Q&A with Dive Tatapouri’s Chris Savage

Chris Savage

Chris Savage, Dive Tatapouri

Title: Owner Operator

Chris Savage started in tourism in the late 1980s at Rainbow & Fairy Springs, went travelling and then returned to a desk job in insurance. But the lure of adventure proved too strong and, along with her husband Dean, started boat tours off Tatapouri in Gisborne 17 years ago. Today, their cruises offer the unique opportunity of swimming with stingrays – the only product of its type in New Zealand.

Job description:  Hahaha sorry should not laugh –  anything and everything – as an owner/operator you’re the face and contact of your business.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?  Being self-employed and being able to meet so many different people from all around the world and New Zealand

What is the toughest part of your job? Having to keep up with the paperwork when the sun is shining and customers are calling as that is what generates the money to keep the business running.

What is the biggest challenge facing tourism today? All the regulations and the increased costs around that. Also, finding good staff to take on some of the roles in the business. Not a lot of young people are coming through and as we are seasonal, if we get good staff, we lose them to full-time work that they may find in the winter months.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?  Reduction of red tape and costs associated with that to allow new operators into the tourism industry. A lot are scared off before they even start with a vision that they may have.

Why did you decide to work in tourism? It was by default a little. I ended up going to Rotorua from Gisborne when I was 19 and I got a job at Rainbow and Fairy Springs for a year or so before going travelling. I came home and sat in an office job for 15 years or so but at the same time I was developing our own product that we now run.

What have been the major challenges and rewards you’ve faced in your career? I love meeting the people and the rewards that come with that, and the networks that you have when you travel yourself – you get to meet the people from all around the world that you’ve spent some time with in your own business.

The major challenge is finding good staff and being able to keep good staff. Because we are very seasonal so we can’t afford to keep people on over the winter so you do lose staff. The other challenges are the compliance issues. We seem to be getting bogged down in paperwork more these days, its never ending some days, but that’s just modern life I guess.

Has there been a role model or any other type of inspiration that’s motivated you in your career? When I worked at Rainbow Springs the marketing guru there was someone I looked up to. But for me now, I probably look more at other fellow tour operators out there as there are some really inspiring people working in tourism.

What are you preoccupied with at the moment at work? Work is going well but it would be nice t be able to find good staff member to come in to start learning some of the things that keep the business going. So, trying to pass on that knowledge to someone who would like to do what we’re doing.

What advice would you give women thinking about entering the industry today? Go for it! Tourism is a great industry to be a part of. It’s not a male dominated industry, you can do anything from a tour guide right up to CEO, there’s no stopping you.

Don’t be put off by the red tape and compliance, go out and market your product, knock on doors and believe that your product is the best out there. People who get into tourism are like that anyhow, they’ve got a positive ‘can do’ attitude and they will do it.

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