From 10 to 500 bikes !!
Trail Journeys was founded by two long time friends and Central Otago residents, Neville Grubb and Ritchie Bailey.
Originally operated as an adjunct to Neville's own business Alexandra Cycleworld, with Ritchie an employee, the company sold and hired kayaks and bikes on a short term basis. The business operated in Shannon Street, Alexandra within the premises of Cycleworld. In 2003 the cycle shop was sold and the business focused on cycle hire and providing services associated with the Otago Central Rail Trail.
It was one thing to have the bikes and customers going to Middlemarch but they needed to get them back so Nev and Ritchie bought a van and started "The Railtrail Express" transport service. Demand also increased for them to start organising customer itineraries. Very quickly they did not have enough bikes or the room to store them so they erected a double garage at the back of their existing premises for this purpose; this was adequate for only about 12 months. In an attempt to rectify this once and for all they started to look for larger premises and through an unlikely conversation they stumbled on to the idea of the disused railway building at the head of the Railtrail in Clyde. The decision to relinquish their business and a prominent site in town with the ability to attract foot traffic was not an easy one; however in 2004 they took a punt and shifted to what seemed a gigantic building that they would need to partition to prevent the look and feel of a big empty shed. Quickly it became apparent that this concern was unfounded as the trail and their business flourished at a phenomenal rate!
From humble beginnings of two partners working in the business, one van and 30 bikes in 2004, the company expanded over the next three years vigorously to the point where it had five full time staff and up to four seasonal staff, 200+ hire bikes, three 21 seater buses, three mini vans and three shuttle trailers. At the peak of the 2010-11 season there were 30+ on the company's payroll and 500+ hire bikes.
At the end of the 2006/07 season Ritchie felt the pace of growth and the consequent demands were more than he was seeking and he retired. Nev took sole ownership until, through an unlikely conversation the motion was forwarded to sell some shares and form a board of governance to aid in the decision making and directing of the business.
Neville took up the role of Managing Director with a particular responsibility for marketing and business development.
A major step in 2008 was to secure premises at Middlemarch so both ends of the trail could be serviced properly. This also involved the establishment of card operated fuel dispensing equipment to preserve the only fuel outlet in Middlemarch.
The purchase of Catch-A-Bus followed in 2009 to enhance the servicing of the trail from Dunedin and increase the efficiency of passenger and bag transfers right along the trail.
Despite the natural growth being experienced from within New Zealand particularly from the large metropolitan areas of Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch, Trail Journeys are active in promoting our product in New Zealand. We believe that various cities in Australia exhibit similar opportunities to Auckland and we expect to achieve significant growth in the short term, while Europe and the Americas will be a longer term source of increased business.
The introduction of John Key's "Cycleways of NZ" project can only increase the knowledge of what we offer and add to the growth in the numbers of people travelling the trail.
Trail Journeys was a finalist in the Tourism Section of the 2006 & 2008 Westpac Otago Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards Tourism Sector. In the year 2010 Trail Journeys was named the "Supreme Tourism Business" award winner at the Otago Business Excellence Awards diner in Dunedin on the 26th November 2010. Managing Director Neville Grubb said this award is recognition for the years of hard work, attention to detail and a fantastic staff. He accepted the award on behalf of all the staff at Trail Journeys.
In 2007 Trail Journeys was the recipient of two Central Otago District Council Business Excellence Awards. It received the Tourism Award as well as the overall Business Excellence Award.
Trail Journeys have succeeded in promoting joint marketing initiatives with suppliers to make better use of the combined spend on Promotion and Marketing. The company has committed significant resources to the development of its website which is a key component of its marketing process www.trailjourneys.co.nz. In September 2008 NZ Tourism Online awarded Trail Journeys the Top Weekly Tourism Site throughout New Zealand.
Our commitment to marketing the Rail Trail and our own business can be illustrated by attendance at a Tourism NZ UK workshop in London during July of 2010. We have also joined up with the Tourism Dunedin Road show to Australia last year and have attended the same trade road show in 2011.
The company is committed to environmental issues and as part of its Quality Management process which forms part of the Qualmark review, it has processes in place which ensure the company and its employees maintain appropriate standards and encourage our clients to respect the environment they are passing through.
When the Trail activity first started, the initial requirements from customers were to be provided with a bike and helmet.
As popularity grew so did the need to help clients with:
- arranging accommodation
- transferring their luggage from the various accommodation places that they used
- arranging for them to be picked up at the end of the trail and delivered back to where they started on their trip
- provision of secure storage for their vehicles while they were on the trail
Today the company provides the full suite of services
- a fleet of buses and vans for transport
- full booking service including:
- bicycles and accessories
- off trail activities
- secure vehicle storage
- an internet based booking system is being promoted for suppliers to link in with the company's booking system
The company regularly collects people from Queenstown Airport and accommodation houses to deliver them to Clyde where the journey usually starts. Transport from Dunedin Airport to Clyde is also arranged.
There is a market that wishes to travel from Dunedin to Middlemarch and commence the Trail from this point. Our company has improved its service for this market by establishing closer relationships with distributors in Dunedin and has upgraded its facilities in Middlemarch to include showers, shop and reception area.
Where guided/supported tours are involved, at least three other activities form part of the trip. This ensures that our clients get as broad a view as possible of our region rather than just the strip of land that the Rail Trail is on.
All clients booked by Trail Journeys complete a customer satisfaction survey. As part of our Client Satisfaction surveys we ask for an indication of how our suppliers have performed in providing their service. Where this indicates that particular suppliers have specific issues then we endeavour to broach this with them in an appropriate manner.
We believe it is important that where there are weaknesses in the "bigger picture" we have a responsibility to ensure we do what we can to maximise our clients "total experience" and this relies on what happens during the course of the complete trip, not just the segments that we are responsible for.
Because our company is certified under the Qualmark registration process, we have an obligation to maintain the processes and standards that we have established for our operation. Their review includes maintaining standards in the following main areas:
- Occupational Health & Safety
- Employment Processes
- Maintenance of Customer Satisfaction
- Responsible Tourism
Qualmark review our operation on an annual basis.
We also believe we as a company have an obligation to set standards for activities on the Rail Trail by leading by example in the manner in which we transact our business. This places pressure on us to ensure the standards we set are maintained on a consistent basis. Our staff are a very important part of Trail Journeys Ethos and our retention policy has been developed with the following principles in mind;
Utilise the wealth of semi retired people in the area who have a passion for working with people and have the skills required to operate and maintain the equipment used by the company and who are happy to work for part of the year. This has proved successful in the first year in that all our employees in this category have been keen to return
Develop projects and activities in our "off season" to ensure we are able to retain full time the people we consider appropriate.
Ensure we are recognised as an employer of choice by providing a superb working environment
Provide opportunities for our team members to increase their knowledge and skills by sending them to appropriate training and personal development courses.
The company offers incentives to pay costs involved in obtaining passenger transport and first aid qualifications.
Ensure the company provides the resources and technology to enable team members to fully utilise their skills and knowledge.