Awe-inspiring Adventures: Aroha Luxury New Zealand Tours

22 Jul 2020
7 min read
From the bustling streets of Wellington to the lush valleys of Milford Sound, German-born Veronika Vermeulen is passionate about sharing every iota of New Zealand’s beauty. Transforming her love of this culture-rich, character-filled country into a luxury travel company, Aroha Tours now boasts over 20 years of expertise in crafting bespoke travel experiences. Veronika tells us more…

Tell us a bit about Aroha…

Aroha means ‘love’ in Maori and embodies the core of Aroha Tours‘ philosophy. Specializing in bespoke luxury tours of New Zealand, the company prides itself on offering an authentic experience where you can get to know the country in a personal way. Aroha Tours pulls everything together to bring guests the very best of New Zealand, from luxurious private lodges to extraordinary cuisine to unique experiences. We combine all these elements to deliver a personalized Kiwi adventure to each guest, to give them a holiday they will remember for a lifetime.

How and why did you get into this line of work?

I have always loved to explore the world away, even as a child I looked for books that told me about places in the past and far away. When I turned 24, I decided to find my own path and separated from the family boat building business. I discovered my entrepreneurial skills and started various companies. In 1995 I decided to take time off and enjoy a trip around the world, which also took me down under and to New Zealand. New Zealand took my breath away and I decided there and then that I was going to move here.

Once here, I really had no plans, but started working as a deck hand for fun with a local outdoor activity provider on a luxury yacht providing services for Huka Lodge, one of the most awarded lodges in the world. Here we entertained VIPs like Robin Williams, Barbra Streisand, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Bernard Arnault. Before the millennium, not many companies in New Zealand organized private guided tours across the country. The Americas Cup in 2000 bought many high net-worth travelers to our shores and I took the opportunity to start our exclusive services.

What are the key elements that make Aroha’s experiences so different?

Our trips are unique, authentic, private and off the beaten path. No two tours are the same and Aroha works closely with each individual or group, spending extensive amounts of time working through their wants and needs to individually craft the perfect experience and ideal itinerary based on their hobbies, interests, and expectations of quality. From adventure-seeking family groups to solo explorers, Aroha excels at pulling out the key ingredients and core experiences that will create the perfect holiday and make their dreams come true.We also understand the desires of high-end clientele, and are able to cater to their need for extreme privacy, curating bespoke, discreet private tours away from the public eye.

Aroha’s guides aren’t just drivers. They are cultured, educated experts who are on hand to provide their advice and expertise and ensure that the people in their care are looked after and have the best holiday possible. They act as both private concierge and personal guide, invested in crafting memorable experiences and showing guests the true New Zealand through authentic experiences. They excel at unobtrusive, intuitive service – quick to jump in when needed, they also know when to slow down and step back and give guests time and space to themselves to relax, take a deep breath, and really soak up their surroundings.

Why should New Zealand be on a traveler’s bucket list?

Known for breathtaking scenery and abundant natural resources

Our stunning natural scenery has been a big selling point for years, long before Sauvignon Blanc and AJ Hackett hit the global headlines. This lush and tranquil landscape makes it the perfect setting for health, wellness and yoga retreats. The virtues and health benefits of our natural thermal springs and volcanic mud pools have long been extolled and without dangerous plants and animals, our diverse wildlife makes the outdoors that much more appealing to our visitors.

New Zealand is the quintessential retreat destination for those looking to unwind and be mindful. The wide-open and peaceful landscapes are ideal for moments of reflection and mindfulness, and coupled with luxurious places to stay, many of which are nestled deep within these stunning landscapes; an abundance of fresh, natural produce; and any number of other outdoor-based fitness activities, New Zealand lends itself to the perfect health and wellness holiday.

Get off the beaten track; get away from it all

Away from the glitter of the big cities and bustle of the crowds in New Zealand’s plethora of popular tourist venues, lies the true heart of Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand, literally translated “land of the long white cloud“), hidden amidst the rolling countryside and pristine wilderness and kept alive by the warmth and generous spirit of the local people.

While there is nothing quite like the glow of satisfaction derived from sharing the stunning vistas and natural wonders of New Zealand with excited travelers and guests, from the rugged coastlines to the picturesque lakes, to the majesty of the snow-capped mountains, sometimes the very best experiences, those most often remembered and shared, those most treasured as time goes by, arise from the simplest of things – from authentic moments spent with genuine people, just connecting with the daily movement of life in this amazing country. This is where you are treated like family, food is made with love and shared with passion, and simple truths, meaningful moments and true joy arise out of everyday activities.

Wellness and food go hand in hand

Fresh food and fine wine are essential ingredients in a New Zealand experience. The country’s rolling pastures, ample rainfall and isolation have always produced plenty of seasonal produce. With ethical chefs and organic retailers who have changed the way the country thinks about food, we are embracing clean eating.

