Tourism Industry Awards
Congratulations to Craig Harris and Mark Gilbert
Horwath HTL Sir Jack Newman award
A man who has made a massive contribution to the growth of the cruise ship sector in New Zealand has been recognised by the tourism industry.
Mr Harris was instrumental in establishing Cruise New Zealand, an incorporated society with the objective of growing cruise ship visits to New Zealand, in 1994. He has chaired the organisation since then, overseeing huge growth in foreign exchange earnings for New Zealand from cruise ship visits.
Since the 1996-97 season, cruise passengers have grown from 19,400 to almost 174,000 in the 2011-12 season. Last season, international cruise passengers spent more than $132 million on excursions and shopping. The benefits of this spending are distributed widely around New Zealand, with international cruise passengers disembarking at an average 5.6 ports around the country, from Auckland to Stewart Island.
PATA Young Tourism Entrepreneur
With his wife, Nikki, Mark Gilbert established the business in 2003 at the age of 24. The business offers tours of the Canterbury high country in purpose-built vehicles. In 2007, Hassle-free Tours was the first tour company in New Zealand to convert its entire fleet to biodiesel.
Immediately after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the company’s visitor numbers plummeted by 80%. Mr Gilbert took quick action to continue operating and retain staff. He introduced New Zealand’s only open top double-decker bus tour, offering tours of Christchurch and Akaroa, as well as charter tours. He developed new tours from Akaroa for the cruise market and targeted the domestic market with special offers and promotions.
In its nine years of operation, Hassle-free Tours has grown from just Mr and Mrs Gilbert to employing up to 12 full-time equivalents (FTEs) in the summer season. The fleet has grown from one to nine vehicles which are projected to carry 17,500 passengers this year.