Tasmania is calling

An exclusive interview with Ben Rea, Founder of Tasmanian eBike Adventures

DISCOVER TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA’S BEST KEPT SECRET

A special Q&A on sustainable travel and conscious tourism with Ben Rea

Tasmania is Australia’s best kept secret and it is one of the last relatively untouched places in the world. It has an incredible depth of biodiversity and is delicate beyond understanding. On one hand, Tasmania is quite culturally sophisticated when it comes to modern living, but on the other, it remains stark and raw like it was in pre-colonial times.

In recent years, many people are choosing to migrate to this island state, escaping the fast pace of city life. Tasmania is also rapidly becoming a favourite amongst travellers due to its popularity for outdoor adventure and nature tourism.

This presents both challenges and opportunities when it comes to preserving the natural beauty and indigenous culture in the region. 

Sustainable travel and conscious tourism advocate, Ben Rea, is amongst those dedicated to both protecting and sharing Tasmania’s splendour with the world. Ben is a passionate conservationist and local tour operator who is leading the way in delivering responsible tourism experiences in Tasmania. His business, Tasmanian eBike Adventures, encourages travellers to get in touch with their wild side whilst indulging in unforgettable, immersive travel experiences like never before.

Maria Island Fossil Cliffs
Maria Island Fossil Cliffs with Mt Bishop and Clerk in distance

Whilst traversing the east coast of Tasmania on electric bikes, Ben invites his guests to step into his world. Electric bikes provide a mode of transport with minimal impact on the environment and their pace creates an opportunity for people to deepen their connection between each other and the natural world. 

Tasmanian eBike Adventures offers private, customised tours for families and small private groups, transporting visitors back in time. Together, they ride along expansive stretches of natural coastline to encounter some of our planet’s last unscathed landscapes. 

A day out with Ben is the ultimate way to discover the hidden wildness and authentic natural beauty that can only be found in Australia’s most southern state. Ben’s customised eBike adventures explore the private conservation estate of Bangor and world heritage listed Maria Island National Park. Both trips summon you into Tasmania’s wilderness, whilst showcasing the spectacular rugged beauty and cultural heritage of Tasmania.   

Our Founder and Editor, Keeley Warren, speaks with Ben to learn more about Tasmanian eBike Adventures and sustainable tourism in Tasmania.

Bangor Estate Forestier Peninsula
Bangor Estate Forestier Peninsula location of Bangor Adventure Ride

Why are you so passionate about sustainability in tourism?

When I was in my late teens I started travelling and that was an epiphany when it came to the environment. Even though I had grown up in Tasmania, I just thought that everywhere else was the same. I went to even wilder and more remote places in western Canada and Alaska. It was there that I formed a really strong connection to place. After I came back to Australia, I became heavily involved in the Tasmanian environmental movement. I realised that we had time to act, but nobody was acting. I got into education and worked for the Tasmanian national parks service. I was challenged by the reality that you can’t change problems with the same way of thinking. 

When you start your own business, you realise that you have more authority and authenticity. This is what drove me to start Tasmanian eBike Adventures. I also love that I get to meet other people in the sustainable tourism space who are excited about what they are doing.

Do you consider yourself to be an advocate for sustainable tourism?

Yes definitely, I started the business because I wanted to create change within the industry, however, I try to do this in an indirect way. Instead of talking directly about sustainability in tourism, I show people an experience that helps them to understand the benefits and impacts of conscious travel in practice. 

In many ways, Tasmanian eBike Adventures is leading in this space in Tasmania. I do what I do because I care about the environment and conservation, mainly because I want to preserve our wild places. Showing people ‘the how’ is essential to understanding what sustainability in travel even is. 

I’m passionate about connecting with others in the sustainable travel space and I like sharing experiences with travellers to help educate about the environment, conservation and the positive aspects of travel. If people can’t experience nature, they can’t understand and respect it. 

The challenge is how you use education and knowledge to access the people that need to understand.

Maria Island Marine Reserve
Snorkelling adventures in the Maria Island Marine Reserve

What are some of the challenges with tourism in Tasmania?

The opening of the 2021-2022 tourism season will be challenging for Tasmania because there will potentially be a huge influx of tourists as we experienced prior to the pandemic. The island isn’t set up to accommodate such a high number of visitors and this has impacts on the environment and the local community.

In my opinion, the conservation side of tourism is lacking. Many small tourism providers are doing great work individually, but they don’t have the time to sit on boards or speak out about what needs to change within the industry.

The most important thing to me when it comes to influencing the tourism sector is communicating the importance of indigenous culture and its stewardship of the land and sea. This should be a priority for future generations and the future of the island. 

Through my business, I’ve always wanted to bring people together that can create change. I’m also passionate about shifting people’s mindsets before they arrive.

How can the tourism industry evolve to embrace a more responsible approach to delivering tourism experiences in Australia?

We need to embrace new ways of thinking to change old habits and create a more responsible approach to tourism here. It’s about consulting with the local community and working with them to develop tourism experiences that they want to offer, along with designing tourism initiatives that attract the right type of people to the region.

