Q&A with NZ Fine Touring’s Kerry Kettle

Kerry Kettle, New Zealand Fine Touring

Kerry Kettle

Wanaka-based Kerry Kettle is the co-founder and owner of New Zealand Fine Touring Group, which specialises in customised self-drive and coach tours. In November it bought two Auckland-based tour operations, Discover New Zealand and Thrifty Tours New Zealand. The acquisition put the group on track to book annual turnover of more than $30m this financial year. NZFT now has 31 staff with further growth on the cards.

Title: Owner

Job description: Oversee the finance and staffing for our company

What is the most satisfying aspect of your job? When guests come into our office and rave about the wonderful holiday they are having especially when they are repeat visitors.

What is the toughest part of your job? Forecasting what is going to happen next and having the right amount of resource in place to deal with it. Planning is so important, often things happen which are out of our control, so it’s a matter of dealing with these situations ensuring our guests are happy, no matter what.

What is the biggest challenge facing tourism today? NZ tourism is getting busier each year and there is limited accommodation in the peak season, so finding space for our guest is our biggest challenge at the moment.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be? Not sure on just one thing: spread the high season so it is more consistent throughout the year, remove cents and round everything to the nearest dollar, being able to confirm reservations over the weekend, not just Monday to Friday, or offer an instant online solution.

Why did you decide to work in tourism? I moved to Wanaka when I was 18 and worked in hospitality and in the ski industry at Cardrona. I also travelled overseas but then needed to get my teeth into something so completed a Diploma of Travel and Tourism. I realised I didn’t want to be a travel agent selling other destinations because it is so wonderful here. I’m just a Kiwi who wants people to come here and experience everything we’ve got to offer.

Describe your career path: My first job was with Maui motorhomes introducing people to their motorhome and I had various jobs with Maui and was with them when they merged with Britz. I then lived in Australia and worked for rental car company Hertz’s corporate division and then Kirra Holidays which organised self-drive and escorted coach tours around NZ – this was really the foundation for New Zealand Fine Touring.

What have been the major challenges and rewards you’ve faced in your career? Since we’ve started the business it’s grown so fast it’s really hard to keep up with the speed of growth, particularly of the last seven years. Having two babies and the challenge of juggling a family is also up there.

The sense of achievement in what we’ve accomplished is really rewarding. And I still love travelling around New Zealand, when I was on holiday last week I walked the Milford Track – I really appreciate what we’ve got in our own backyard.

Has there been a role model or any other type of inspiration that’s motivated you in your career? Managers from all my different jobs have helped me get to where I am now and understand how to deal with people and staff.

What are you preoccupied with at the moment at work? Integrating Discover NZ and Thrifty Tours. As of 1 November, we took on all of their business to there are a huge number of bookings which we have to integrate into our system. This is almost done but we still have two sets of accounts to manage until they are all in one system.

What advice would you give women thinking about entering the industry today? Dream big. Do what you love to do – everything follows from that. If you enjoy the work you do, everything falls into place.

Tomorrow: Q&A with Dive Tatapouri’s Chris Savage

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