TIA is piloting a new item, ‘Member of the Week’, where each week we will profile a randomly-selected TIA member and their thoughts on the direction of the industry. First up is Wanaka Helicopters, who have been a TIA member since 2001.
Wanaka Helicopters is a family business that was established by owners Simon and Carolyn Spencer-Bower in the mid-1990s as a branch of their Christchurch firm Canterbury Helicopters. It was founded to capitalize on the growth of tourism in the Southern Lakes region, and now operates a fleet of helicopters specialising in flight training, commercial and scenic flight operations. The business employs 12 staff, including sons Chris and Pete, who are also Directors.
“Many of the most memorable moments on a lot of the scenic flights we’ve done has been taking people to places they’ve only ever seen in postcards,” says Director, Pilot, and son Chris Spencer-Bower. “One of the places we go is one of the Apple computer desktop backgrounds.”
Nicki Scott, Marketing Manager, adds that Wanaka Helicopters is particularly loving the southern autumn.
“Our local scenic trips—with the dusting of snow and the autumn backdrop—are magical. We are also busy dropping off and picking up hunters for the roar this month, landing in some of New Zealand's most remote and stunning scenery.”
“Stunning” is a word that Wanaka Helicopters customers use very often too: the company maintains an incredible 5.0/5.0 rating on TripAdvisor from 303 reviews, and frequently-used phrases from those reviews include “best experiences of my life” and “fantastic flight”.
But it’s not all about the tourism. Wanaka Helicopters is also New Zealand’s largest helicopter flight school, and produces helicopter pilots for all types of jobs all around the world. With all of this training and scenic flying, owner, CEO and Chief Pilot Simon Spencer-Bower recently ticked over 22,000 flight hours.
And what’s Wanaka Helicopters’ view on the biggest issues facing New Zealand tourism this year?
“It’s managing the increase in visitor numbers and the effects on the environment and local communities. Also being able to take tourists to iconic places within the constraints placed on tourism operators by government departments like DOC," says Ms Scott.