Two small, locally-owned Kaikōura businesses are taking a gin distillery to the mountain, in the hope of attracting international holidaymakers to the coastal town.

South Pacific Helicopters CEO Daniel Stevenson and Mt Fyffe Distillery owner Justine Schroder are teaming up in a bid to give the tourist region a vital boost.

Ahead of the borders reopening to fully vaccinated travellers from visa-waiver countries in May, South Pacific Helicopters is launching a new gin experience.

This will take guests on a 30-minute scenic flight over the Kaikōura peninsula and Seaward Kaikōura Range in their premium Airbus helicopter, before landing on Mt Fyffe.

Here, guests will taste Justine Schroder’s boutique award-winning gin as she tells her story of how it was made on her farm at the foot of the mountain.

“When everyone is vying for tourist dollars we want to offer something really unique and we don’t want to go back to the status quo of what we were doing pre-Covid,” says Stevenson.

“Visitors increasingly want personal experiences where they can meet local owners and operators and learn about why we do what we do.”

For gin maker Justine, the business venture is about two businesses, and friends, helping each other through the hump of the past two years.

“When Kaikōura is hurting, you’ve got to think outside the box and be clever. We’ve both got our own stories and expertise, which show that there is so much more to Kaikōura than just our amazing whales,” she says.

The tours are a chance for her to showcase her passion project, which began amidst the pandemic. A midwife by trade, she decided she needed to diversify in more recent times.

Over two years ago, she completed a gin course and then went on to create her first gin, which tells the story of her home, with botanicals collected from around the family’s Mt Fyffe farm.

Her Woolshed gin is a classic London dry gin, with kanuka, mint and elderflower botanicals. Her second spirit is the Shearwater gin, which is an oceanic, contemporary gin, with seaweed as the botanical.

The joint venture has the backing of the regional tourism operator, Destination Kaikōura, and demand from the UK and US markets is already rolling in, with bookings coming in for Summer.

South Pacific Helicopters marketing and partnerships manager Krissy Griggs says with international holidaymakers accounting for 90 per cent of the tourism business in Kaikōura, they’re eager to welcome visitors back like never before.

“We launched South Pacific Helicopters in 2016 just prior to the Kaikōura earthquake and have been in survival mode since Covid. This new premium offering is about doing something different to attract international tourists and help revitalise a tourism industry which has been hit hard.”

Daniel says despite the massive highs and ‘some pretty big lows’, he is now focused on the future and drawing attention to Kaikōura.

“We’re a small spot but bursting with unique niche products that can’t be found anywhere else in New Zealand,” he says.

Guests on the experience will receive a complimentary 375ml bottle of Woolshed Gin or Shearwater Gin so they can take home a taste of Kaikōura.

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