Ryan Sanders was dissatisfied with the corporate life. Despite making steady progress up the ladder, he felt his heart wasn’t in it.
“So I thought, what do I really love? What am I really passionate about? And that was travel. Snowboarding, adventure activities. So I thought, you know a tour company’s the way to go.”
That was in 2007, and now his company Haka Tourism Group employs 160 people, have thrilled countless travellers with their adventure tours, won a ton of awards, and opened five Haka Lodges and two Haka hotels.
Haka Tours is their biggest arm of the brand, running tours across the adventure, snow and mountain biking industries.
“Our most popular adventure tour is a 16 day amplified tour of New Zealand. It starts in Auckland and runs all the way down to Christchurch, seeing all the locations across New Zealand.
“Our most popular snow tour is called a 7 Day New Zealand Snow Safari, where we ski or snowboard 6 different mountains over seven days. It’s a really epic trip.
“On our mountain bike tours, our most popular trip is a 16 day tour called the Dreamer Trip. It starts in Auckland and finishes in Queenstown. All the best trails across the North and South Islands.”
When Ryan started Haka Tours, he wanted to do something that was different to what other tour groups offered.
“We really broke the model of traditional group tour,” Ryan says.
“We pulled out all the stuff that was unessential to your trip, and just include accommodation, transport, your tour guide, breakfast, some key cultural inclusions, and then you bolt on any upgrades and activities to really bolster your own trip.
“Our customers are individuals and we like to treat them as such with a customisable business model.”
In 2015, Haka Tourism were the first winners of the Westpac Business Growth Grant, where they pitched their growth plan to a panel of judges, who were impressed with Ryan’s vision, and Haka received $50,000 to help make the plan a reality.
“It’s really amazing to think what we’ve achieved in the three years since we won in 2015. We’ve probably quadrupled in size, opened up a hotel brand. We’ve got some really, really big ambitions.
“Our growth plan is really about growing our network of Haka Lodges, we’ve currently got five across New Zealand, and we hope to have another five in the next seven years.
“We’ve got two hotels, we think we can open up another eight in the next seven years. And we think our core tourism brands can grow five times over that time period.
“For us, in 2025, our BHAG, our Big Hero Audacious Goal, is to have welcomed 1 million manuhiri into the haka whanau and also to be a $100m business, so we’re pushing hard to achieve that.”
And to guide them on their journey, the team follow six core values: Whanau, Keeping it real, Aotearoa proud, One in a million, Reach for it, and something called ‘Brofessionalism’.
“There’s some tourism businesses which are quite corporate, there’s other ones that may be a bit smaller that are more relaxed. We really want to sit in the middle, and the word we came up with was ‘Brofessional’.
“It really underpins where we want to be sitting within that scale. We want to keep the essence of tourism alive, being a really fun, cool industry to be in, without over-corporatising it.”