They have a slew of awards and are Akaroa’s #1 tourist experience on Trip Advisor. How did Pip and Hugh go from being farmers to high-end tourist operators?

Building Akaroa’s #1 tourist experience

Being sheep and beef farming fifth and sixth generation Banks Peninsulans, Pip and Hugh Waghorn could have kept on doing what they knew so well.

Instead they stuck their necks out and set up tourism operation, Akaroa Dolphins. It was their first time working in a competitive market – a bit different from farming.

Early on they knew they’d have to distinguish themselves from their opposition. It was a huge move that wasn’t without its risks.

In cruises we’re competing with other businesses, whereas in farming all farmers worked together at one similar goal.”
Hugh Waghorn

They decided to go for a luxury operation

Akaroa Dolphins clients get to cruise on a luxurious catamaran viewing marine mammals and volcanic scenery. But it’s a journey of discovery of all kinds – they get to learn all about the fascinating Maori and colonial history of the area.

Hugh and Pip are passionate about educating the public and protecting the marine environment, particularly the Hector’s Dolphin. Being deeply committed to the conservation of this special area, they had to learn how to get up close and personal with the animals yet have minimal impact on them.

The business grew fast but it wasn’t till they hit 15,000 passengers that they took a deep breath and hired more people. The risks had been worth it. The company now employs 12 locals.

Kiwibank fit with their policy of ‘buying Kiwi made’

Pip and Hugh reckon it’s good to keep it local and like the idea that Kiwibank profits stay in the community. They say they have a close and honest relationship with their bank manager and so feel that their successes become the bank’s successes.

Our advice for future entrepreneurs? Be 100% and don’t hide anything from your bank manager.”
Pip Waghorn

They’re also passionate about working with family

The five family members working in the business all focus on different areas and that keeps things running smoothly. “Our family all have different areas of expertise. Pip account/book keeper, George engineer/mechanic/fix it guy, Julia graphic designer/social media/booking systems, and Hugh problem solver and overall statistician.”

Success doesn’t mean sitting on their bums. They’re constantly setting new challenges and aim to be the number one recognised brand in Akaroa. They never stop working to distinguish themselves from the opposition and striving to be the preferred top-end luxury operator. They’ve won a load of gongs along the way including the Canterbury Tourism Award for Small Businesses in 2015.

The next stage is Pip and Hugh looking to take a bit more time off and hand over to the next generation, keeping Akaroa Dolphins a 100% family business.

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