If we can educate people that there are more respectful ways to travel before they arrive, even better. To me, education is the foundation of everything. 

What inspired you to start a business in tourism?

I left Australia at 19 and lived in the northwest of Canada where I spent a lot of time travelling in the remote islands of Haida Gwaii and Gwaii Haanas National Park, Marine reserve and Haida heritage site. My parents had travelled extensively and this, combined with the experiences I had in Canada, instilled a deep-seated passion within me for travel and conservation of the natural world from a young age. 

Before starting Tasmanian eBike Adventures, I was an outdoor educator and  sea kayak guide, so I’ve always been a remote wilderness guide and an adventurer. In 2017, the international year of sustainable travel, I went back to Canada to revisit  the tourism model on Haida Gwaii. They take a more inclusive approach to managing the tourism destination by consulting with the community throughout the process. This approach really appealed to me and I wanted to create a business that wasn’t just sustainable, but it protects and restores Tasmania’s natural environment and supports my local community.

How did you come up with the concept for Tasmanian eBike Adventures?

My thinking was that my business is an instrument to show people what is possible when it comes to travelling in a different way and by inspiring them with the natural beauty of Tasmania’s environment. 

I’ve always been into bike touring and mountain biking. As a sea kayak guide and educator I found water-based activities were not accessible to those who lacked confidence around the ocean. I also didn’t want to offer multi-day trips. Electric bicycles are the perfect vehicle and transportation mode. I also love the fact that they run on green technology. Our guests still get an adrenaline rush from being on the edge of their comfort zones, but I can make sure that people are having fun because electric bikes enable all levels of riders.

I wanted to help people access wild, remote and unique places and the eBikes offer them a way to get there regardless of fitness level and cycling experience. In the beginning, I looked at having a set date and departure model, but I came to the realisation that I wanted to purely offer private group tours to help people focus on being at ease and connected with the land as quickly as possible.

What type of traveller usually books a tour with Tasmanian eBike Adventures?

My clients range from people who enjoy cycling to those that appreciate nature experiences and are adventurous. Others want to get their family out to do an activity together and the bikes overcome the barriers of age and fitness. Many of our guests are interstate and international tourists, but I also guide for people based in Hobart or those living locally. The one thing most guests have in common is that they value being guided by people with local knowledge and they are usually quite time-poor.

What should people expect if they book a tour with you?

Tasmanian eBike Adventures offers small private group experiences by appointment. Our tours are bespoke and customised to the interests of our guests. They are particularly popular with couples and we attract many local and interstate travellers. Our tours are designed for professionals and the premium end of the market, predominantly people who are looking to get close to nature and experience Tasmania through the eyes of a local. I’m passionate about inviting people into my world and showing them an authentic side of Tasmania. 

I like to get to know people before the tours so I can learn about their fears and what they are most excited about. This helps me to create immersive experiences designed specifically for them. For example, if someone was interested in seahorses, I would bring in a marine biologist to meet them, helping to create a genuine and meaningful experience tailored just for them. In other situations, I like to bring in additional experts or friends in the indigenous community who can provide a more immersive cultural experience. 

Our tours that include snorkeling  and eBiking range from $500-$1,000 per person, per day, depending on the size of the group and the activities our guests would like to include.

How has the business changed since you started Tasmanian eBike Adventures?

When I started the business there were a lot of international visitors coming to Tasmania, but that has all changed since COVID-19 started. We are focused on local and interstate travellers now and our adventures are designed to have a positive environmental impact. This includes avoiding riding  on the coast where there are nesting shore birds such as the endangered Hooded Plover and removing the ‘hero aspect’ from our tours. It’s not about taking people to remote places so they can take selfies or photos of themselves doing something epic. It’s more about taking people to remote places so they can have authentic experiences and a connection with the land in a way they wouldn’t have experienced before. 

Connect with Ben

With a background in education, Ben grew up in Tasmania and studied outdoor education. He founded his business on the belief that education is key to creating positive change within the tourism sector. Ben is a partner of Education for Sustainability and he works closely with other local Tasmanian businesses that are passionate about sustainability and regeneration. He is also involved in a number of conservation initiatives.

In collaboration with the University of Tasmania and Birdlife Tasmania, Ben and his team have recently developed a visitor behaviour report that explores the impacts of tourism on shorebirds nesting on Tasmania’s Maria Island. The report has highlighted strategies to communicate with visitors in order to minimise the human impacts of tourism on the island. Planning is underway to actively pilot this research with the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.  

For a taste of some of the action happening behind the scenes at Tasmanian eBike Adventures, connect with Ben on Instagram or simply call direct to discuss your next adventure: 0408 594 801.

This article was written by Keeley Warren, Founder and Editor of Wanderlust with a Purpose and Founder and Director of Mankind Digital. Keeley is an advocate for responsible travel in Australia and beyond. If you would like your business featured in an upcoming article, please send us some information about your business today.