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Queenstown guiding company up for best tour operator award

Media Release from Guided Walks New Zealand
3 August 2012

Queenstown guiding company up for best tour operator award

New Zealand’s oldest guiding company, Queenstown-based Guided Walks New Zealand (trading as Guided Nature Walks), has been named a finalist in the prestigious New Zealand Travel Industry Awards 2012.

Now in its 145th year, the company has been shortlisted in the ‘Best Tour Operator – domestic’ category, an accolade which has delighted owners Peter and Karyn Hitchman.

“We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved so far at Guided Nature Walks, and to be recognised by our peers who have voted us into the finals means so much,” said Mr Hitchman.

Travel industry members throughout New Zealand were asked to vote for nominees in a number of categories, and those which received the highest votes have progressed to the finals.

From here the finalists will be judged by a panel of expert travel industry judges and winners announced at a gala dinner in Auckland on September 8.

Guided Nature Walks is synonymous with back country guiding in New Zealand, having begun operations on the Routeburn Track in 1868. Since taking the helm of the company, Mr and Mrs Hitchman have gone from strength to strength through their commitment to adding innovative new products, including snowshoeing in 2009 and heli-snowshoeing in 2012.

Mr Hitchman said the New Zealand Travel Industry Award assessment and final judging was based on the company’s most recent successes.

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“If that’s the case, because this year has been such a great one for Guided Nature Walks, hopefully we’ll do well,” he said.

“When we released our ‘You vs Wild’ product in May at TRENZ, we were so thrilled by agents coming by to tell us what a great job we’d done.

“They thought it was a totally new idea and raised the bar when it came to creating a uniquely Kiwi experience, so much more than just adding lunch to a trip.”

Led by Mr Hitchman, a former UK bodyguard and survival expert, You vs Wild gives clients a taste of what it's like to survive off the land, with nothing but a knife, a few things they might have on their person, or items discarded by others.

“Guests learn skills needed to stay alive if they’re caught out in the wilderness, like how to make a fire or build a bivouac shelter, what plants are safe to eat, how to make pain relief, how to find north the ‘celestial’ way, and how to harvest and filter water so it's safe to drink.

“All that probably sounds pretty serious, but we make sure our clients have a huge amount of fun as well.”

Mr Hitchman said the company took its position seriously as leaders in the New Zealand guiding industry.

“Our business philosophy is one of focusing on continual business innovation as well as staff satisfaction, and protecting the environment for future generations to enjoy.

“Our staff are the face of our company, so they have daily input into our business. If they’re happy and it works for them, then it works for us too.”

Mr Hitchman said Guided Nature Walks was also proud to operate a successful pest eradication program, which was maintained by staff.

“We’ll also be able to show sustainable business results to the judging panel, having seen continual year on year growth each winter season since 2009 and the introduction of new products.”

The New Zealand Travel Industry Awards celebrate and honour ‘exceptional people and businesses’ in the New Zealand travel industry.

Further information on Guided Nature Walks and its products are available on www.nzwalks.com or www.youvswild.co.nz
About Guided Walks New Zealand Ltd

Peter and Karyn Hitchman have been guiding and instructing in the mountains and forests of New Zealand for over a decade, taking groups deep into the lush forests and high above the snow line into the pristine, untouched world of the alpine region. They have a vast knowledge of the flora, fauna, history and geology of this beautiful region. With the on-going assistance of Richard Bryant, a fourth generation Queenstown local and the pioneer of Guided Walks New Zealand, they have a huge source of information and history that is unavailable anywhere else.

Guided Walks New Zealand is the only company permitted to guide ‘off track’, and it specialises in knowledge of edible and medicinal plants used by Maori and the pioneers of New Zealand. The company’s local, friendly and knowledgeable guides ensure guests have the time to enjoy the whole experience nature has provided. Guided Nature Walks is the original guiding company in Queenstown and possibly New Zealand – guiding since 1868.

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