Guest New Zealand

Meet Guest New Zealand

The year was 1985. A young police officer living in Frankfurt, Germany, was mesmerised by a magazine article showcasing one of New Zealand’s hidden gems; Fiordland. The lush, green beauty depicted in the images captivated him; he knew he had to visit. In 1986 Michael Nees travelled to New Zealand, he explored both North and South Islands by foot, bicycle and car and he fell in love with the country. For Michael, the beauty of the New Zealand countryside and its people was extremely alluring; he had found his future home.

Michael’s first trip around New Zealand in 1986

Between 1988 and 1997 Michael worked as a tour guide in New Zealand and Nepal. During this time, he developed extensive tourism industry knowledge and experience. By 1998 he knew it was time to take the next step and Guest New Zealand was born. In its early years, the company was simply known as, GINZ.

During its early years, Michael ran small guided tours throughout the country. His itineraries showcased accommodation, such as vineyard cottages, farmstay properties and beautiful boutique lodges. For Michael, giving his customers the same experience that he enjoyed was, and still is, incredibly satisfying.

Walking the Kepler Track with a local guide from Trips & Tramps in Fiordland

Over the years Guest New Zealand has gone from strength to strength but they have never lost sight of the importance of local, authentic experiences which remain the cornerstone of their business. Their customers are clearly enjoying this approach to travel design. “You’ve built up an interesting and reliable network of people to meet, places to go and things to do and it was fun to tap into this network as we traveled around both islands. Your connections helped us see New Zealand from the “inside out”, so to speak, which is not something we could have managed on our own,” said one delighted Guest NZ customer.

Michael and his team pride themselves on their ability to eliminate the stress and worry that often goes hand in hand with travel planning. By crafting itineraries with longer stays and fewer destinations, Guest NZ travel designers are able to give their customers opportunities that focus on a rich, deep exploration into each location and community. This ethos ensures that travellers and local communities all reap the benefits of Guest NZ’s ‘less is more’ travel belief. “It’s a partnership”, says Michael.

Michael added, “I want to work together, communicate more, and deliver a slower, more enjoyable journey. Guests stay three or four nights –  they don’t travel thousands of miles just for the weekend. I want our guests to enter deeper into the communities they are travelling to and be more in touch with nature.”

Meeting local operators on site such as Kate from Dive! Tutukaka

This dedication to crafting uniquely authentic experiences means that every Guest NZ itinerary is designed by a local, experienced agent. Their careful approach to travel design is also apparent in their dedication to find and partner with like-minded suppliers; every Guest NZ supplier is hand-picked and personally vetted. To this end, Michael personally spends three months every year visiting suppliers and experiencing their products. His dedication to this is astounding; selling his house in 2014 to travel around the country, staying in local accommodation and developing valuable connections with locals.

It is often said that New Zealand’s small population means that everyone is connected by two degrees of separation. This close community experience has allowed Guest NZ to craft unique experiences which truly make their customers feel embedded in the local communities. Making these personal, insightful connections means that the customers of Guest NZ really do experience the trip of a lifetime, building long-lasting relationships and memories along the way. A poignant example of this is a couple who travelled with Guest NZ 20 years ago for their honeymoon. Their experience stuck so vividly in their memory, that they are travelling with Guest NZ again to celebrate a wedding anniversary.

Visiting stunning New Zealand accommodations such as Te Arai Lodge

Travel Educates

The words of German philosopher Goethe, ‘Reisen bildet’ or ‘travel educates’ have been a source of inspiration for Michael. It’s this famous saying that drives many of the travel experiences that Guest NZ craft. Travellers want to feel they are more than just a paying guest. They desire knowledge and they want to feel connected with the people of our land. Unsurprisingly, Guest NZ are proud that their travellers leave New Zealand with meaningful and memorable travel experiences. “Sometimes travel can contribute to our learning and change the direction of our lives – just like it did for me,” explained Michael. Michael’s company truly echoes his belief that ‘Life is stressful – slow down, have less impact on the places you visit. That way we all benefit.’

Michael and his wife Pamela in Nelson, New Zealand

Their Tourwriter story

By 2017, Michael knew in order to continue growing he needed a system that took care of the back end of his business. He had enjoyed many conversations with Tourwriter’s CEO, Glenn Campbell and realised that Tourwriter perfectly matched his philosophy of using technology to work smarter, not harder. Moving away from a DOS (disk operating system) based environment has been a massive step forward for Michael and Guest NZ. Tourwriter has refined their processes, providing Michael and his team more time to engage and build those valuable relationships with his customers and suppliers.

Michael at Rotorua Canopy Tours

Tourwriter stores all of Guest NZ’s important information in one, consolidated place, meaning that creating itineraries, sending supplier emails and managing rates is now an effortless experience. “The way the rates are structured and shown, in terms of having properties and the rooms loaded, is made straight forward by Tourwriter,” says Michael. Data centrality also makes itinerary creation significantly faster and more enjoyable for Guest NZ’s team of travel designers. “I can use itinerary templates to recreate itineraries, adding dates, inclusions or switch things around without starting from scratch, all within minutes – it is a powerful thing”, Michael adds. It’s often the little features and extra capabilities you didn’t know you needed, that truly make a great software experience.

Tourwriter’s email templates, which automate and standardise supplier bookings, have significantly cut down the workload for Michael and his team. He added, “those kinds of things just make life so much easier.”

The ‘coolest’ cinema in New Zealand – Red Cottage in Stavely (Mid Canterbury)

Tourwriter’s integration with Wetu has been invaluable in Guest NZ’s quest to work smarter, not harder. This integration allows Michael’s team to easily create their itineraries in Tourwriter and then export them to Wetu, meaning their customers get to store all of their data on their travel app, for a seamless travel experience, “Tourwriter saves so much time and keeps me current – technology is the way of the future”, says Michael. Keeping current in a continuously evolving industry isn’t easy, but for Michael, this is extremely important.

Customers have come to expect up-to-date, streamlined processes and technology. Unfortunately, some tour operators are still working with spreadsheets, which not only slows down their processes but poses a potential data risk. Michael envisions a travel industry that is integrated and connected. For Guest New Zealand, Tourwriter was an integral part of this vision.

Here at Tourwriter we are excited to see where this fantastic inbound travel designer goes and we look forward to supporting the Guest New Zealand team on their journey.

Pam & Michael on ‘top of the world’ – ‘Six Glacier’ flight, Hokitika in April 2019