Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Griffith University’s Dr Sarah Gardiner wants you to meet Queensland tourism’s bright young things

Tourism expert Dr Sarah Gardiner, 40, says with one third of tourists to Queensland aged under 30 it is now young entrepreneurs who will make commercial tourism thrive.

Sarah, a Senior Lecturer at Griffith University’s Business School, says the majority of tourism and events business owners are older and young tourists need fresher, smarter and more innovative events and attractions.

Sarah Gardiner
“We see a huge opportunity for young people to create and market businesses to other young people out in the marketplace and that’s what we are trying to encourage people to think about,” Sarah says.

“The major challenge is we need more people being innovative. What we saw when we went out there was a lot of people who are running tourism, events and hospitality businesses are more mature in years,” she says.

To tackle the problem Sarah partnered with media tech startup MeMedia on the Gold Coast to produce videos and podcasts they hope will spark a new generation of Queensland tourism innovators.

Produced with funding from the Advance Queensland Young Starters Fund and support from Griffith University and The University of Queensland Business School, the five videos and podcasts showcase the successes and pitfalls of becoming a young entrepreneur.

The videos follow the journey of five entrepreneurs who finished studying and went out to start their own business.

“They were a really diverse range of young people that embraced innovation and challenge and created some really great products as a result,” says Sarah.

“I think often the entrepreneurial journey can be quite a lonely one. If you haven’t been exposed to that and you have a great business idea but you aren’t quite sure how to go about it often that can be quite a daunting task.

“So I guess hearing the stories of other young people can help them think they too can develop an idea and innovation.”

Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Sarah looks forward to seeing how the series will impact students graduating from university at the crux of deciding their future.

“I can see from my students they have such great ideas and are so passionate about what they want to do and have the skills and expertise,” she says.

“I guess we just need to find ways to allow those ideas to get traction in the marketplace.”

Sarah says all young entrepreneurs need persistence and resilience in their business ideas and to make good contacts and connections.

“Often we try to go on this journey by ourselves but I think the best way to develop an idea is to get out there and consult with other people. Go to lots of events, tap into networks, talk to lots of people about what you’re doing,” she says.

“That way you can grow and change an idea as you move through the journey of entrepreneurship.”

Sarah is passionate about the new generation of business people and creating new products in the youth tourism sector.

“I’ve been working with the youth tourism sector for over a decade now and I see lots of opportunity in that space,” she says.

“The Queensland Government is really serious about trying to encourage young people to innovate and start up new businesses as part of this grant.”

Sarah fell into tourism policy and strategy through an unexpected pathway.

“Once I finished my undergraduate degree I worked on a project for two years looking at the tourism and economic development strategies around the Sydney Olympic Games,” she says.

“I suppose that’s where I started to talk with tourism people and get really interested in tourism. I started to get more into the policy and strategy side of the tourism and I really enjoyed it.”

Sarah completed her PhD in marketing in 2012 and has been based in the Gold Coast for more 25 years.

“Queensland is a fabulous place to have a business in tourism, hospitality or events. We have strong infrastructure within this state to make the tourism industry and events industry thrive,” Sarah says.

“We have really strong peak bodies such as the Queensland Tourism Industry Council and really proactive people within Tourism and Events Queensland and within the regions. In many ways Queensland is really ahead in terms of tourism strategy and product development.”