How One Of New Zealand's Top Adventure Tours Connects With Conservation-Minded Customers Through Forest Preservation

Rotorua Canopy Tours’ investment in New Zealand forest conservation has paid dividends in more ways than one. Customers enjoy better scenery—trees that are more lush and plants that flower more abundantly. This has led to thousands of “Excellent” reviews on TripAdvisor, which in turn drive more bookings.

Welcome to Supplier Spotlights, where we interview Viator operators and pick their brains about a variety of topics. This series is intended to give you an up-close look at how other suppliers have found success, provide you with tips for your own business, and uncover the unique stories that make this industry so great.

Rotorua Canopy Tours of New Zealand takes tourists on ziplining adventures through the treetops of the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve. Their greatest accomplishment might be their preservation efforts of the New Zealand forest. We interviewed Paul Button, General Manager of Rotorua Canopy Tours, to find out more about their business, the benefits they’ve seen from Viator, and how tourism plays a huge part in restoring the forest around them.

Turning a personal love of kayaking and adventure into an experience offering for travelers.

“I started out as a raft guide that was fueled by my love for kayaking. Since then I have worked on many rivers in lots of different parts of the world. I love people, and facilitating experiences for people is what drives me. I love seeing someone push outside of their comfort zones and grow as a person.”

How they are using the success of their business to preserve the forest.

[Editor’s note: Rotorua Canopy Tours’ preservation efforts began in 2013, as thousands of possums and rats had taken over the ancient forest. Native species were not thriving, and possums had damaged and stripped the trees. Rotorua Canopy Tours raised $35,000 and began their trapping program.]

“Since Conservation Day—8th September, 2013—Rotorua Canopy Tours has been working hard to reduce the numbers of pests in the forest. Currently there are 650 automatic self-resetting possum, rat, and stoat traps throughout the forest. Since then, there has been constant trapping and removal of pests from the forest.”

“Over the last three years, there have been huge improvements in every layer of the ecosystem. Views which were previously spindly tree tops are now a lush magnificent green with masses of healthy foliage. Where once only a few of the rainbow colored fungi raised their heads—fields have sprung up. Trees now flower in abundance and the flowers remain unharmed. Birds are now regular visitors to our tours. Most customers will get to see the rare North Island Robins and, if they’re lucky, even a Tomtit! Where once a Wood Pigeon was a pleasant surprise, they have become rowdy regulars, showing off to our clients and filling their stomachs with Tawa, Miro, and Rimu berries to their heart’s content, safe from predation. The forest has shown a remarkable ability to recover from the years of constant damage and harm caused by introduced species.”


How tourism, both domestic and international, is key for the future of preservation efforts.

“If this is what can be achieved in a short period of time, Rotorua Canopy Tours bounces out of bed with the knowledge that we will continue to protect this incredible slice of New Zealand which, day by day is becoming even more special. Every new bird, healthy tree, and conservation-minded customer reminds us to appreciate what we have and are striving to achieve. Domestic visitors learn the biodiversity challenges the country has and learn how they can make a difference in their own backyard. International visitors learn how unique the ecosystem in New Zealand is and learn how to be better travelers while they are here.”

“Rotorua Canopy Tours bounces out of bed with the knowledge that we will continue to protect this incredible slice of New Zealand which, day by day is becoming even more special. Every new bird, healthy tree and conservation minded customer reminds us to appreciate just what we have and are striving to achieve.”

— Paul Button, Rotorua Canopy Tours

How they stand out from the competition.

“Our goal was always to have the best visitor experience in New Zealand, and we have maintained that through the years. For us, it’s not about the zip lines, but it’s about the people and the experience as a whole. Our Kiwi guides are a huge part of our success—they have a passion for the people on tour and for the environment they work in.”

Advice for other suppliers in the travel industry.

“The experience business is a great industry but you need to love people. I would recommend focusing on the details and [try to be unforgettable]. Focus on giving people what they do not expect—that creates an emotional response which ensures the experience is remembered for longer. The experience business is like any other business where there are two rules. Rule #1 is to have a great product. Rule #2 is to never forget about rule #1!”