Michael's Virtual Journeys

Michael Nees is a practical business owner. For 25 years he ran Guest New Zealand, an inbound travel business that served tourists from all over the world. He shared with them the story of New Zealand.

He has been through earthquakes, pandemics, and the global financial crisis, but he feels that this time, things are different. According to him, this is an opportunity for a new way to do things, especially for tourism businesses. He says it feels like the internet boom of the 90’s.

So, when he came across virtual and augmented reality, he recognised the possibility to continue telling New Zealand’s story, but this time, in an entirely unique way. He claims that “VR is a great story telling tool…you can take people to places that they ordinarily wouldn’t get to.”

Through his research Michael identified that there are several types of travelers, who can all be reached through this new immersive medium. So, after connecting with world renowned industry experts like Professor Mark Billinghurst, he felt encouraged to set up his new business Virtual Journeys NZ.

Michael says that Virtual Journeys NZ is a story telling platform, it is about creating a 360-degree virtual development that immerses the traveler into breathtaking places like Key Summit, Mt. Cook, and the Abel Tasman Regional Park. He states that “if done well, it’s like a ‘real’ travelling experience.”

There is an expanding appetite for this new form of virtual travel and the potential revenue streams are growing by the day. He points to corporates like Amazon, Facebook or Tesla sending their staff on virtual experiences from their offices in the USA.

Michael recognizes that we are at the beginning of the digital revolution, with metaverse and digitalization, and believes that Aotearoa could be world leading. His virtual experiences can be found on video hosting platforms like Vimeo, YouTube, Veer, and the revolutionary Oculus.

He is passionate about the tourism industry and is keen to provide a platform for other local tourism operators. He says that “it’s a first step for operators to get their feet into a new world” and that “operators can use it as promotional footage.” He mentions three pilot projects he has done in the Abel Tasman with a Kayaking operator, an Eco Tourism company, and a Nelson-based winery tour with local guides. He adds that “if people look at that footage in a headset or even on a normal computer they will connect with that guide. It’s actually a story telling tool.”

Michael contends that by showcasing theses guides in their environments, through online experiences, we can counteract the current problems facing the tourism industry worldwide. He wonders that with current global trends will people be able to afford travel to a place like New Zealand. He asks, “how do we fulfill people’s dreams and aspirations of seeing different places, and it’s quite clear to me that the only way to do it is digitally.”

He wants to make people aware in the travel industry, that if done well you can reach thousands, if not millions of people, and without all the carbon footprints. The environment is important to Michael, he participates in multiple tourism groups concerned with regenerative tourism and wants to make a change for the future generations.

A key aspect of Michael’s new business journey during the last couple of years has been the assistance he received from the Nelson Tasman Business Trust. He sees the Business Trust as a constant and reliable source of assistance. Through the Business Trust he registered for a business mentor and had high praise for the service he received.

“I was very fortunate to have Scott Burnett as a mentor. Even if you have all the years of experience, as a business owner sometimes you are on your own. The key difference with a guy like Scott or the other business mentors is that it is a long-term thing…he knows me, and I know him, it is like a guardianship. That is the big benefit, and I am very thankful for that.

He maintains that “it doesn’t matter how many years in business you have, you always can do with some advice and sometimes just one word can make the difference. “

Michael likes making a difference and through his new business Virtual Journeys NZ, is telling the story of New Zealand, but now, in a completely different way.

If you are interested in accessing a Business Mentor, please register here, or visit our business mentoring page for more information. If you have any questions please feel free to give us a call on 03 539 0824, or reach out to us here.