Tourism Holdings signals plans for electric vehicles

About 240 people attended the Craigs Investment Partners investor day in Queenstown.  Photo: Supplied
About 240 people attended the Craigs Investment Partners investor day in Queenstown. Photo: Supplied
Electric vehicles are expected to make up a large part of the Tourism Holdings Ltd fleet in 18 months to two years, although a lack of infrastructure could hold back progress.

THL chief executive Grant Webster is also thinking about autonomous vehicles, even autonomous camper vans, although that is in the distant future.

''We are at the mercy of the chassis suppliers but we are staying close to them.''

However, he said in an interview charging infrastructure for electric motor homes and camper vans was not being rolled out fast enough for THL, and it might have to invest in its own charging stations around the country and at its own headquarters.

Most people were focused on personal electric cars being charged at home.

It became a different proposition when people started talking about a fleet of vehicles needing to be charged in some of New Zealand's scenic attractions.

The company was working with lines companies and electricity retailers to solve the problem, he said.

THL is the largest RV (rental vehicles) company in the world, operating in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom with small operations in South Africa and Japan.

It also operates Kiwi Experiences and the Waitomo Group.

Following his presentation to the Craigs Investment Partners investor day, Mr Webster faced questions ranging from freedom camping, technology and sustainability through to plans for the future.

Freedom camping was not a major issue for THL as 93% of its vans were self-contained. Customers of the remaining vans had to sign an agreement with THL they would only use designated camping grounds that had toilet and shower facilities.

But for 14 months, THL had been engaged with local authorities about the problems caused by freedom camping as it wanted to be a market leader on the issue.

Mr Webster had met Queenstown-Lakes Mayor Jim Boult to discuss the issue several times.

With respect to sustainability, Mr Webster was keen on following the Icelandic Pledge, where visitors to Iceland signed up to be responsible tourists.

The electric car plan was part of the sustainable future he saw for the company.

Increasing the use of technology around the world was a major part of improving the experience for customers. In Australia, the vans were all equipped with features that could warn users if they were heading towards disasters like bush fires or cyclones. It could also be used to stop people from travelling across rough terrain in two-wheel drive vehicles.

The technology was also used for directing tourists to the sights they would enjoy after a meeting with THL staff. A route was planned and the technology was used to send the tourists to the correct places.

Asked about tourist growth in New Zealand and whether the country could cope with increasing numbers, Mr Webster was certain the country was nowhere near its potential for hosting tourists.

''Regional dispersal is critical for tourist growth. There are regions crying out for tourists. Doc camping grounds are very underutilised. From late December to early January they are full of Kiwis having their holidays. After that, they are deserted.''


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