Digital Duck

Aquaduck is a well established Gold Coast tourism business that’s been operating since 1996. This year the company changed ownership with the new owners placing an emphasis on improving the quality of the Aquaduck experience.

Sarah Colgate is one of the new owners, along with being General Manager and Managing Director of the company’s board. “While Aquaduck was a well established business it wasn’t digitised at all, so we brought in an online reservation system and new website while upgrading all of the procedures and processes.”

In looking to develop growth opportunities for the business the new Aquaduck owners wanted to create a more rewarding experience for tourists, as Sarah explains:

“We changed the tour content by making it a more contemporary and authentic tour. The Gold Coast has matured as a tourism market and is getting away from kitsch or novelty concepts by looking for something more authentic. Previously it was come on a duck ride, it was very much about the bus, not what the tour offered. Now we run a combined city and water cruise. We want to talk about the traditional owners and the history of the city as well.”

A Marketing Challenge

In broadening Aquaduck’s tourism appeal, Sarah turned to the city’s education sector to provide a fresh marketing perspective. Ellis Ritchie is currently studying marketing at Griffith University and was drawn to the challenge of joining a small tourism operation that up until now had no marketing team.

“A lot of other internships are so specific and that really limits what you can take away from the experience, whereas here at Aquaduck because they don’t have a marketing department I can implement lots of ideas and see them come to fruition,” says Ellis.

Ellis is unfazed by the prospect of starting from scratch as an intern. “A good way to look at it is that because we‘re coming from a zero base, everything is a win for the organisation. When you’re starting with a clean slate, almost any idea is a good one and with virtually no budget you really have to think creatively so this is a good challenge for me.”

Sarah Colgate believes that Aquaduck will benefit significantly from employing Ellis’s insights and putting in the groundwork for the new owners. “For someone coming in a lot of businesses would already have a digital strategy in place, but that wasn’t the case here. It’s an opportunity to do some market research – asking customers where they’re from, how they found us, etc… and then building a profile of our customers.

Happy Cusomers on Duck Tour


The Benefits of Experience

Aquaduck is Ellis’s second internship, having previously worked on press operations for the Commonwealth Games. She says both experiences have been very closely aligned with her marketing degree.    

“The theoretical knowledge from uni has come into play a lot more than I originally thought it would. A lot of the assignments I’ve done have already had practical applications for me in this role, even the language of marketing has been helpful in dealing with operations within the workplace.”

Sarah is careful to ensure that Ellis’s internship isn’t just an opportunity to capitalise on student labour. “What we’re trying to do is give Ellis the chance to be involved in multiple facets of our business – she’s being exposed to everything we do, but having said that we’re only asking her to do things which are specific to her field of study. Our sister business is Paradise Jet Boating and they also have an intern who coincidentally went to school with Ellis. So we want to see what synergies there are between their roles in the organisation and what learnings they can share with each other from their experiences with us.”

Ellis concurs that the situation has already had benefits: “we’ve been bouncing ideas off each other and thinking strategically about how we can approach things. It’s good to have someone who can validate your ideas. For me personally the real benefit is taking the theory and applying it in the real world. There’s no substitute for this kind of experience.”











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