7 Tips for Working in Adventure Tourism in Queenstown, New Zealand

Written by Kelsey Powell

Adventure tourism is the industry that is typically best suited for outgoing, friendly, patient, and enthusiastic people.

While there are plenty of jobs in adventure tourism that don’t require the ongoing energy of a human bouncy castle, it does tend to favor those who can sustain a positive vibe for long hours with all types of customers.

Let me explain.

Queenstown, New Zealand has been crowned the adventure capital of the world.

This is probably due to the fact that you regularly see paragliders coasting through the sky above you, hear the screams of jet boat riders in the distance, and watch “I did it” bungy jumping t-shirts walk past you from all directions.

Adventure is everywhere in Queenstown and it’s thrilling.

The faces behind these thrilling activities are often what give Queenstown the buzz as it permeates through the customers who straggle in terrified tourists and leave exhilarated adrenaline junkies.

Tour guides, skydive instructors, bungy jump masters, boat drivers, bus drivers, zipline operators, luge photographers, ski and snowboard instructors, and everything in between make Queenstown the magical land of bucket list item ticking the place that it is. 

If you’ve ever worked in adventure tourism before, you probably already know what to expect.

But for those of you newbies hoping to dabble in a career of pushing people outside their comfort zone, you’re in for a wild ride.

In order to survive the regular drones of tourists asking you the same questions over and over again, you’ll need to know a few tips to keep in your back pocket when you wonder why you started working in adventure tourism in the first place.


1. Give irregular answers to regular questions

As I mentioned, you’ll get asked the same questions over and over again by people just simply wanting to know “how many times have you bungy jumped?” or “Am I going to die doing this?”

In order to have some fun with it and not drive yourself totally mad repeating the same answer, respond to the question differently every time. 

It becomes a great challenge for yourself to stay creative and can help you maintain the enthusiasm for why you’re working where you do in the first place.

Make sure you’re not sharing any lies for the sake of a varied answer, but have some fun with your answers and it’ll rub off on the customers.

2. Go on weekend adventures

While everyone is coming to your home, Queenstown, for their holidays, you need to take advantage of the surrounding area for your own weekend getaways, too! 

If you can afford to buy a car -- get one!

If you can’t, share gas with someone who does or grab a bus ticket and get out into the beautiful landscapes that surround Queenstown.

Only 10 minutes outside of town, you can be on a stunning walk with a view people pay millions for.

You can also find tons of cool things to do all over the South Island.

Be careful not to get complacent doing the Queenstown thing every weekend or you’ll miss all the great things in your backyard.


3. Schedule time for yourself

In an industry that expects you to work long hours at top-notch enthusiasm, make sure you’re making time to do something that recharges you.

Whether it’s joining a local yoga studio, playing in a social league, or drinking tea on your balcony, make time for yourself.

Plus, if you’re doing crazy, cool adventure-type things each day, they may be safety sensitive.

If you’re taking the time to recharge yourself, it should help you stay focused at work when attention to detail is crucial and potentially life-dependent.

No pressure!

But learning a new skill or staying focused in an adventure environment takes energy, so be sure to top up yours whenever you can.


4. Keep your cool

Most people who pass through Queenstown will become awesome customers for the company you work for.

They’re here for fun and thrills, so they’re typically pretty cool humans.

On the occasion you don’t get someone too groovy, stay calm, cool, and collected as best as possible.

People come from all over the world when they visit Queenstown, which means they may have different belief systems, manners, or ways of handling things than you do (like stressful situations with cancelled bookings or on the edge of a bungy jump).

That doesn’t mean you have to meet them where they’re at.

Take the high road, be kind, remember how you’d want to be treated when you’re in a stressful situation and remind yourself that you never have to see them again.

You got this.

5. Get to know the locals

 Getting to know the locals here in Queenstown is a must if you’re sticking around past one season.

Whether it’s the local bartender, the social league organizer, or the owner of whichever jet boat company, make friends around town.

If you drink where the locals drink, get to know people by name, and become a real Queenstown person, you’ll not only start to feel like you’re a part of it all, but you’ll also develop connections that don’t reside in the transient population. 

The locals of Queenstown are typically the coolest people around.

They know the hidden spots away from tourists and they know what to expect with various seasons or events rolling through.

Befriending the locals means plugging in and becoming a part of the Wakatipu whānau (translated as “family” in Māori).

6. Try other adventure products in town

If you’re working in adventure tourism in Queenstown, you need to DO adventure tourism in Queenstown.

That means getting your butt out of bed on your weekends and trying out the other products around the basin.

Get in all the jetboats, try all the bungys, and do all the things. 

The more comfortable you are with the Queenstown adventure scene, the better you’ll be able to recommend places for your customers to go and things for them to do on their days in Queenstown.

Plus, if you’re trying out other adventure tourism companies, you can see what their customer service is like to see what works and what doesn’t.

Seeing things from the eyes of the customer makes it much easier to do your job.

Empathising from your customers’ points of view may make you even better at your job.

Try it out! 

Photo credit: Experience Oz + NZ

7. Learn phrases and facts from the countries of your customers

This may seem silly, but you’ll see how much it comes in handy when you really put some effort in.

Queenstown is an international hub for tourists from dozens of countries around the world.

The sooner you learn phrases in different languages or facts about various countries, the easier a time you’ll have providing good customer service to the people trying out your adventure product(s).

Learning to say silly things in Mandarin or Portuguese or Russian to make make someone’s bungy jump that much more comfortable...

Being able to recount all the capitals of the 50 United States may win you a date during their paraglide...

Or, recalling a story from when you were backpacking through South America could earn you some tips after a skydive.

Who knows!?

Put effort into learning about your customers, their home countries, and their languages.

It’ll make your job more enjoyable and the raving reviews will start pouring in all over Tripadvisor.

Just remember to be that tour guide you wish you had on a once in a lifetime trip to Queenstown.

You never know, you could be the person someone tells their grandkids about one day.