people use that quite a lot but we use that a lot in our research. You get a lot of younger people travelling and back-packing the world and then ten years later their parents go there and that’s what South America is. I mean so many people go travelling there because their kids have come back and raved about it. There is a hotel infrastructure there. There’s amazing hotels and amazing products which we put together as I said, and make those dream trips come true.
And obviously in terms of range of, not just stars, stars is a silly measure of hotels I find because you know, what’s the difference? In reality, four and six, apart from the beauty of a building I don’t know, it’s not much a difference but you’ve got everything in terms of people’s price ranges and style of travel. You know my wife might go there if there’s not a hotel so the camping’s out. You know, there’s different options for every type of person. And that’s the critical – that would be the hardest part, wouldn’t it be? But creating travel destinations and travel adventures, no two people are alike.
Not at all and our destination specialist, we like to call them, the guys on the end of the phone when you call us up, they the guys who travelled extensively and they really take pride in putting together that perfect package. And we do everything from two, three star hotels, four star, five star hotels, whatever you like. We have accommodation for every single price bracket.
How many people working for Chimu?
Globally now Chimu is up to about 80 employees. So we started off as 2 men and a second-hand laptop and this is where we are now.
And that local knowledge within Chimu is a critical part of it so that you can have updates. This is all what one is looking to go there, even every six months you know, so we’ll take this, we’ll put this as part of the package and you know, take photos and be out as you say, have experts on the phone that can talk about it. But the idea of having people locally who can almost in real time update your systems, your travellers, that would be another advantage of using a company like yours. Because you’ve got local people, you’ll have local feedback about – if you had people on the ground, travellers who you know, booked a tour with you, a trip with you, you can actually alert them and keep them informed about things that are going on during their trip if there was any changes or anything going on the ground. It’s a pretty big thing to have local knowledge.
Absolutely. And that’s the biggest thing for us and that’s why we do that because it can be something as simple as a hotel. Someone goes to a hotel and has a bad experience or the management’s changed and we can then move people on to a different option or when there’s times of strikes or look at the strikes resembling France at the moment. In South America if something like that happens, we know where the action is, we know how to get people around and we got our grass on the ground. Just that piece of mind.
Yeah, piece of mind is a huge thing when it comes to travel and so your process, your service is end to end. It’s you know, pick up the phone, I’m interested in a destination that is slightly different to what I’ve considered before. I don’t want to go to Italy, I want to go to Peru and the conversation starts from there walking you through, what you want to do; how many days you want to spend and even to the point of choosing the right time and places to go because it’s all well and good to want to go to Peru in August but if that’s the worst time of the year, you guys are going to know that.
Absolutely. And that’s the thing. People, no matter how long they go for, they go for week or two weeks or four, six weeks is quite common, we can talk them through the whole process. Book exactly what they need to do, where they need to go. We happen to sit down with them. If you’re in the City, we’re in Sydney. We have an office in Melbourne. We have an office up in Queensland as well. So, we more than happy to sit down and go through itineraries with people or do it over the phone, whatever is easy.
So people can come and see you if they want…
Where is your office in Sydney?
We’re in North Sydney.
Okay. Very nice. And the phone is the best way to get in touch in terms of just having that first conversation because that’s the – we probably talking about people who are going, I never thought about Ecuador. Certainly never thought about and did you mention Antarctica?
You weren’t taking the Mickey out of me there.
Okay, well in one of the next few weeks, probably for the next three weeks after this we have to talk about Antarctica because that’s what fascinates me. I’ve heard of people flying over but can you go there?
No. I feel like you pulling the other one there.
No. We take you down there. We use our ice strengthen ships. Some of them are ice-breakers and small groups, these are big, huge cruise ships. We not talking about the big princess ship cruises in Sydney Harbour, we talking about…
One of the drying regulations in Antarctica. Now I’m excited. Imagine the videos and photos would be amazing so you see, that’s the thing. It’s a destination that people would just never have thought about it. I mean there’s a percentage of people that would have absolutely have thought about it and that probably passes through word of mouth for a lot of people who might have seen friends have photos of the huge ice and stuff and that spurs it on but in thinking about travel, it’s probably not in the top 10 in places people are thinking they might go, as probably most of your destinations. And that’s your point of difference right? You not trying to over service Europe, there’s plenty of travel agents that can help you with that.
Correct. And that’s a big theme. Remember the Antarctica for example, it’s a loss continent. So many of our travellers have travelled everywhere. They’ve been everywhere. A lot of people at the moment don’t want to go to Europe.
You can tick all the continental boxes and then Antarctica is the last one.
So, you mentioned your wife is from Peru?
She is yes.
Then the answer to your question cannot contain the words Peru. If you had to pick a Latin American destination, where would you go next?
That’s a good analogy yeah.
The place is absolutely stunning. So it’s something which I always recommend to a whole lot of travellers. I think of places like Cuba and Mexico that’s so vibrant, colourful and amazing music so it depends on your mood I suppose when…what mood I’m in when you ask me that question.
Does weather affect and I know it’s a nerdy thing, I think about like in terms of data, I’d love to know whether a number of phone calls for travelling increase in the last two weeks when we had such terrible weather because people are just thinking I’m out. I want to get out of here.
Absolutely. When we were having that terrible weather just before Christmas. Chimu’s phones were running off the hook because everybody was looking forward to the summer and sure enough, I started calling up saying you want to get out of here.
Yeah, right. And so where does most of your business come from? I mean obviously you did quite well on the internet through those kind of unique destinations that not a lot of people are servicing. Is that the best way people have found you over the years that’s growing your business because you obviously haven’t just you know, overnight become a huge success, you’ve had to grow the business.
Absolutely. Online is a big part of what Chimu does. We have to invest quite heavily on Google and go through the latest channels. You often see in the Sunday paper articles of people who have travelled with us. We also work with a huge, great network of travel agents across Australia so, if you googling a travel agent across Australia and tell them about South America and you want to go there, they will call us up.
They may book through you.
Because that’s that extra T that, you can’t service everyone and the travel agents service first. Not all travel agents have been everywhere so it’s interesting that Chimu got people who they can – a travel agent can ring to get that information.
Absolutely. So a travel agent will call us for our expertise and yeah it’s a great way of getting contact with us as well.
Greg Carter from Chimu Adventures, who’ll be here every Sunday talking about Chimu Adventures and different destinations. We’ll probably pick a different destination every week to dive deep on but great to catch up and great to have that chat first off today.
Thanks for the chat mate and as I said we’ll be back every week over the next few weeks.
For more Information on trips to South America and Antarctica visit us at Chimu Adventures. If you want to read all about Chimu and the trips we offer to Peru, read the interview script here or subscribe to our FREE podcasts on iTunes.