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Manaaki Adventures’ Dan Meade

7 Jun 2019  By Contributor

After being nominated for a BOP ExportNZ award for best emerging business, Manaaki Adventures and Manaaki Rugby Tours’ cofounder Dan Meade talks about developing his tours and a new, unique product created by working with the Crusaders.

Dan Meade

My background is in physical education. I was a PE and outdoor education teacher at Hamilton Boys’ High School. I co-founded Manaaki Adventures back in 2013 with Hemi Coates – we were both experienced outdoor and physical education teachers. We started off small, working with international students studying at schools in the Hamilton region and taking them on trips to the snow for the weekend.

Between 2015 and 2017, Hemi and I have both been putting a lot more time and effort into growing the business. We’ve got a small team. I do quite a lot of guiding with one other full-time guide who works during the summer season. We also work with a pool of contract guides to deliver our tours nationwide. And we’ve also got agents in New Zealand and throughout the world to help promote and sell our tours.

Manaaki Adventures is focused on education, adventure, service culture and sports tours for the student market, although we have run a few family tours. Manaaki Rugby Tours offers nationwide rugby tours for teams from around the world. The tours are fully customised and we can cater to all age and skill levels.

We have a close working relationship with the Crusaders International High Performance Unit (IHPU), which means we can take our rugby touring teams to train at the world-class Crusaders’ facility in Christchurch.

Our rugby tours provide an insight into the workings of the most successful Super Rugby franchise in the 21-year history of the competition, as well as the chance to experience high performance coaching from IHPU coaches. It’s a unique and exciting experience to be able to offer to international teams.

Our tours are customised to suit the wants and needs of the visiting teams. As well as tapping into the Crusaders IHPU, we also have other IRB level 3 coaches that we work with. We organise coaching, training sessions and games against local and national teams.

We also offer a taste of New Zealand culture, with adventure and authentic Maori cultural experiences and activities incorporated into the tour itineraries.

We’ve had teams from all over the world. In April, we ran a tour for 49 players and 6 staff from Brisbane High School. They trained at the Crusaders’ facility and played 4 games in Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.

We also had an Argentinian High School team that visited and toured the North Island, a Thai rugby team, and a professional Japanese women’s sevens team.

We have a really strong product offering and our primary challenge is gaining exposure to the right markets and creating partnerships. Promoting our products to the right people is something we’re working hard on.

We’ve been to TRENZ for the last two years and developed some good relationships there. We have partnerships with travel companies in market as well as receiving some direct bookings. We’re really keen to start exploring further opportunities with NZTE and see how we could cooperate with them to get into the right markets.

We also have independent agents, positioned around the world, promoting our products and our philosophy and forging B2B and direct connections for us.

The Potama Trust and New Zealand Maori Tourism have given us great support in developing our business. Jason Baker from TRNZ was a great help to us initially. We worked with him to establish our networks and relationships with travel partners. The Tourism Export Council have been also been a good organisation to be part of.

We’ve had a really good summer with February – April being busy for us. Last year we had a strong September to December. We’re working hard to try and improve interest in the low season, especially with our rugby tours. Winter is a great time for teams to be touring the country with Kiwi teams looking for games.

We’re relatively new to the tourism industry, and our backgrounds are based in education – so we’re learning as we go. But we’re finding it a very welcoming and cooperative industry which I’m really enjoying. And we’re excited to have been nominated for the Bay of Plenty ExportNZ business awards for best emerging business.

Dan Meade spoke to Jane King for this column. If you’d like to be considered for our An Operator’s View column, contact


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