World’s first commercial Jet boat operator looks after locals

Closing the doors due to COVID-19 was never an option for KJet, which has been operating in Queenstown since 1958 considered the world’s first commercial Jet boat operator.

In 1987, Shaun Kelly (with the help of his late mother Pauline) purchased KJet, which was then just one Jet boat – a Hamilton Jet 73. Since 1987, Shaun and wife Sally have grown the business to what it is today – a fleet of 8 Jet boats, the biggest in New Zealand, with the capacity to take 140 passengers at one time. Shaun has been hands-on in the business and still is very much today with business partners Skeggs Group.

Preparing for Kiwi travellers 
When New Zealand came out of Alert Level 3 and domestic travel was allowed on 14 May, KJet was committed to Queenstown, ensuring there was bookable product available for New Zealanders keen to travel, opening 7 days a week.

The business offered a ‘locals deal’ for all of May to give Southern Lakes locals the opportunity to experience KJet. They have continued to offer a domestic rate to kiwi visitors.

Retaining staff
The business retained a majority of staff, with the collective agreement being to keep the team together on reduced hours. Since then, KJet has been able to build up hours and hire seasonal staff back. Many staff work across different areas of the business where and when they are now needed.

Queenstown community
KJet has always been closely involved in the Queenstown community, and even though tourism in the region has been through challenging times since the international borders were closed, KJet has managed to continue to support community groups and fundraising initiatives through donating Jet boat trips.*

Emergency responders
KJet is on the emergency response list for New Zealand Police Search and Rescue when looking for, locating and retrieving a missing person on Lake Wakatipu, the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers. This remained in place during Alert Levels 4 and 3.

"The team has saved many lives over the years, and this is a particularly rewarding aspect of the job," says Shaun.

Meals on wheels
Every September the staff head out for two weeks and deliver ‘meals on wheels’ on behalf of the Queenstown hospital, giving the team a chance to engage with locals who have been in the region for many years. This remained in place this year with many staff delivering on rostered days off.

The operator has continued to support Destination Queenstown initiatives through these times, offering media, trade and business event support when ever given the opportunity.

*Ronald McDonald House, Mossburn Golf Club, Mental Health Awareness Week, Go Local Giveaway, Alexandra Parents Centre fundraiser, The Wahi Tapu 2020, Tour Drivers & Guides NZ Golf Championships, Cookie Time, Shirley Rugby Club, Lakes Weekly Bulletin, Alexandra Rotary Charity Dinner and Auction, The Rangers / Girl Guides.

**DQ Domestic Trade Famil July, DQ Domestic QCB Famil July, NZ travel
photographer Paul Michael, TV One Breakfast Show Promo, Whoa! Studios, More FM Shop Ride relax.

This story is part of TIA's #TourismChampions campaign. View more inspirational stories here