Bay of Islands Tours Ltd did just that and have become very successful by operating fun and unique group tours on land in the Bay of Islands region.

Co-founders and sole directors Matthew Barnett and Chloe Van Dragt, both Paihia locals, recognised that there was so much more to see and do in the region than was currently on offer. They knew the growing cruise ship market wanted more streamlined tours to fit in with their port time schedules and that travellers were increasingly on the lookout for a more intimate group touring experience.

In 2015 they launched three tours, all between three to six hours in length and unique in the market. They quickly captured the interest of tourism operators, cruise ships and travellers who would not normally spend their money in the region. That year TripAdvisor gave them a Certificate of Excellence and again in 2019.

Matthew and Chloe success comes down to having a clear vision for their business. This coupled with their drive and passion to be the best in the industry and showcase all that the Far North has to offer, makes them unstoppable. “We are in a competitive business,” says Chloe, “Our aim is to grow our share of the market as much as possible, knowing that we invest 100% of our company revenue back into the local economy. We live locally and only employ local residents as drivers.”

BOI Tours

Their growth strategy is simple: provide a great experience, continue to reach out to national and international agents to get tours listed, be active on social media and focus on search engine optimisation to drive enquiries.

They have invested in a live booking system so direct customers, operators and travel agents are able to book and pay for their trips at any time of day or night. Plus, all Bay of Islands Tour vehicles carry mobile Eftpos machines to remove the stress associated with cash handling.

Their success means a new vehicle yard is on the cards.

“Although our current yard in Opua is great, our business is growing and so is our tour fleet,” says Matt. “We need a well-equipped wash bay to efficiently clean our vehicles after each use and one that mobile mechanics can use to tend our vehicles in when they need attention.”

In addition to helping set up their new yard, The Top Energy Business Development Fund will help Matt and Chloe fund the purchase and sign-writing of two new vehicles, provide their drivers with training and uniforms, and enable them to make two full-time and four part-time offers of employment.

Chief Executive Russell Shaw is amazed every year by the calibre and commitment of local businesses and entrepreneurs to maximise the talent and potential of the Far North.

“Bay of Islands Tours’ business plan and their commitment to investing in the Far North economy, made their application stand out from the rest. As a community owned business, it is a privilege for Top Energy to assist in supporting local businesses like theirs to achieve success and growth.”

Top Energy launched their Business Development Fund in 2014. The scheme is designed to encourage and promote economic growth in the Far North. Grants of up to $30,000 are awarded twice a year for local business ideas or initiatives that have the potential to grow or diversify the Far North economy.

The money is either awarded in full to a single stand-out idea or in smaller amounts to several initiatives, depending on the number, quality and merit of the applications received.

For more information go to:

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Business development fund

Business development fund

Our Business Development Fund is a grant for business initiatives aimed at growing the Far North

Find out more