Friday July 25, 2014 - 6:24 am | Login

Gateway Tours and Transfers

A Ni-Vanuatu Anglophone in the French-speaking territory of New Caledonia speaks with Raymond Nasse about life as a tour operator.
Tourists boarding one of Alfred’s Gateway Tours and Transfers vans.

It’s not every day a Ni-Vanuatu citizen gets to run a thriving business abroad. Gateway Tours and Transfers owner, Alfred Nauka, spoke to Daily Post about his thriving business in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
 My name is Alfred Nauka and I come from the island of Tanna. I’m a manager for a small tourism company called Gateway Tours and Transfers. I provide airport transfers (domestic and international) as well as half day and full day tours across New Caledonia. I also provide private transfers for VIP people.

How did you come about building up your tourism company?
I used to own bungalows (Volcano Whispering Lodge) on Tanna from 1995 to 2004. And so I’ve always been working in the tourism industry being my own boss and deciding for myself what to do to live a good life and support myself financially. When I moved to New Caledonia to join my wife in 2004, we both had different kind of jobs with only one goal in mind: start our own tourism company. My wife has also been studying tourism and so she was willing to pursue her professional career in tourism. After a few years, we managed to save up enough money to buy our first vehicle (2009) and I started contracting with the hotels and operators in Noumea.
I can see that you have 2 vans operating.
We got two 8-seater vans; both air conditioned and fully equipped. We’ve got a Renault Traffic and a Fiat Ducato. We paid cash for the Renault Traffic and we took out a loan for the second one.

I understand that you are an Anglophone. How did you go about breaking the language barrier when New Caledonia is a French speaking country?
I now can speak and understand French pretty well. The other major difficulty was to get a working permit when I first settled here; it was very hard to find an employer willing to employ a foreigner. Fortunately, one of them gave me this opportunity and from there on, I managed to do different kinds of jobs to get to know the local job industry better and got my permanent working permit. As for competitors locally, I can honestly say that they’ve got more financial grounds than us and are more aware of the market needs and so it is easier for them to go and negotiate with the big agencies/hotels.

However, being a English speaking person, being able to hold a full conversation in English and being able to inform foreign visitors clearly is a MAJOR asset. Very few people here speak English fluently; even the ones working in the tourism industry. All the hotel managers I’m dealing with are very keen on choosing me to provide tours to their customers because they know that I will be totally at ease talking with customers, and most of all, providing them with a service of good quality. It is very important for hotel managers that their customers feel taken care of when going on a tour. And so thanks to my knowledge of the English language and my experience in tourism, I can really do that and make sure visitors have a memorable time when they take my tours.

Tell us about a major setback you come across while in New Caledonia?
As a Ni Vanuatu, the most difficult challenge was the language barrier. When I first arrived In Nouméa, I didn’t speak a word of French. But with time and with the help of my wife and her family,I started learning the basics.  I now can speak and understand French pretty good. I believe it is a big asset to speak English in New Caledonia because majority of our tourists are English speaking and come from New Zealand and Australia. I believe they should teach English to students at a younger age, like let’s say when children start primary education. Although nickel is the first industry locally, tourism is just next and so it is important that local people speak and understand English in order to provide a better quality of service in New Caledonia.

How long have you been in New Caledonia and are you still a Ni-Vanuatu citizen?
I’ve been in Nouméa since 2004. I’m not sure yet whether I will change my nationality to French; it’s not a priority to me at the moment.

What is your advice to ni-Vanuatu looking to set up a tourism business in New Caledonia?
The only thing is that you absolutely NEED an important capital before starting a kind of business like ours. The second important thing is that you NEED to comply with all the French regulations regarding transport, insurance, self employment, public liability, taxes, etc...Without all these legal papers and authorizations you won’t be able to go far. Fines are extremely high if you don’t comply with these regulations, and believe me controls are very regular when you do this type of business. The last thing is that you NEED to know how to market your products locally and overseas. Marketing is a very important area to boost your business.

Any last words you want to add?
I don’t have anything more to say. I would just like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk a bit about our business and what we’re trying to achieve. It would be of great help too if you could publish our company’s story in your newspaper so all the people in Vanuatu know that there is a ni-Vanuatu here able and willing to transport them or help them during their stay in Nouméa, New Caledonia. Gateway Tours and Transfers can be contacted through email: gateawaytoursnc@gmail.com or mobile: (687) 754592 and (687) 966914.