A Queenstown adventure travel brokerage co-founder believes Covid’s caused people to bring forward their bucket-list adventures.
Aaron Halstead, who has a 20-year background in adventure, founded local-based tech start-up, exploreGO, just three months before Covid.
His co-founders are fellow ex-Destination Queenstown staffer, Tauranga-based Seb McKinnon, and Melbourne-based Lochie King.
The trio spent the Covid years signing up reputable operators around the world.
‘‘Then, in the last six months, it’s started to boom,’’ he says.
Just before Christmas it confirmed its first $1 million-plus booking, ‘‘a really high-end adventure package’’ for a small group booking.
‘‘What Covid’s done is it’s actually cemented for people the need to follow their dreams and go and achieve that bucket list they’ve always wanted to do.
‘‘It’s these big adventures that cost a lot of money, like going to a heliski lodge in Canada, cruising to Antarctica, going on an African safari or taking your family to Everest base camp for a trek.
‘‘People are going, ‘you know what, life’s short, I’m just going to start planning that’.’’
Halstead says their aim’s to help clients through this ‘‘dreaming stage’’, before giving them operators to choose from.
The idea for the business came when he was guiding in Nepal and seeing the type of guide many trekkers hooked up with — ‘‘I realised these people had given up a lot of time and money to be there, and it was hit and miss whether they were having a good time or not’’.
He says out of about 2000 trekking operators, they present clients with a choice of four.
He believes a ‘‘game-changer’’ for his company was graduating from United States’ leading NewChip accelerator programme late last year.
‘‘The link with the US was gold because that’s where we’re ultimately going to need to get investment from, probably, and that’s where a lot of our clients will come from.’’
Meanwhile, exploreGO’s reinvesting 10% of all its booking fees into good causes in locations their clients go to.
Halstead, who’s just been appointed Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Trust chair, says the idea stems from pre-Covid Queenstown days, when many locals felt visitors weren’t connected with the town, and many visitors felt likewise.
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