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Tour Operator Kiwi’s New Guided Tour Business Supports Arts Community

White Glove Experiences runs art walks around Parnell to discover creative locations, key attractions and street art. Photo / Provided

After studying fine arts in Sydney and Auckland, Jacqui Wilkinson began a career in advertising.

Then one day, having had enough of the long hours, she decided that if she had to work that hard, she would rather work for herself. His first tourism businesses, Adventure Capital and Fine Art Tours NZ, were launched before Covid. From the pandemic, White Glove Experiences was born.

I first interviewed you five years ago and Adventure Capital was really taking off…

Business was growing at a phenomenal rate. We were launching new products, including Rangitoto e-bike tours, and then Covid hit, and everything literally disappeared overnight. People who are not in tourism find it difficult to navigate, but when the borders closed, our market completely disappeared.

What proportion of your clientele was international?

Fine Art Tours was 100% international and Adventure Capital over 90%. So we tried to think of ways to focus on the domestic market, but it was all about numbers. Also, Adventure Capital was based in really urban environments strategically chosen for the international market, but the locals don’t visit those places, so we shut down completely to get rid of the overhead.

Have you thought about holding on until things normalize?

Tourism will never go back to what it was. The world is different and people will travel differently, but we’ll see how the next few months unfold.

How did you reinvent yourself?

There was no way for us to pivot, and when people were able to travel again, locals headed to classic tourism hotspots, like Northland and Bay of Plenty. Aucklanders flocked to the beaches, but no one came to Auckland. So we invented something completely new and White Glove Experiences was born.

Jacqui Wilkinson of White Glove Experiences, an Auckland-based tourism company offering art-themed tours.  Photo / Provided
Jacqui Wilkinson of White Glove Experiences, an Auckland-based tourism company offering art-themed tours. Photo / Provided

How would you describe the concept?

We took a few things from Fine Art Tours NZ and used them to experience the domestic market. I tested some local events in October 2020, around arts and culture. Even though we didn’t have the money to market ourselves, people responded very positively and we got great word of mouth. We now have a growing database of locals supporting all of our events, including some amazing superfans.

What are events?

We open the art scene to everyone. We do things like day trips around West Auckland and show people the amazing art venues like the McCahon House, Te Uru Gallery in Titirangi and the Corban Estate Arts Center in Henderson. They are such gems, but many Aucklanders have never been there. We also organize art walks around Parnell and on Karangahape Rd, to discover creative places, key attractions and street art. These rides always sell out.

We held four community events in Howick, with the aim of showcasing an underrated neighborhood. Many people have heard of Howick, but have never been there. More than 100 people came. Most had never visited Howick before and in the end many participants said they would return with friends because it is such a cool place.

How do you see White Glove Experiences evolving?

It started as an experiment to see if locals would support what we’re doing, and they did, so we want to continue, build our database and offer more regular events and programs. We fill a unique niche, with our clients telling us they love how we’ve demystified the art scene.

Has art played a role in your personal recovery during this difficult time?

I studied fine art in college, majoring in printmaking and painting, so one good thing about the past two years is that I’ve resumed a regular art practice. I’m excited to exhibit. I did some group exhibitions this year and I also have some solo exhibitions.

I didn’t have time to paint when Adventure Capital was in full swing, so having time to paint has been wonderful, because being busy you can lose sight of your passions. My home office doubles as a studio, and over the lockdowns, painting has become my secret pleasure.

Did you have any other tips for staying in the sun?

I have been interested in personal development since I was a teenager. Before people talked about mindfulness, I had a routine of morning exercises, gratitude, and breathing. I call it my “up and go” routine.

Sounds like a good basis for an event.

I’ve actually teamed up with a trained science mindfulness facilitator and we’re planning a two-day event at Castaways on Karioitahi Beach, suitable for beginners and those with a bit of meditation experience. We also have another event at Castaways, a two day art workshop and we are planning overnight trips to Whangārei, to see the new Hundertwasser Art Centre.

What do you think of the future?

I don’t expect it to go back to how it was, but I feel good. International visitors are returning, domestic opportunities look solid, but the road to recovery is long. People have struggled, so it’s good to focus on nice things, and for me, that’s working on White Glove Experiences and doing my art.

White Glove Experiences offers small group events focused on art, culture and exploration. whiteglove.nz

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