A package of new spray jackets is on its way to the Buller Canyon’s office in Murchison, just one of the improvements taken on board as a result of the company being Qualmarked for the first time.
Mark and Vanessa Allen say they are still buzzing about their first experience with Qualmark where they gained a Bronze Award, assessed under Qualmark’s revised Sustainable Tourism Business criteria.
The tight-knit family business has been in action on the Buller River in Murchison for 12 years and Mark says that while he has always been impressed with Qualmark and the way it is recognised internationally “I guess we never thought we were up that standard.”
Encouraged by the Nelson Tasman Regional Tourism Organisation to give Qualmark a go, he confesses he was a bit nervous when the Tourism Business Advisor was due to visit but he needn’t have worried. “The experience was fantastic. The advisor just said: ‘Do what you do and let me observe you operating,’ so that’s what we did."
“The assessment was hugely valuable to our business and the experience was fantastic. The advisor was really important because he had great knowledge and experience of working in the tourism business and gave us some insights. He was professional but friendly and made the whole experience worthwhile. We loved it. It was low-key but easily accessible and professional."
“From the assessment, we got a clear action plan of practical things we can do to improve our business. For instance, I always thought that people liked getting wet in a jet boat but we realise now that having spray jackets as an option just makes things that little bit better for our customers.”Mark and Vanessa Allen
Buller Canyon Jet gets excellent third party reviews – (Of nearly 300 reviews on TripAdvisor, about 98 per cent are excellent) and Mark says although he has been good at replying to feedback, the advisor has pointed out ways to improve on this. “It’s little things like this that just help us step up. It’s great to get that kind of advice.”
“The advisor also talked about the possibility of helping us with some business mentoring which is a really exciting possibility for us."
“It was also suggested we collaborate with other operators around Murchison to present a stronger picture to inbound operators. That is something we had already started doing, working with the Regional Tourism Operator but the Qualmark assessment was further confirmation that it was a sound option for growing our business.”
The introduction to Qualmark came at a busy time for the company as business was boosted by increased traffic in the region after the closure of SH 1 due to the Kaikoura earthquake.
“It was really good timing for us. We wanted to make sure all our health and safety practices were meeting the requirements under the new legislation and it was good to be able to discuss that with the advisor. Now we just want to work towards getting a Silver accreditation.”
From the Qualmark advisor’s view, the Buller Canyon Jet product far exceeded expectations, producing the comment that the company has been underselling what they are doing in a beautiful part of New Zealand. “It is providing a spectacular true Kiwi experience in an outstanding environment." The assessor notes that the company is welcoming and strong on storytelling, using locals as jet boat drivers. Vanessa’s family heritage harking back to gold prospectors adds another level of interest and intrigue to the experience on offer.