Buzz Your Business: Elia Tours

July 31st, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today’s Buzz Your Business features Elia Tours is for all your world travelers – if you’re ever in Australia, you’ll know what to do!



Elia Tours is a boutique tour company established almost 3 years ago in Brisbane, Australia.  Our main service is personalized English Study Tours for small groups who wish to combine their hobby or interest (such as scuba diving or horse riding) with learning English whilst on vacation.  Of course we offer some more general tours too which enable our clients to see what this beautiful part of the world has to offer!

The tours can all be taken with or without the English Study component – which has proved successful with English-speaking clients who just want to experience the vacation itineraries on offer.


Elia ToursWe also run a successful horse riding business offering 1 to 10 day tours – totally unplanned, this business has grown by word of mouth since we ran some trial weekends to practice for the Study Tours when we first started the business!


We have also just launched an ‘Intro to Endurance’ tour – assisting some of our more capable trail riders to break into the sport of endurance racing. We are very excited about this new direction for our small business!


The concept for Elia Tours arose in 2002 when Danni Cullen (Managing Director) was taking a year out from the IT world to work as an English teacher in Japan. Whilst the benefits of classroom learning were undoubtedly important for students, Danni soon realized that it was through speaking English in their free time that students became more natural speakers, and developed the ability to think in a foreign language. And so the idea of combining classroom study with an English-speaking vacation was born.


Danni is originally from England but has lived in many countries around the world including Holland, Japan, the USA and New Zealand.


She moved to Australia in 2006 and found that her passion for adventure and outdoor sports was soon satisfied with the abundant scuba diving, horse riding, kayaking and bush walking on offer within a few hours of Brisbane.


Early 2007 Danni had an accident that left her unable to walk for a while. During this time, Danni decided to pursue her dream of setting up a company that combined traditional teaching with sharing some of the amazing outdoor activities that she herself was experiencing.


Determined to offer an experience that enabled students to meet and interact with local people in small groups, Danni started to devise itineraries that offered a true Australian experience and encompassed plenty of warm local hospitality.


Her Management Science degree and Project Management skills proved invaluable in setting up the business – however it was the generosity and enthusiasm of other local businesses that really enabled the company to take off.


The Tours


When Elia Tours was first launched clients could build their own vacation itinerary choosing form over 80 different activities. However, this proved an unsuccessful model as we were offering too much choice and it was confusing for people who didn’t know the area.


Within 12 months we had down-sized and simply offered five 10-day  tours which we knew we could deliver with exceptional quality and get it right every time. Three of these focused on hobbies – horse riding, scuba diving and bush walking – the other two were more general sightseeing/experience  tours. Being able to admit we hadn’t got it right, and to adapt accordingly was a life-saving decision for the business.


Recently we have been confident enough to add three 5-day itineraries to the product offering – these can be taken alone or combined with any of the 10 day itineraries.


Whilst we were building the vacation/English Study Tour business we were busy launching some ‘trial runs’ for friends and family for the horse riding tours.


Following our first weekend horse riding tour, we had strangers calling us asking to be invited to the next one. And so it continued until now we have a loyal client base of regular horse riders who join us for weekend tours once a month and recommend us to their friends – the whole business has grown by word of mouth!


We occasionally organize something a little different like a 5 day campout tour or our new ‘Intro to Endurance’ tour just to keep the momentum going.


Without doubt, our favorite section of Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide is Chapter 8: Avoiding Cow Pies – it’s a good reminder that as well as focusing on our goals, we constantly need to check where we are now, and that we are performing at our peak there too.  When we first set up the business, we were constantly looking forward. It took us almost 12 months to realize that you need a good strong base now to move forward and our offering at that time was simply not appealing to our clients.  Chapter 8 talks about how climbers were standing on very thin ice, whilst all of their focus was on the summit. This is where we were too at Elia Tours – thankfully we realized this just in time, and were able to save and build a successful company.


For more information on Elia Tours please go to our website at


Or contact us anytime:



Tel:       +61(0) 488 070 405


We look forward to hearing from you!

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