Motorcycle tour company diversifies to survive

South Pacific Motorcycle Tours previously relied solely on international clients who would book up to two years in advance for their motorcycle trip of a lifetime. Since COVID-19 stopped all international travel, they've had to diversify to survive. 

"We sought business advice as most businesses did but were advised to close down," says Carole, who owns the company with her partner Mike. "Not the support we needed to hear and not an option for a family business with clients still booked for the next few years!"

"With a large fleet of motorcycles and ongoing costs such as registration, insurance, certificates of fitness, lease payments etc to keep these beasts on the road, something needed to be done to be able to retain these costly assets as well as not letting the business sink into oblivion."

Motorcyclists are a high-spend clientele and many return year after year to ride motorcycles and spend their money in New Zealand. Carole and Mike say it took years to create such a trusted brand and grow their business to owning all of their motorcycles.

"But if each motorcycle company now has to close due to unpaid maintenance costs and upkeep of these machines, it will be extremely difficult to rebuild from nothing. And the tourism industry doesn't want to lose this incredibly high-spend sector."

Since most Kiwis who have a motorcycle licence already own their own bike, it wasn't easy to ‘Pivot to Domestic Tourism’ as first suggested, so SPMT decided to get smart and creative to lure the New Zealand market as well as keeping the touring business ticking over until borders safely open and clients can arrive.

So how did the company diversify and reinvent itself to survive?
"Making use of our on-site fully equipped workshop and fully qualified mechanic aka David ‘The Road Commander’ we now offer quality motorcycle servicing and repairs locally to North Canterbury and Christchurch," says Operations Manager Kim.

"We're also advertising superior motorcycle rentals at heavily discounted rates for New Zealand residents supported by sporadic deals for locals wanting to try riding something different.

After having two annual fully guided tours but no international clients to fill them, we decided to create just one Special Edition 9-Day tour that incorporates the Burt Munro Motorcycle Challenge in February 2021. This
Motorcycle Rally is focused around Burt Munro’s fame for The World's Fastest Indian movie and is held every year in Invercargill, the motorcycling mecca of New Zealand."

SPMT created a new option to ‘BYOB’ - Bring Your Own Bike, so Kiwis could still join the tour and ride as a group while riding their own motorcycle. The tour includes accommodation, tickets to all races, a great South Island tour and exclusive extras, like a meet and greet with John Munro, Burt’s son.

SPMT are also working closely with Great South: Department for Regional Development to create this special tour that can be enjoyed year round by bikers.

Being tour itinerary experts and having a secure business model already in place, SPMT also partnered with a sports car company to provide ‘New Zealand Sports Car Tours’ - which apply the same elements as they already provide for their motorcycle tours, just with a sports car instead! 

South Pacific Motorcycle Tours wants to remain a stalwart representative and is intent on being a passionate advocate for our motorcycle tourism sector.

"Being tough Kiwis, South Pacific Motorcycle Tours has refused to roll over and give up. By cutting down and offering new motorcycle repairs, services, brand new business ideas and heavily reduced rates for locals, we hope to make it through to be able to keep our current international and future clients on board so they can bring in the much needed tourism dollars.

We could have so easily closed down and put all this in the 'too-hard basket'. But, like so many of us in the tourism industry, we have a true passion for what we do. It’s so much more than just a job and we have a really strong desire to keep going, not only for our own sake but for our clients who have put their faith in us. We truly look forward to offering our overseas clients our manaakitanga when they are able to return."
This story is part of TIA's #TourismChampions campaign. View more inspirational stories here