Qualmark - a trusted guide

Operators are welcoming the new assessment system introduced by Qualmark. Read about their experiences here.

Jet boat company loving their first Qualmark experience  

Family-owned business Buller Canyon Jet is giving its already happy customers an even better experience thanks to Qualmark.

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 to 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 think people liked getting a bit 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.”

 Buller Canyon Jet gets excellent third party reviews – (Of more than 300 reviews on Trip Advisor, 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 advisor notes that the company is welcoming and strong on storytelling, using locals as jet boat drivers. Vanessa’s family heritage harking back to the early gold miners adds another level of interest and intrigue to the experience on offer.


Sustainability key to holiday park’s Qualmark award

Mark Hales went from being the caretaker to manager of the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park. From day one he knew the importance of sustainability.

Mark has a long association with Qualmark and under the revised criteria recently gained a Gold Sustainable Tourism Business award, an achievement that is very difficult for a property to achieve. The Tauranga City Council-owned holiday park he manages is also the only one in New Zealand to receive a platinum award with the Instep program which monitors and manages a company’s carbon emission profile.

For someone who has long been committed to improved sustainability, Mark says Qualmark’s revised criteria are more relevant and useful to his business. He also believes it is increasingly important for the whole of the New Zealand tourism industry.

He says that in the past international visitors have been much more advanced in terms of sustainability than New Zealanders. “They notice; they see our certificates on the wall and comment on them and the practices that we have in place.” He says more New Zealanders are now taking notice and attitudes are changing, with parents often encouraged by their children who are learning more about sustainability at school.

Operating a worm farm which also take scraps from a nearby café and moving his recycling bin enclosure to a position where the big collection trucks don’t even enter the park are just two examples of how he is improving the park.

His efforts around waste management have also saved the business $6000 in a year. “When you tell people that, they suddenly become interested.”

Mark is also impressed with the health and safety criteria which Qualmark have improved to back up new legislation that came into force last year. In January 15,600 people stayed at the park and Mark says: “Health and safety has to be a priority for any holiday park where we want people to enjoy themselves in a safe environment. I believe we just can’t do enough on health and safety so any checks and assessments have got to be good for the business.”

Mark’s relationship with the local community and his strong relationship with local iwi are also critical. Sitting at the base of Mt Maunganui-Mauao has important cultural significance and Mark is respectful of the culture and history. If any earthworks or digging of any kind is planned, there is an iwi monitor in place to keep an eye on things. “It’s just about keeping people informed about what you want to do and talking things through,” he says.

The park generates power via solar panels and an arborist regularly checks the towering Norfolk Pines that overlook the park. “There is always something more we can do and the Qualmark assessments are a good way to check what is happening and what’s new, and ask what more we can be doing,” says Mark.

The assessments with the Qualmark advisors keep everyone talking and learning. “It’s good to be able to pick their brains about what needs to be done and what other people are doing. They always give you an answer and getting an action plan is just a really practical way of knowing what to do next and to have a plan to follow.”


Barbary Scenic Charters take Qualmark advice on board

When you are busy running a business, it can be easy to miss some obvious selling points, says Jamie Looner, owner-operator of Taupo’s Barbary Scenic Charters.

Talking to their Qualmark advisor sorted that. “We are the only people operating commercially electric yachts in New Zealand and our advisor suggested it might be a good idea if we told our customers about our environmental initiatives and efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. He suggested we have a statement on board so people can see what we are doing. It’s obvious but sometimes you just don’t think of these things when you are concentrating on running your business.”

The company received a Silver Sustainable Tourism Business award under the new Qualmark assessment system and while Jamie misses having a separate Enviro Award badge, he totally understands and agrees that a focus on sustainability should be part and parcel of all businesses.

The company is not new to Qualmark and Jamie says the new assessment system is a great improvement. “It’s much better, far more informative, not just little tick boxes that have no relevance to our business. It is easier to understand and the business advisor was just fantastic, providing feedback at the time of the assessment and providing little titbits and pointers that really make a difference. He provided us with some real help and advice that came from his just having lots of experience. It really felt like he was going above and beyond what was needed.”

Jamie says the formal feedback has also been improved, becoming more directional, with a clear plan of ‘where to now and what can we do.’ “I still think there is room for improvement with some of the descriptions they use – a bit more plain English would be nice.”

As a marine related business operating on Lake Taupo, Barbary Scenic Charters is covered by Maritime rules and regulations but Megan says it was “super handy” to have Qualmark work through some health and safety aspects of the business that sit outside the maritime requirements.

He is also really pleased to see the social and people aspects of the business being assessed by Qualmark. For a company that works closely with local Maori and takes thousands of visitors to see the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, he says local connections are vital – “it’s what makes Kiwis Kiwis. It sets us apart from lots of big companies or other cultures overseas where there isn’t that same connection. It’s really good that Qualmark is assessing these connections and valuing those relationships.”  

Jamie, who will be shooting for Gold at their next Qualmark assessment, says that ongoing contact with Qualmark is essential. "It’s really important that Qualmark can keep that regular contact alive so that we are not scrabbling in the last few weeks before an assessment to try to improve things.” 

If you want to know more about becoming accredited, contact Qualmark to speak to one of the team.

Call Qualmark on 0800 782 562,

email enquiries@qualmark.co.nz or

visit the website - www.qualmark.co.nz - for more information about the Qualmark system, a listing of all Qualmark accredited operators and information for tourism businesses.