The south is jumping
Tandem skydiving, especially popular in the tourist centres of the Southern Lakes District, has undergone recent ownership changes.
Skydive Wanaka, based at Wanaka Airport, has been conditionally sold to Australian-owned Skydive The Beach Group for $10.4m.
While the aviation industry in many places appears to be on hold during an economic downturn, this is not true of the Southern Lakes region. Queenstown Airport goes from strength to strength and Alexandra Airport’s activities are expanding rapidly.
Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) also manages Wanaka Airport which, besides being the home of the biennial Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow, is a rapidly expanding facility.
Skydive Wanaka was established in 1995 and has completed more than 100,000 tandem jumps. Owned since 2013 by the Ferguson family of Wanaka, it has 45 employees, its own aircraft and no debt. It made more than 14,500 tandem jumps over the last financial year, operating a PAC 750XL.
The largest skydiving operation in the southern hemisphere, Skydive The Beach Group began its skydiving business in Wollongong, NSW, in 1999 and last year conducted 61,069 tandem skydives at 16 drop zones. Last year it bought Skydive NZOne in Queenstown and a number of Australian bases, saying the purchase will mean it has the option of transporting jumpers to Wanaka which often has better weather.
Skydive Wanaka managing director Blake Mason welcomes the sale to the purchasing company and says everyone in the company has been assured their jobs are safe.
In addition to the purchase price, Skydive The Beach Group has ordered a new $2.52m Cessna Caravan for the Wanaka operation at Wanaka and is outlaying another $1m for luxury coaches to transport customers between Queenstown and Wanaka.
Anthony Ritter, chief financial officer of the Skydive The Beach Group, says tourists in Queenstown are generally there for only a short time.
“Obviously weather is our biggest factor to be mindful of, and if the clouds come in or the rain, or the wind picks up, we’d traditionally potentially lose those bookings to Wanaka because there’s just no time to reschedule for the next day.”
- Report by John King and photography by Skydive Wanaka.
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