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"It's been hard graft but great fun making an impact in a competitive tourist town like Rotorua," says James Fitzgerald, Managing Director of Rotorua Canopy Tours as this savvy young business celebrates its second birthday.
More than 25,000 happy customers later, James says they’ve ironed out the crinks, got operations and service “close to perfection” and refined the experience to blow away visitor expectations.
A ten minute drive from Rotorua and marketed as the only native forest zipline tour in New Zealand, the three-hour guided tour takes place deep in a 500 hectare Department of Conservation forest, untouched for centuries.
"We keep the groups small and departures spaced so all customers feel alone in the wilderness. A 400 metre walk through native forest leads to the first launch platform where the guides tell the story of the forest, birds and history of the area before visitors launch themselves into the high flying adventure. This includes 10 platforms, six ziplines (flying fox) and two swing bridges enabling customers to enjoy the thrills with tranquil observation of the native forest."
The business operates year round, catering for visitors aged six and upwards (they have had a 93 and 87-year-old brother and sister combo). International visitors make up 55% of clients, mainly FIT and exclusive family groups. Significant numbers of cruise passengers are also starting to flow through, says James.
Marketing includes exhibiting at TRENZ 2013 and 14 in Auckland, with plans to attend next year’s event in Rotorua.
This Qualmark Endorsed Visitor Activity is very active on social media, attracting more than 3000 Facebook fans and earning a 2014 Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor where they are currently ranked first of 55 Rotorua visitor activities.
Safety is a big focus. The business has undergone an independent safety audit and is registered under the new Adventure Activity Regulations.
Environmental themed guided tourism
Conservation has been another priority from the start and James says they are making huge inroads in their quest to lead the industry in environmental themed guided tourism.
The infrastructure was built over six months with every piece of material carried by hand into the native forest to avoid any impact on the environment.
"The dream is to restore the magnificent 500 hectare reserve, bring back the native birds and insects and let the vegetation flourish and show it off to people from all over the world in a very exciting way. Part of each visitor’s fee goes towards the company’s conservation programme.
"Last winter we created a 10km trapping network through the forest to remove possums, stoats and rats that were devastating the native bird populations. As a result most tours will now see bellbirds, tuis, fantails, wood pigeons and North Island robins. The stlll forest we started with is now emerging full of vibrancy and life."