A fascination with the sea, and penchant for collecting information on shipping companies, led to successful Internet business for Napier man.
Former marine engineer Graeme Etheridge runs travel company specialising in organising passenger travel on cargo ships.
He fields dozens of enquiries week at Freighter Travel (NZ) from people around the world who want to rediscover the romance of travel.
The business got under way when Etheridge set up the company with partner Hamish Jamieson and developed website in 1995.
Etheridge had maintained his interest in the sea by collecting information on shipping companies carrying passengers.
When he was made redundant from his manager’s job he decided to turn his extensive database and his fascination with the sea into business proposition.
He approached Jamieson at Hawke’s Bay Travel Centre. former P&O purser, Jamieson shared Etheridge’s enthusiasm for life at sea, and Freighter Travel was formed as subsidiary of the travel company.
All financial arrangements are handled by the IATA-licensed agency, which also makes accommodation and links arrangements to get passengers to and from their berths.
From the start, the company has been deluged with enquiries. It’s been careful to design its website to target specific market.
“We market only the freighter travel. We have no outside advertising on the site and we make sure people can quickly access the information they want,” says Jamieson.
When the website was first established, Freighter Travel had the field to itself, but others have since set up in competition.
That hasn’t slowed the flow of interest though — over 1000 travellers make enquiries via the website each year.
“It was real eye-opener to me that people were quite comfortable arranging their holiday and paying in this way,” says Etheridge.
Most customers are older or retired, looking for something little different. “They want bit of an adventure — and it is an adventure.
“There’s no organised enter-tainment, but there is steward to look after passengers, usually swimming pool and often sauna. And the cabins are nice — often superior to those on cruise liners.”
Voyages can range from few days to several weeks; from around the NZ coast to around-the-world, calling in at ports often missed by cruise liners.
Freighter Travel can be found at www.freightertravel.hb.co.nz
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