Farm to table, fresh and accessible – this is nothing new in New Zealand, where long-standing agricultural traditions are finally translating to world-class cuisine. Innovative chefs make clever use of tasty ingredients freshly harvested from the garden, land and sea so that – accompanied by award-winning wines – the New Zealand gastronomic experience is amongst the best in the world. Restaurants are increasingly turning their attention to organic, free range, gluten- and allergy-free deliciousness. There is a big movement towards supporting smaller, local producers who are committed to the ethical treatment of livestock.

The world is finally taking notice of New Zealand’s food scene with eight of New Zealand’s finest restaurants being named among the world’s best. Culinary innovation and cultural diversity has helped earn the country’s reputation as an exciting fine food destination for discerning foodies. It is the fusion of unique, quality produce and ethnic influences that have allowed the Kiwi food identity to evolve. With over 213 ethnicities in New Zealand, its famous geography gives its food scene a distinct advantage.

Tell us about some of your favorite Aroha Travel experiences…

Mt Cook National Park

A scenic helicopter flight over Mt Aspiring National Park is followed by a gourmet picnic with a selection of central Otago wines. Take in New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mt. Cook, from both the air and the ice. Land amongst the crevasses of the Tasman Glacier and explore the glacier’s seracs, icefalls and astonishing caves of ancient blue ice.

Fiordland National Park.

Fly across glaciers and untouched rainforest in the Fiordland National Park. Land on a small island and enjoyed freshly-foraged seafood. Fly up to a small alpine lake where a private chef prepares a stunning dinner set amidst epic scenery. Return via the western side of the Southern Alps, where the mountains reach their highest elevations rising straight from the emerald green of the West Cost and the glittering Tasman Sea.

Sailing in Bay of Islands followed by sunset horse riding

Take to the tropical waters in Bay of Islands in a privately chartered sailing catamaran. Choose from sun bathing and relaxing on the top deck, kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddling or looking out for the dolphins swimming by. Relax with a chilled glass of bubbles as a private chef prepares a BBQ on deck for a day of total relaxation and tranquility. Finish the day on horseback watching the sun set below the hills from the beach.

What are some of the new trends in the travel industry and how does Aroha tap into these?

A new paradigm of luxury travel that is life-enriching and values-based is emerging and as travel agents, we need to become more ambitious in how we design experiences.

Wellness and mindfulness

People are shifting towards discreet wealth and health. A renewed trend towards wellness is an obvious by-product of coming to terms with the impact and struggle we have had, and continue to have with the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand is the most perfect place for this revival. Not only is it visually breathtaking, but it is also a cleanse for the spirit and soul in ways that are difficult to explain. Our natural world has enjoyed the precious interlude, resting and revitalizing as it patiently awaited the return of our footsteps.

Land, sea, and sky all have a newfound crispness; the days seem brighter, the air fresher and the landscape more alive. Perhaps this much-needed rest has given the land renewed vigour or perhaps our time away is just letting us view the world’s miracles with fresher, more appreciative eyes. No matter the reason, the beauty and wonder of New Zealand lies impatient under the mantle of winter, ready to burst forth in the riot of spring to fully celebrate our return.

Time to re-think and re-discover

As we move into a new era of living, our very existence, our daily lives, our travel and family plans, pretty much every part of our lives are being reconsidered. Travel and tourism will, too, be viewed through a reconstructed lens. With the focus for the coming years heavily skewed towards safer ways to see the world, the trends towards bespoke, personally-designed travel experiences offers reassurance. Attracting the traveler that will inherently value the same things we do as a nation, our national resources come into focus, as does the intention to maintain its beauty and integrity.

We will see travel trends emerge that may well be very conducive to restoring and maintaining national treasures; travel in smaller groups feels safer than bigger travel tours. Guided experiences offer deeper immersion into the culture of New Zealand. This applies specifically to the Maori culture of our country which holds such fascination for international guests

Private-jet travellers and high net-worth individuals are taking a new direction in the upcoming decade. Showing off wealth is no longer the way to signify it. Instead, discreet investment in health and wellness is becoming a new luxury status symbol. In private-jet travel, this trend can be seen in the food that is ordered. Now, customers prefer simple and healthy options with reduced alcohol consumption as opposed to extravagance. Chartering a jet allows the wealthy to fly anonymously, protecting their privacy, and Private Jet Charter®️ takes great care of your privacy at all times.

Aroha has recently partnered with Jonathan Cameron – tell us more about this partnership? 

Jonathan boasts over 20 years of experience in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions, and has had an extensive career working across multiple sectors both in New Zealand and the UK. Most recently, he spent 5 years as Head of Corporate Development at Air New Zealand. With his expertise, we have developed a seamless end-to-end travel experience for Aroha’s private jet and charter customers that seeks to forge a unique and dedicated protocol for entry into New Zealand under the country’s restricted border controls.

Efficiency and flexibility of private flights allow small and medium companies to understand the value of using private aircraft to favour their business. With cost-efficient aircraft and the ability to land in remote places, flying privately can save time and money compared to commercial flights that need one or two connections to get to the destination, and we are taking advantage of this. This more affordable private jet travel will commence as soon as the New Zealand border entry restrictions are eased.

To find out more, visit Aroha Tours’ website or Facebook page.