Tour company celebrates 25 years

Kiwi Dis-covery Vance Boyd compares a company bus from the early 1990s with a modern one. Photo by Christina McDonald.
Kiwi Dis-covery Vance Boyd compares a company bus from the early 1990s with a modern one. Photo by Christina McDonald.
What is the difference between 48 and 1000? For Vance Boyd, of Kiwi Discovery, it is 25 years.

Mr Boyd bought Value Tours Queenstown in 1987, changing the name to Kiwi Discovery - after the yacht Kiwi Magic - and the following ski season the business was transporting about 48 people on a busy day to the area's skifields.

Now, the company transports up to 1000 enthusiasts to the area's skifields on a busy day.

Kiwi Discovery celebrated its 25th birthday last week, despite the official day occurring on October 12.

In the early '90s, the company owned two buses and two vans. Now, it has a permanent fleet of 22 and in the winter up to 35 buses are available.

Aside from skifield transportation, the company offers Milford Sound trips, walking and bike packages, rents ski equipment and manages Queenstown Rafting.

In the mid-'90s, a major promotion encouraged Australian tourists to visit Queenstown's skifields, and this prompted Kiwi Discovery to expand this side of the business.

Having employed more than 1500 staff, in part due to Queenstown's transient nature, Mr Boyd said the company had experienced the extremes of great happiness and great sadness.

Some staff had died while others had met, married and had children after meeting as employees of Kiwi Discovery.

With the resort experiencing rapid growth, Mr Boyd said he had noticed people establishing a tourism business based on a ''me too'' basis, which could negatively affect the industry.

''It can raise the number of operators to the point where it becomes unsustainable'' and regulations such as safety standards could slip.

''It's sad that over the years Queenstown has attracted that kind of mentality."

Mr Boyd said the secret to Kiwi Discovery's longevity in an often difficult industry combined making a healthy profit with being an enjoyable place to work, being ethical, enjoying yourself, and looking after your suppliers.

''Tourism is a relationship business ... it's not really that hard, you just have to put yourself in the other person's shoes sometimes."

As someone who remembers when businesses used to close down during slower months and ''you would look down Queenstown mall and be lucky to see anyone'', Mr Boyd does not see the resort's growth slowing down in the future.

''It's an evolutionary process and I think it's one that's going to happen faster in Queenstown than other places."

When asked whether the silver milestone felt like 25 years, Mr Boyd said the first 10 years were slow-moving because the business was smaller and the hours he and wife Carol worked were longer.

However, the past 10 years had gone a lot quicker.

''Now, we have a more normal lifestyle."