Hiking Guys are back!
It's hard to stay away from doing what you love so after a 2 year hiatus I'm happy to announce that Hiking Guys are making a comeback to the New Zealand guided walking tour game. Hiking Guys is the company I formed in 2002 with the goal of showcasing New Zealand's best trails and national parks to international visitors in small group guided walking tours. This is exactly what we did and we had a great time operating New Zealand hiking tours from 2002 to 2011 - we really saw the country, from the tracks best known for walking in New Zealand like the Milford Track, Routeburn Track and Mount Cook to the relatively undiscovered gems like Stewart Island, Arthur's Pass and Nelson Lakes National Parks. Having been away from the front line of New Zealand hiking for a little while, I have a new appreciation of just how amazing the countryside is and what amazing guided walking New Zealand offers, this is something that I am reminded of every time I read some feedback or look at photos from our hiking tours.
The good news is we are planning a comeback and will be operating an exciting New Zealand World Heritage Hiking Tour featuring some of the best walking in New Zealand, once-in-a-lifetime activities, comfortable four star accommodation and the best local restaurants. Guaranteed small groups led by friendly expert guides will make this a memorable travel experience you'll cherish for the rest of your life.
What's been happening with Hiking Guys since 2011?
Many of you will know that Christchurch was hit by a series of devastating earthquakes in late 2010 and all through 2011, wreaking all kinds of havoc and destruction in the city and wider Canterbury region, culminating in the tragic loss of life of around 180 people in February 2011. Christchurch was where I lived in 2011 and I was in the city that day and witnessed a lot of the destruction first hand. Like many people, the days initially after the earthquake were surreal and the focus was on the basic necessities of survival - shelter, food and water. In the weeks and months that followed we all began to realize that Christchurch had changed dramatically and the city and way of life we knew was no longer. The effects of such a disaster on the local tourism industry were obvious for everyone to see and it really hit home to me during a visit to the edge of the CBD red zone shortly after the quakes, I could see the hotels and lodges we picked up 95% of our tour guests from were not going to be open for business for a very very long time so I would need a new plan. Pre earthquake, Christchurch was a humming tourist destination and many of you reading this will have fond memories of walking from the Cathedral, over the Avon river with the punts floating by and continuing down to the arts centre and botanical gardens. It was in this Christchurch that Hiking Guys lived and worked, picking up guests from these hotels and lodges and taking them walking in New Zealand's great outdoors. That's the Christchurch we all knew and loved but it was clear to everyone that this was gone - so we all had to start planning for a new future.
Personal circumstances meant a move north to Auckland was pretty seamless and an obvious option, so in mid 2011 that's what I did and began working for a tourism technology company. Many of you may shake your head and think how unhappy I must have been, after 12 years working in guided walking in New Zealand to be in an office in the city working with computers! But fear not, over the last few years with Hiking Guys I had become very interested in the role technology and the internet can and should play in the success of any small tourism business and was excited by this new world of possibilities. So in I went boots and all to learn as much as I could about reservation systems, booking engines and online marketing for tourism businesses and my new role put me in contact with some fantastic tourism operators all around New Zealand.
Enter First light Travel
Over the years with Hiking Guys, we'd worked with lots of different travel agencies, both in New Zealand and overseas. A friend (Steve from Trips & Tramps in Te Anau) introduced me to an innovative growing full service travel agency called First Light Travel a few years ago so I dropped into their office on a sales visit to Auckland and we hit it off immediately. That's how the relationship started and Hiking Guys regularly guided First Light Travel's guests on walking tours when they visited our part of the South Island. We kept in touch over the years and Brent and Nigel from First Light were always top of my list of people to visit whenever I came to Auckland and the more I learned about their business the more impressed I was.
Definitely not an old style 'bricks and mortar' travel agency, what always impressed me about First Light Travel was how differently (read better) they did so many things. Through Hiking Guys we worked with a number of different travel agencies, both large and small, and it was clear to me that First Light Travel were well ahead of the pack. Now I don't want to divulge all their commercial secrets but it was just about the combination of honest values, looking after customers and use of technology which helps them offer so much more to their guests.
So when Hiking Guys left Christchurch in 2011 First Light Travel were well aware of what was happening and we started having a few conversations about the future. As is often the way with things like this, fate played it's part as my new office in Auckland was literally a 3 minute walk from First Light Travel so it was easy to catch up and after many conversations at our favourite cafe on the Auckland waterfront and an action packed 10 day discovery trip to the South Island our new idea began to take shape.
Hiking Guys and First Light Travel team up to form New Zealand Trails
Fast forward to 2013 and a new venture is born - New Zealand Trails. Our mission with New Zealand Trails is simple - to become the best small group guided tour operator in the country, help overseas visitors have experiences in the New Zealand outdoors they will remember for life and showcase the best of New Zealand to the world. On a personal level, we love working in the tourism industry and want to continue having fun doing so and meeting great people.
So that's where we've come from and what we're planning. Stay tuned for more info coming soon and if you'd like to help, please take a good look around our site, follow us online and tell as many of your friends as you can about our new small group New Zealand walking tours. If you'd like to learn more about our new easygoing yet action-packed World Heritage Walking Tour please drop us a line, we'd love to talk!