Featured TIA Members
Taumarunui start-up business Forgotten World Adventures has had an outstanding first season, meeting its targeted visitor numbers and allowing for expansion in its second season. Managing Director Ian Balme discusses their success and challenges and why they’ll be returning to TRENZ in 2014.
Nestled within the deep hidden valleys of New Zealand’s Forgotten World Highway, Forgotten World Adventures lets visitors explore the beautiful New Zealand countryside while self-driving along decommissioned railway lines, through tunnels, over bridges and rivers and through rural townships.
The business has surpassed what it expected in its first year, topping off its success with several awards at the 2013 Westpac Taranaki Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards, including Best New Business.
What are the key success factors for a start-up tourism business?
Having a fantastic product and staff. We also spent the time putting a strategic plan in place and got it critiqued by people with the right experience. Having a good structure in place with governance and business plans are also important. The engineering of our carts was innovative. They are quirky and have been incredibly successful.
What do you offer visitors?
We have created a product where there is no physical or age constraint and it therefore appeals to a broad market segment.
The area itself, its history, the hardship, the stories, the wealth of New Zealanders whose families had connections with the area and the railway line add to the whole visitor experience. The story of Whangamomona, a self-proclaimed Republic, seems to hold a fascination for Kiwis. We are selling New Zealand to people as it was 50 years ago. Many of our clients want to turn around and go back again.
What challenges do you face?
Taumarunui and Stratford aren’t recognised tourism destinations and our product doesn’t sit on one of the main tourism touring routes. I made a point of becoming involved in the area and now chair the local Taumarunui Tourism Association. I am working with locals to change that perception and to promote the depth and variety of attractions in this area. State Highway 4 is about to be named the Adventure Highway.
What role does TRENZ play in your marketing plans?
We exhibited at TRENZ 2013 because we knew we needed to start work on exposure to the international markets, given potentially it’s a two to three year process to bring those markets to fruition. TRENZ is a great way to do that and to meet other operators in the industry and build face to face relationships.
We will be returning to TRENZ 2014 to build on contacts and relationships and to talk to inbound operators and other local promoters of tourism to change their perception of our region and to encourage operators to look at the region as an option when planning their itineraries.
What plans do you have for future development?
Our plans include broadening our reach within the region and strengthening connections with the Whanganui River and other operators in the region. We are working on a new four-day journey, including two days on the carts and two days on jet boards on the river. We’ve also increased the number of carts we have to ensure more effective capacity on our trips and to streamline the operational aspects of the business.