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Kiwi jet boat business to the stars goes up for sale

A top-ranked Kiwi jet boat operation that was behind hit Hollywood movies, and once starred on US TV show The Bachelor, has been placed on the market for sale.

NZ River Jet, which operates on the Waikato River between the twin tourist meccas of Rotorua and Taupo, offers New Zealand’s number one-rated boat tour on TripAdvisor.

In 2016 NZ River Jet hit the screens of millions of US viewers when contestants of the blockbuster reality TV show, The Bachelor, took an adventurous river journey. The company’s jet boats were also used to film river scenes for the 2010 Hollywood box office hit, Yogi Bear, starring Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake, which grossed more than US$200 million worldwide.

Filming of Yogi Bear saw a NZ River Jet boat rigged out with the biggest 3D camera outside of Hollywood. The business has also facilitated filming for Without a Paddle, starring Burt Reynolds, and other major movies including The Lord of the Rings, and Kiwi classic River Queen.

For years it has thrilled famous guests on exclusive jet boat-helicopter charters from nearby Huka Lodge.

The NZ River Jet adventure tourism business is based alongside the Waikato River at 6 Tutukau Road, midway along the busy tourist highway connecting Rotorua and Taupo.

The land, buildings and business sustaining NZ Riverjet 2004 Limited, trading as NZ River Jet, is now being marketed for sale as a freehold going concern. Sale is by international tender closing on 3 December 2020 (unless sold prior), through Bayleys’ specialist Business Sales team.

Salespeople Jayson Hayde and Matt Clifford said assets for sale included land, buildings, boats, vehicles and other plant and equipment sustaining the NZ River Jet operation – along with an additional $10,000 of stock.

Mr Clifford said the approximately 2,619 square metres of freehold going concern land for sale was located at 4095A State Highway 5, Reporoa, 1.5 kilometres up the road from the business’s leased main base.

The freehold site houses a purpose-built 288-square metre, high-stud workshop facility which securely accommodates the firm’s three jet boats, with a gantry, an external 2,000-litre fuel tank and a large, easy-access turning circle.

The leased business site of approximately 3,660 square metres, at 6 Tutukau Road, contains the retail customer/office accommodation and toilet block, along with a large area of decking overlooking the river. The site incorporates ample car parking with a turning circle for buses, plus a helicopter landing site and, on the river, a jetty and recently-excavated, purpose-built boat ramp.

Improvements at the Tutukau Road site are owned by the vendor and form part of the sale, while the land is leased from Rotorua District Council. The current lease runs through to the end of 2022, with the ability to negotiate further rights of renewal with the council.

Mr Hayde said the operation had a favourable rental rate reflecting its importance as an award-winning visitor attraction for the district.

“Tucked in a pristine river setting, yet just 44 kilometres from Rotorua and 34 kilometres from Taupo, these sites give the business the dual advantages of wilderness destination appeal combined with some of the country’s busiest tourist traffic.”

Experienced and knowledgeable staff are available to new owners, including a general manager and a mechanic/head driver, facilitating business continuity and the preservation of intellectual capital, he said.

In addition to sales of trips on its three world-class jet boats, NZ River Jet generates revenue from merchandise, trip photography and food and beverage snack sales.

Detailed information regarding business performance and assets is available to potential buyers subject to signing a confidentiality agreement.

“The NZ River Jet business began in 2004 when the current owner discovered the exciting potential of a new river access site on State Highway 5, near Tutukau Road,” said Mr Hayde.

“At the time, this land was part of a disused road belonging to Transit NZ. Gaining consents and starting the business required complex negotiations with Rotorua District Council, in a process which would be extremely hard to re-create if attempted today.

“With more than 40 commercial jet boat operations in New Zealand – including two within 20 minutes’ drive of NZ River Jet – the owner has worked hard to create a profitable point of difference as a truly premium adventure tourism operation,” Mr Hayde said.

“NZ River Jet is not a ‘quick thrill’. Instead, it offers unique, longer jet boat ‘safaris’ which give visitors an unforgettable adventure as well as a glimpse into New Zealand’s history and pristine natural heritage.”

NZ River Jet has rights to operate on the longest stretch of the Waikato River, from the Aratiatia Dam Full James rapids at Taupo to the Ohakuri Dam face, some 100 kilometres downstream.

Trips typically last at least two and a half hours, with time to take in geothermal attractions such as the ‘hidden valley’ of Orakei Korako, the Rainbow Mountain crater lake and New Zealand’s most active mud pools.

Mr Clifford said NZ River Jet had further bolstered its market position by targeting a diversified customer base.

“The business operates through the entire spectrum from education/school groups to exclusive private tours. It is well represented among free independent travelers, conference and incentive groups, inbound tour operators, friends and family and other groups,” he said.

“This broad market appeal, including a very strong presence and profile on the domestic visitor scene, stands the operation in good stead as Covid-19 continues to impact on international travel.

“The Rotorua-Taupo tourism hub has seen a lift in domestic visitors as Kiwis turn to holidays at home. NZ River Jet’s highly visible presence on the main route linking these key tourist towns positions it perfectly to capitalise to the full. Many of its packages provide pick-ups from Rotorua and Taupo, drawing directly from the towns’ thousands-strong catchment of visitors,” said Mr Clifford.

“Pre-Covid, NZ, River Jet had experienced increased patronage across all markets over the past four years, in line with its sales and marketing, strategies and business plan. The opportunity is now there to take this business to another level with a renewed focus on sales and marketing for a fast-evolving post-Covid business environment.”

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