Sprucing Up The Luxury Tourism Market – NZ Herald.


Heletranz: Sprucing up the luxury tourism market – NZ Herald.

Sofia Ambler and her husband John, a former Cathay Pacific captain, bought helicopter business Heletranz in 2012. Ambler explains her role and how the business is bringing new experiences to the luxury tourism market.

A brief description of the business

Heletranz is all about the experience. We offer charter helicopter flights all over New Zealand covering both local flights to Waiheke, and also longer itineraries that could be 10-days over the whole of New Zealand. It’s quite a diverse business starting from $199 gift vouchers to itineraries more like $200,000.

In the winter Heletranz could have one flight per day and in summer up to 20, so the number of daily flights we have is seasonal.

Why did you buy Heletranz in 2012?

My husband John and I lived in Hong Kong for 12 years and Sweden for three, and whilst we were living in Stockholm this opportunity came up and we decided to combine John’s love for flying and my interest and love for client service.

I’ve always been very keen on planning the ultimate holiday and that all came together with Heletranz – tailoring the best experience, which is not really hard having New Zealand as your playground.

We combine the best of world-class wine, food, nature and scenery. What attracts many people from overseas is that New Zealand is perceived to be a safe and clean country, where you can get out into nature without it being overcrowded.

Tell me a bit about yours and John’s background?

John is a Kiwi and I’m Swedish. I moved here in 2013 and I’d never lived in New Zealand and I’ve definitely never worked in aviation so it was all very new. John was a captain on a 747 jumbo jet for Cathay Pacific, and on his holidays to New Zealand during his 20 years of doing the job, he learnt to fly helicopters and that was his next passion in life. He now flies helicopters and private jets.

We have three daughters and New Zealand is probably the best place for us to live and so we were looking for an opportunity to settle in New Zealand, where we could work together or both be involved. I have a background in stock broking and private banking so I thought I could do that, I didn’t really think I would be this involved in the business, but as it turned out, when we brought Heletranz we needed to put quite a lot more money into it than what we originally thought so John had to stay in Hong Kong and keep working for Cathay so we could have a bit more of an income while I ran Heletranz. We bought the business whilst living in Sweden, and moved to Auckland three weeks later.

How big is your team and where are you based?

We have 12 regular staff members, including eight pilots, but this fluctuates slightly with the seasons. Our heli-port and office is based in Albany, North Shore. We try to run the business as a small family so everyone feels part of the success. We’ve got a really good crew and several of the key people have been with us from the start, so it’s definitely more of a family feel than a corporate feel.