Endeavour New Zealand

Bespoke tour operator Endeavour New Zealand Itinerary Specialists puts the “zeal” in the country it’s crazy about

Ask Peter Salvesen to explain what he loves most about New Zealand and his words tumble out in a giddy rush. It’s Milford Sound’s vast fjord, Hawke’s Bay, the Coromandel, historic Arrowtown, the Hokitika Gorge, Nugget Point, kiwi birds, Christchurch, Wellington, Maori culture, Te Anau, the golden beaches, the birdsong-filled rainforests and the glaciated lakes tucked behind Canterbury. “Sometimes,” he says, pausing briefly, “you’ll visit a spot and just feel like you’re the only person who has ever stood there.”

Today, Peter runs Endeavour New Zealand Itinerary Specialists, a travel company that puts together thrilling trips for tourists seeking to visit the islands. The premise is simple: customers give him a rough idea of what they’re hoping to discover; he grants them access to his abiding passion for, and impressive knowledge of, the country. He’ll take care of everything for them, booking accommodation, rental cars, restaurants, excursions and making all the domestic travel arrangements. Nothing is too much trouble. He makes a point of meeting guests in person and being on call if anything goes wrong. And because he has personally experienced everything there is to see and do there, he has all the right connections to make things happen – and not happen.

“If something isn’t right,” says Peter, “I’ll call up the hotel and say, ‘Hang on, I brought them to this room. What’s going on here?’ And I can show people down the back streets that the average customer may not be aware of if they had booked through a travel agent.”

Peter first fell in love with the country at the age of 15 when his family moved there from the UK. He spent much of his earlier career working in hospitality, including stints as a hotel duty manager and driving trams in Christchurch. It was then that he realized that there was a gap in the market for tourists who wanted to tap more into local knowledge. He recruited two of his lifelong friends to assist him – John Anderson, who helps put together the itineraries, and Gordon Duff, who runs the company’s social-media accounts – and built a website to attract and inform customers.

Peter’s clients tend to originate from the UK, the US, Europe and Australia and, unlike many of his rivals, he’s happy to take on those with more limited funds. “I’m not going to be picky. If people want to come out and spend tens of thousands and stay in the nicest hotels, I’ll be delighted to help. But I’m also happy to accept people on a budget who want to do a few things for two weeks.” Now 18 months on, he’s seen the company grow and has started leading private tours of the island.

Peter’s enthusiasm for his subject is unbounded. After holding forth for some time about still more delights the country has to offer, he apologizes. “Oh, sorry, I can be here all day talking about it,” he says. “I do it because I love it. So many people work in tourism because it’s a job to do; and that frustrates the hell out of me! I’m so lucky to do what I do – I want to bring people to New Zealand and showcase the country the way I know it. And if I can do that, people aren’t going to go home disappointed.”