Together we stand: Queenstown tourism operators and representatives, from left, Ciara O'Toole, Kenny Winter, Kristine Montgomerie, Kerrie and Ant Sproull, Kerrie and Steve James and Amy and Matt Wong prepare to board a special Air Milford charter flight late last month


Winning a Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Award in Christchurch last  late last month was the icing on the cake for Ziptrek Ecotours boss Trent Yeo.

Ziptrek was among 12 tourism businesses recognised last week, and while being named
amongst ‘‘the champions of the champions’’ was a proud moment, it was the chance to
celebrate with other operators from the Queenstown Lakes which made Yeo happiest.

There were six other Queenstown businesses in the running — iFLY Indoor Skydiving, Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa, Air Milford, Dart River Safaris, Southern Discoveries and Shotover Jet, along with Wanaka’s Ridgeline Adventures and Wildwire Wanaka and Lake Hawea’s Glen Dene Hunting
& Fishing.

Yeo, who couldn’t attend himself because he had a cold, says Air Milford’s Ant Sproull floated the idea of using one of the company’s Cessna Caravans to fly the finalists up together — a call met with a resounding thumbs-up.

To offset carbon emissions, the operators bought native regeneration forest in Nelson
through Ekos.

Yeo says the camaraderie around celebrating the region together, and the growth in commitment of people to each other, was ‘‘really special’’.

‘‘We have to find ways in which to do our business better, every day.

‘‘In order to do things better, we actually have to share the load with other people … if you’re going to be successful on a larger scale, you have to do it with other people.

‘‘I say this often at awards, the word ‘competition’, comes from the word ‘competere’, which means ‘to [strive] together’.

‘‘The origins of the word mean ‘together’, and that’s so vitally important when you’re talking about how we’re going to step up and do better every day.’’

Icing on the cake: Ziptrek Ecotours’ Kenny Winter, left, with former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw

Of last month’s gong, Yeo says awards aren’t required ‘‘to feel like you’re doing OK, but it’s always nice to have’’.

Judging panel chair Sue Parcell says the awards were ‘‘particularly meaningful’’ this year, given the challenges faced by the tourism industry since March, 2020.

‘‘The integrity and genuine commitment to manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga and whanaungatanga the winners demonstrated to visitors and the communities they operate in is remarkable and their recognition is well deserved.’’

Over the past 15 months, Ziptrek has developed new business opportunities, including weddings and elopements, eco-education tours, the world’s first augmented reality ziplining and a six-line tour stand-alone product.

Just after last year’s lockdown the company introduced ‘Treehouse Sessions’, which turned Ziptrek’s tree houses into a new style of outdoor, socially-separated live performance locations, while during May’s New Zealand Music Month a bunch of local musos were placed in its treehouse network enabling guests to zip around the forest to tunes from the community.

More tourism businesses recognised

Five Queenstown businesses — and one Queenstown Lakes businesswoman — have made it into the finalists of this year’s Tour ism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) New Zealand Tourism Awards.

Real Journeys is up for the Department of Conservation — Conservation Awards, Queenstown’s iFLY Indoor Skydiving is a finalist in the employer of choice award and
Dart River Adventures and Altitude Tours, recently named ‘Top Wine Experience’ in
the world in the Tripadvisor Travellers Choice 2021 Best of the Best Awards, are both in the running for the visitor experience award.

Tourism industry champion finalist: Cardrona Alpine Resort GM Bridget Legnavsky

Meanwhile, Cardrona Alpine Resort GM Bridget Legnavsky is a finalist in the tourism industry champion award.

TIA boss Chris Roberts says after a hiatus last year, almost 150 entries were received for the 2021 awards.

‘‘We know tourism businesses and individuals are keen to showcase how they’ve adapted and innovated over the past year, with the awards bringing a sense of prestige and celebration back to the industry.’’

The winners will be announced at an awards dinner on September 1 in Hamilton.