Dear Student Horizons Stakeholders,
The COVID-19 global situation has created an unprecedented set of circumstances for everyone, and as the owner of Student Horizons, I understand there is uncertainty and concern over our present and future. I must note that prior to the impact of COVID-19, Student Horizons was a strong viable business with year on year growth in New Zealand and Australia over the last 5 years.
Further to my letter to you dated 25th March, which gave an update on the changes we have made at Student Horizons, I’ve since had many conversations and messages of support from our school partners which I’m very grateful for. I wanted to take the opportunity to be transparent with you on the actions we have taken to date and our focus going forward to protect the business and do our best for our clients.
COVID-19 has created a global catastrophe for the travel industry and all travel-related businesses – whether a small family-run company or a global giant, all are now fighting for survival. We at Student Horizons took advice and acted swiftly and decisively, initially reducing the people in our business by 55%. Over the last 6 weeks, our revenue has effectively dried up as schools cancel their current tours and look to pause their future tours until the world resets. In a situation, where we have zero revenue, we must continue to make tough decisions and drive further cost out of our business to preserve cash. We are grateful for the wage subsidy support from both the New Zealand and Australian Governments, and shortly this will become the sole source of income for my staff and Brooke (my wife) and I as owners. This will lead to a reduced operational capacity for the business as my team work fewer hours. Student Horizons will effectively enter a state of semi-hibernation for the next six months.
I share with you that I am securing a State Government loan to supplement our existing working capital funds. This will ensure we can pay our reduced operating expenses over the next 9-12 months whilst international borders are closed, opportunities for overseas travel are restricted and revenue streams remain limited. At Student Horizons we are fortunate to have a very low level of debt, placing us in a position of strength to navigate through the crisis in a state of semi hibernation. This new loan will constitute the first time in our company’s history that we have accessed a loan facility of this nature. Securing this loan is evidence of my commitment to our clients and of my belief in the future strength of the organisation.
I’ve spent eight years building up Student Horizons from scratch and have demonstrated entrepreneurism, grit and resilience in creating two profitable entities across the Trans-Tasman. I have a track record of leading the business through some difficult periods and my passion for the business and my resolve to keep Student Horizons alive is as resolute as ever. My team are showing great character during these testing times and we remain committed to supporting each of our schools navigate their own unique set of travel related challenges.
Student Horizons focus in the near term is threefold:
1) Refund Process for Cancelled April and July 2020 groups – We have a team of people focused exclusively on the recovery of funds from the suppliers we have paid out to across the globe for our client’s tours. I am pleased to confirm we have already made initial refund part payments to all of our 21 April groups that have cancelled, and we have made some refund payments to a few of our July groups. Our normal terms of business state that all monies paid to Student Horizons are nonrefundable under force majeure events. We decided in March to temporarily waive those terms for April and July 2020 travel periods and do our best to present options that contractually we were not obligated to do, but something we felt strongly that we wanted to do.
2) Booked tours travelling in the future (post July travel period) – We currently still have over 30 active tours in our system. We continue to work individually with each school to postpone their tour and ensure that students do not miss out on the experiences that they have worked so hard for. I am very grateful for the nineteen schools and their families that have already postponed their tours to the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 when we all hope the climate for international travel will have returned to some form of normality. For those schools that do not wish to take up our offer of postponement, we are providing those schools with credit notes for the school to use with Student Horizons on future overseas school trips.
In the last 4 weeks both the global travel market and the local NZ/Australian travel sector have been catastrophically impacted by COVID-19 which has led to a deterioration in global economic conditions and in Student Horizons financial position. We have reached a point where we can no longer ease our terms and conditions as we did previously for our April and July 2020 groups. Please know this is not a position I wish to be in. I must make increasingly difficult decisions to ensure Student Horizons entities remain viable and are able to deliver on the future commitments we have made to our clients.
3) Innovation and Pivoting – We must remain relevant in a changed landscape in the short term and beyond. We are investigating how we can adapt, pivot and ultimately redefine our business and come out stronger again when the crisis has passed. We’ve set up an innovation taskforce within the company. The role of this team is three-fold:
a. Co-creation of educational materials, tools and online learning platforms, utilizing our network of global contacts to continue to support our schools and students whilst international borders remain closed.
b. Exploration of what EOTC (education outside the classroom) looks like in a post COVID-19 era, exploring ideas with our client base.
c. Renewed focus in Domestic and Trans-Tasman travel opportunities for our schools across sport, music and education.
This is a fast-moving crisis and trying to predict when the new normal will return is an impossible task. I’m very grateful to those schools who have opted to postpone their trips as this keeps the dreams alive for the students. Postponement also provides Student Horizons with a predictable revenue stream that will support our survival and accelerate when we can return to the new normal.
We are aware that at least one of our competitors in our sector of educational and sports travel has gone into voluntary liquidation as a result of the COVID-19 impact. My thoughts go out to the owner and staff in that organization and the schools and families impacted. I reassure you that I have opted to fight hard to steer Student Horizons through to the other side of this crisis for the benefit of all our stakeholders.
I wish to reassure you that the company that I’ve worked so hard to create and grow year on year will survive this current crisis. Thank you for the ongoing support of so many of our loyal school partners. We will weather the storm together to come out stronger on the other side together.
We will continue to work towards the best possible outcomes for schools and their families who have worked so hard to make these trips possible in the first place.
Owner – Student Horizons
About Student Horizons
Student Horizons is a New Zealand and Australian owned and operated organisation focused on creating safe, meaningful overseas touring experiences for young people. The Student Horizons organisation work exclusively with secondary schools in New Zealand and Australia to facilitate the process of organising sport, music and study-based tours, sharing the responsibility around safety. Student Horizons has developed a reputation of doing the very best for the schools they work with and currently deliver between 65-80 overseas school trips each year.
Student Horizons is a respected educational travel provider in New Zealand and Australia, holding significant partnerships with The Association of Boys Schools, New Zealand (ABSNZ) and the Secondary Schools Principals Association of New Zealand (SPANZ). Jamie Wansey has supported the ABSNZ organisation for the last ten years.
The owners of Student Horizons (Jamie and Brooke Wansey) have also established a charitable entity, named the Foundation of Student Horizons with a mission to provide disadvantaged youth with an opportunity to travel on an overseas trip whilst at school.
Jamie Wansey – Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamie-w-2aa5446/