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Starting a Wellington tourism business

By Jo 27 Feb 2018

Switched second image Photo credit: Phill Jones - Switched on Bikes

Tourism is currently New Zealand’s number one export earner. News about growing visitor numbers and the visibility of cruise ship passengers around Wellington means WREDA often talks to passionate people thinking about starting a tourism business. Especially when the first cruise ship appears in October!

Passion will go a long way - and so will a good idea. WREDA ran a ‘Start Up Workshop’ for new tourism businesses recently - here are some key out-takes:

What’s the unique idea, opportunity or selling point?

If you don’t have one, keep refining until you do. Does the product fit the Wellington story? For example, operating a concert/hangi performance might be challenging if international visitors associate this with Rotorua.

Develop a business plan

You need to know if you have a financially sustainable business model. Write down your unique idea and a sentence about what it’s going to offer. Rough out a budget – how much is it going to cost to set up and what are the ongoing running costs? Factor in compliance and insurance as well as marketing to attract visitors. With a quick product summary and costs sketched out, it’s usually easy to figure out if a product is sustainable.

Research product and pricing

Domestic and international visitors can spend their travelling dollars in different ways. Research similar activities around the region, New Zealand and in other countries. The best question I’ve been asked by a new operator was, ‘why would this idea fail?’. Be prepared to change your vision to meet the market.

Understand how tourism gets sold

Are you going to sell direct to customers or will TripAdvisor, travel agents, i-SITEs and cruise shore tours be channels for you? This is a big consideration when setting prices, so talk to us before printing the brochure or buying the van.

Is your target Domestic or International visitors?

Wellington’s visitor mix is different to other parts of New Zealand. There may not be a great opportunity offering multi-day walks for the Korean market when they don’t usually stay in New Zealand long enough to visit Wellington.

If your idea is Wellington-centric, connects with locals, has great guides who tell memorable stories and offers an authentic, high-quality and safe experience, you’ve probably got the making of a successful tourism venture. Come and talk to us about it.


There's a wealth of resources available for start up operators:

  • Get tourism stats including Arrivals, Forecasts and Regional Tourism data on MBIE’s website
  • If you’re targeting international visitors, Tourism New Zealand has backgrounders on key markets, ‘how to’ videos and a free marketing platform
  • Cruise is interesting and complex. There’s information and ship profiles here
  • Worksafe, Land Transport NZ, DoC and others all provide health and safety, permit and compliance information for operators, while Qualmark is a tourism-specific quality assessment and business development programme
  • Tourism Industry Aotearoa is a membership-funded industry advocacy organisation who are championing Tourism Strategy 2025
  • LearnFast offers private sector training with start up and tourism-specific modules
  • Sign up for WREDA's Business eNewsletter, a monthly update on all things business, tourism and trade throughout the region

How WREDA can help

For more information about tourism, international markets, product pricing, working with travel distributors and cruise, contact WREDA’s Tourism Trade team: [email protected].

The Business Growth team can help build business capability and point you in the right direction for business support and advice. For more information email: [email protected]. Check out the Wellington Business Support Tool for free advice and information on starting or growing a business in the Wellington region.

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