Velocity Valley’s managing director, Simon Short, on 21 years of the pioneering ride strategy, the need for more local council investment in tourism, and what he believes is a lack of support and representation for the backpacker and youth sector by Tourism New Zealand.
Velocity Valley is an adventure park in Rotorua. We’ve pioneered all our rides with one exception. We were the first in the world to roll out the Shweeb and develop Jet Sprinting commercially. We were first in New Zealand to produce the Giant Swing – well before any Queenstown operators or North Island-based operations. And finally, we have the first wind tunnel in New Zealand, that has operated for 15 years.
Our market is 65% domestic with the majority being Auckland based. We started 21 years ago with our original ride being the Agrojet. We are currently owned by Steve Hockly, who also owns an engineering business in Upper Hutt called Twin Lakes, and myself.
We employ 15 full-time staff who have become the core of the whole operation. Our aim is to have them all trained to become ‘Master Parkers’ who can operate all the rides and become champions for all the guests that visit.
Our business model involves bringing new and exciting rides to New Zealand and we aren’t changing that model. We will only look at totally unique and pioneering rides to join the VVL portfolio – and I am currently working on just that.
Business has been good up until six months ago, and I see the next six months as being challenging, so more reason to reinvest back into the company.
With having several good years comes a lot of competition, and though we may be seen as a big player we are only a small operation and have to compete with the big boys to get a share in the market.
Compliance isn’t difficult although is very time consuming, especially in our operation where we must comply with Maritime NZ, Bureau Veritas, Worksafe and Qualmark – from which we received Gold accredtitation from the latter.
Rotorua has the greatest community particularly within the tourism industry. However, I do feel that our local council needs to invest more into its biggest asset/employer and its biggest economic earner if it wants to see more development and employment within the city.
One issue we have identified is the massive decline in the backpacker and youth sector. Tourism New Zealand does not have anyone representing this space anymore – why?
Youth travellers may spend less on accommodation, but they stay longer and spend more than the average traveller on activities and experiences across New Zealand.
This is an influential market, but it seems to be now without recognition. Tourism New Zealand stopped actively campaigning to transient backpackers in Australia mid-2017 and this has already seen an impact on our sector and we will continue to see this impact in the coming 12-18 months.
The latest update for the backpacker sector within NewZealand.com on Markets and Stats was updated 19 April 2016 – over three years ago. Is this the value they place on this sector?
If there was one thing I’d like to see change it would be for New Zealand to move closer to the equator so Greta (Thunberg) won’t feel so guilty when she comes to visit us.
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