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When farmer Ian Balme told people he was going to start a travel attraction in central North Island, running golf carts on the unused railway line between Stratford and Taumarunui, they scoffed. Nine years later, that travel attraction – Forgotten World Adventures – now includes tours by rail cart, jet boat, and helicopter. It attracts over 9000 visitors a year.

Entrepreneur shares his business journey and the keys to his success

Forgotten World Adventures Founder Ian Balme

“It wasn’t easy, especially in the early days,” Ian says. “The key to making it happen came down to sheer determination and backing myself all the way, no matter what. The more barriers that got put up, the more determined I was to jump over them and keep moving forward.” 

Today, Forgotten World Adventures employs around 35 seasonal staff and significantly contributes to the economic growth of the region. As well as creating jobs, the business has increased visitor numbers to a regional area that wasn’t previously considered as a tourist destination. In a clever move of horizontal integration, Ian and his team opened the Forgotten World Adventures Motel in Taumarunui, giving visitors an accommodation option that encouraged them to stay longer in the area.

Forgotten World Adventures has won many awards – it took out the People’s Choice category at the New Zealand Tourism Awards for two years in a row, a first in the history of the awards. 

It’s fair to say that those who initially scoffed at Ian’s plans may now have a different view. Through vision, innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and sheer determination, Ian Balme has turned a crazy idea into a leading tourist attraction. 

“I was never afraid of failure. I like the unknown, the challenges, the sense of adventure, you may say,” he says.
His advice for those who are interested in starting their own business in the tourism industry: “Tourism in New Zealand is about storytelling. The better you can tell the story, and the more your story is included in your product, the more likely you are to succeed. We are fortunate in the Forgotten World to be endowed with a past enriched with stories from pre and post-European settlement.