Tourism takes top prize in Nelson Tasman business awards

Abel Tasman Canyons won the Supreme Award at the Nelson Tasman Business Awards. Image: NelsonNZ

Tourism operator Abel Tasman Canyons scooped two gongs at this year’s Nelson Tasman business awards including the Supreme Business title.

The Motueka-based canyoning company, founded by Toine Houtenbos and his partner Eva Maureau in 2012, was awarded the top prize at Friday night’s event at Nelson’s Trafalgar Centre hosted by the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce and Nelson Pine Industries.

The company, which offers guided tours of river gorges in the Abel Tasman and Kahurangi national parks, and Mount Richmond Forest Park, also took out the small medium enterprise category.

The judges for the 2017 Nelson Pine Industries Chamber of Commerce Business Awards said Abel Tasman Canyons was “grounded on absolute professionalism” and that Houtenbos “displayed impressive leadership skills.”

Houtenbos is the founder of the New Zealand Canyoning School and one of only eight canyoning guides in the world qualified at trainer level by the International Canyoning Organisation for Professionals.

He has worked in canyoning projects in the Alps, the Pyrenees and South Africa, although he and his partner Maureau are originally from The Netherlands.

Abel Tasman Canyons now consists of 9 full-time and 4 casual staff members.

Guides take customers away from the coastline and off the beaten track to explore the remote canyons in the heart of the National Park using a combination of jumping, sliding, abseiling, swimming, scrambling and ziplines to help people follow river gorges downstream.

Tourism was well-represented elsewhere in the awards with family-owned Abel Tasman sea kayaking business, R&R Kayaks, taking out the Fairfax business start-up award.

Owner-operators Rohan and Lauretta Haskell established the company in Marahau, next to the national park, two years ago.

They cater for all types of travellers, offering a variety of guided tours, kayak rentals as well as private and customised tours.

The company says it aims to provide the highest quality sea kayaking adventures for their guests in the Abel Tasman.

This is achieved through “strong, effective and ethical management practices, high level of training for motivated staff and a clear focus on environmental values, with respect for the land and the ocean”.

Another family business, the long-running Wilsons Abel Tasman, scooped the large business award.

The judges said that the company that had operated in the region for over half a century, had not “remained static, but rather met the challenges of an ever-changing landscape.”

Darryl Wilson is chief executive of the company, which offers guided tours of the park by boat, foot, and kayak.

The family has been welcoming visitors to the region for eight generations, and says “people, place and passion” are the key to its commitment to taking visitors “to a place where life seems better”.

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