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With her partner fighting for his life, Krystle shares how she single-handedly took over the running of the couple’s water tour business (147)

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With her partner fighting for his life, Krystle shares how she single-handedly took over the running of the couple’s water tour business (147)

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Krystle shares the three major lessons that she has learned after she was forced to run the family water tour business.

Today, we hear the inspirational journey of one woman’s determination to keep her water tour business afloat after her partner got sick and was fighting for his life. This is the story of Krystle Theunissen and Wanaka Water Taxis.

In 2019, following her partner Brent’s health challenges related to a rare genetic disease, Krystle stepped up to run their water tour business and steer the company through challenging times. She has hit the ground running, tackling a steep learning curve to become a successful tour provider operating tours through the COVID pandemic.

Credit: JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF

“We knew Brent needed a second kidney, after 25 years. So that was no surprise. But after getting him tested over winter they found out that he had a heart problem (while he was the fittest guy ever) which needed to get fixed first. Open heart surgery…

This was planned for the end of the year but the White Island eruption happened and most victims went to Christchurch hospital so this got delayed by 2 months since the ICU was full. In the meantime, we had a flood and couldn’t operate.”

Krystle Theunissen

Two years ago, Krystle’s partner Brent’s health started to deteriorate to the point that he couldn’t actually manage and operator their water tour business anymore. (He was the main skipper).

Tour Operator Brent Shears then had his lower right leg amputated following delays in getting a much-needed second kidney transplant due to the pandemic and the White Island volcanic eruption.



“I skippered the last trips by myself in the small boat and then we closed over winter. Just before the season started again he went off to Christchurch for dialysis at the hospital which is a 5.5 hour drive away. And this was going to be long term.

So I had to learn everything about the operational part, all maritime NZ rules for operation. At that stage, I actually had never even driven with a trailer.. Now all the things like boat maintenance and fixing things that would break would also become my job! (of course, I had awesome mechanics around as well, but still, I ended up learning many things). 






Krystle shares her incredible journey of working with Wānaka Water Taxi and how the company has evolved over the past few years.

She reveals how she and Brent have been handling the extraordinary challenges they have faced since starting the company and the most significant lessons Krystle has learned since becoming the co-founder.

We discuss the importance of creating multiple tour products in different price ranges and how she is marketing her tour company to locals.

Krystle shares her advice on working with travel agencies and how you can build partnership relationships to add value to your tours.

She reveals what she is most proud of achieving for the company and what new tour operators can do to stand out in an established marketplace. Krystle also shares how she manages to organize herself when learning to run a business and operate it simultaneously and why she chose to use Rezdy as her preferred booking platform.

This week on Tourpreneur, the Tour Operator Podcast:

  • Krystle’s journey from Sales & Marketing to becoming the Co-founder of Wānaka Water Taxi.
  • The tours that Wānaka Water Taxi offers and the areas they cover.
  • Why Krystle moved to New Zealand from Austria.
  • Brent’s health challenges and how they prompted Krystle to become more involved in their water tour business.
  • Three big lessons that Krystle has learned after stepping into a leadership role at Wānaka Water Taxi.
  • How Wānaka Water Taxi markets their tour business to locals.
  • How Krystle learned to use Facebook advertising to promote her boat tour business.
  • How Krystle attracts new customers for Wānaka Water Taxi
  • Advice for tour operators that have never worked with travel agencies before.
  • The importance of having tour products in different price ranges.
  • Krystle’s tips for tourpreneurs on building partnership relationships.
  • Why Krystle believes it’s essential to do as much as possible yourself to learn the business thoroughly.
  • The accomplishments Krystle is most proud of achieving.
  • What new tourpreneurs can do to stand out in an established touring market.
  • How Krystle organized learning the business while simultaneously running it.
  • Why Krystle prefers the Rezdy tour booking system

Our Favorite Quotes:

  • “It’s good to have different price ranges to get in different markets.” – Krystle Theunissen
  • “If you’re partnering with another tour company, you always need to have a good feeling about it and make sure they are able to give you their pricing for the next two years.” – Krystle Theunissen
  • “Learn as much as you can and keep at it.” – Krystle Theunissen


Today’s episode of Tourpreneur is kindly sponsored by FareHarbor

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More about today’s guest Krystle Theunissen

Krystle Theunissen is the Co-owner of Wānaka Water Taxi, a touring company offering boat, 4×4, and helicopter tour experiences around Lake Wānaka in New Zealand.

Originally from the Netherlands, Krystle split her time between Austria and New Zealand to follow the ski season before settling in Wānaka. Krystal initially began her career with Wānaka Water Taxi in 2017, helping her business partner, Brent, in sales and marketing.

In 2019, following Brent’s health challenges related to a rare genetic disease, Krystle stepped up to run the company and steer the business through challenging times. She has hit the ground running, tackling a steep learning curve to become a successful tour provider operating tours through the pandemic.





Resources Mentioned:

Connect with Krystle Theunissen:

Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of Tourpreneur. If you enjoyed this episode, please head over to Apple Podcasts to subscribe to the show and leave a review. Be sure to share your favorite episodes on social media to help us reach more tour operators

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn and join the Tourpreneur Facebook community! And for more great content and information about the tours and activity industry, visit our website and subscribe to our Daily Brief emails.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of Tourpreneur. If you enjoyed this episode, please head over to Apple Podcasts to subscribe to the show and leave a review. Be sure to share your favorite episodes on social media to help us reach more tour operators

Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn and join the Tourpreneur Facebook community! And for more great content and information about the tours and activity industry, visit our website and subscribe to our Daily Brief emails. 

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Shane Whaley

Shane Whaley is the Producer and Host of the Tourpreneur Podcast. He is also the curator in chief for the Tourpreneur Daily Brief. Shane has worked in the travel industry for almost twenty years.

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