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Tekapo Springs celebrates 12 years in business

Not many New Zealand tourism businesses could lay claim to 12 years of consistent ground-breaking new products and innovation.

But Tekapo Springs in the heart of the South Island’s Mackenzie district is one such business, born of a visionary local family and celebrating more than a decade of development, investment and growth.

This summer Tekapo Springs is launching two new activities as it prepares for its busiest season to date, while continuing to make improvements and upgrades to its multi-faceted year-round operation.

It’s all a far cry from the days when the Burtscher family came to Lake Tekapo in the 1970’s, thanks to a love of snow. Tekapo Springs’ owner Karl Burtscher’s parents bought a high-country station, home to a farm and Roundhill commercial ski area, when he was just five years old.

Back in the 1930’s, Tekapo’s cold but beautiful winters meant it boasted New Zealand’s first official ice rinks, and Karl’s road to tourism business success began when he bought the original rink, extensively renovated it and opened it for winter sports in 2007.

An NZ National Team rep skier, ice skater and hockey player, he believed his ‘winter park’, originally called Alpine Springs, was the perfect way to give people a reason to stop in Tekapo and enjoy the spectacular scenery.

Fast-forward 12 years and Karl’s “piece of paradise” has grown to become a multi-award-winning, world-renowned and year-round tourism attraction. It features three hot pools, two cooler pools and an aqua play area, a day spa, steam and sauna rooms and an ice rink and snow tube park.

The hot pools were added after the business’s first successful winter, shaped like the three local lakes Tekapo, Ohau and Pukaki and making the most of a heat transfer system which freezes ice and heats the pools. It enables the business to deliver more than one recreational activity in a sustainable way while being kind to the environment.

There’s a snow tube park with snowmaking and summer tube park as well, a range of stargazing experiences that have added a whole new dimension to the Tekapo Springs’ offerings, and the Altitude 720 Café and Bar, featuring the highest altitude roasted coffee in New Zealand.

The outdoor ice skating rink is still an integral part of the business and a huge winter attraction, hosting ice hockey tournaments, curling competitions and figure skating.

Celebrating Tekapo’s Springs’ 12th birthday this year, Karl reflects on the constant evolution of the business.

“Our goal from the start was to create a year-round attraction, a recreational environment for the whole family that also appealed to domestic and international visitors,” he says.

“Now we’re one of the largest drawcards in Tekapo and the Mackenzie District and we’ve done that by never sitting on our laurels and continuing to evolve,” he says.

“We’ve grown from a one-product winter activity to one that operates 364 days a year, employs up to 50 people, welcomes around 160,000 people a year and is recognised as one of the major tourism operators in the region.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve done.”

It’s first star-gazing tours in one of the world’s top ‘clear skies’ stargazing locations launched in February 2017, incorporating a 40-minute guided night sky tour with trained astronomy and astrological guides followed by a 40-minute soak in the hot pools complete with relaxing astro music.

Earlier this year the star gazing options expanded with the addition of a new virtual reality and hot pools tour, beginning earlier in the evening depending on the season, and ensuring tours are never cancelled due to weather.

This summer’s new activities will launch on December 1 and promise to add more “outrageously fun” activities to the summer mix.

“The last 12 years have been a challenge, a lot of hard work that’s finally paying off as infrastructure and hotel development start to catch up with what we’re doing. We’ve got some pretty exciting big developments ourselves coming over the next three to five years, and we’re proud to be part of the Mackenzie district’s tourism growth story,” says Karl.

Tekapo Springs Timeline:

• 2007 - July 1st New International Ice Rink opens with new building including change rooms, steam and sauna, plunge pool, café and skate hire
• 2008 - Jan 1st Three new outdoor hot pools and boutique Day Spa opened
• 2009 - Nov 1st Inline and roller skating added to summer activities mix
• 2010 - June Snow Tube Park opened for first season
• 2011 - June Magic Carpet added to Snow Tube Park
• 2012 - November 3rd new Tubby Summer Slide added as a summer option
• 2012 - November Café and Reception area extended; new fireplaces added
• 2013 - Tekapo Springs Town Office and Booking Centre opens
• 2014 - October 20th Trippo Waterslide arrives for summer
• 2015 - December 25th New kids Aqua Play, kids pool and cooler deep pool added. (Five pools now in total with temps ranging from 40C to 28C)
• 2017 - March 1st Tekapo Star Gazing launches
• 2019 - December 1st Two new summer attractions to launch
• 2020 and beyond …. watch this space!

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