New Zealand’s only open top double-decker bus resumes its tours around Christchurch this week as its owners celebrate an award winning first year of operation.
Mark and Nikki Gilbert, who together run Hassle-free Tours, brought the distinctive 1964 Routemaster bus to Christchurch last year and it, along with a closed top double-decker, has proved a big hit with visitors to the city.
Lonely Planet, in its just released Best in Travel guide, which places Christchurch at number six in an influential list of Top 10 Cities for 2013, suggests that Hassle-free Tour’s double decker bus tours are one of the best ways for visitors to explore Christchurch.
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“Lonely Planet is the travellers’ bible so to get a mention in their guide is fantastic. Their suggestions carry huge sway with travellers so we could not have asked for a better start to our second year of running the double-decker tours”, Mark Gilbert says.
Lonely Planet’s endorsement of Hassle-free Tours caps off a successful month for Mr Gilbert.
Earlier this month he won the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Young Tourism Entrepreneur Award.
The award is recognition of the leadership and entrepreneurial flair Mr Gilbert has demonstrated since starting his business in 2003 when he was just 23.
The company now has five-purpose built vehicles to take passengers around the Canterbury high country and three double-decker buses and expects to carry 17,500 passengers this year.
The road to success though has not been easy.
Immediately after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the company’s visitor numbers plummeted by 80%, but the company took quick action to continue operating and retain staff.
They introduced the double-decker bus tours of Christchurch and also started offering charter tours. Hassle-free Tours also developed new tours from Akaroa for the cruise market and targeted the domestic market with special offers and promotions.
“The earthquakes forced us to re-think our business but we were determined to continue offering visitors to the region a high-quality experience and we are thrilled that we have managed to do that. Christchurch has a very interesting story to tell and we are committed to being part of the story-telling”, Mr Gilbert says.
Read more about Lonely Planet’s endorsement of Christchurch:
Global travel guide hails Chch as top destination