Coronavirus: Global mountaineering company Adventure Consultants to close as COVID-19 decimates tourism industry

Iconic Kiwi global mountaineering company Adventure Consultants is the latest business to close as COVID-19 continues to decimate the tourism industry.

The adventure company is regarded as one of the best mountaineering businesses in the world. They were the first to guide paying customers to the summit of Mount Everest, and in the three decades since, its Wanaka staff have guided expeditions to peaks on every continent.

CEO Guy Cotter says the closure is "absolutely devastating".

"Adventure Consultants as we know it has definitely come to an end," he tells Newshub.

"That's been really disappointing and distressing. It wasn't in the plan, but here we are and we can't really do anything about it at this point."

Since the borders closed last year, the domestic tourism market has accounted for less than 0.5 percent of their previous income. On that, they simply can't keep afloat. 

"I think COVID has taken a lot from me and all of my immediate community," Cotter says.

Adventure Consultants has had to let go 14 full-time staff in a region that has already lost 2000 jobs since the pandemic began.

But with expeditions on every continent, the business employed hundreds of staff across the world, and it's the Nepalese Sherpas they're most concerned about. The last Everest expedition in 2019 employed 75 Sherpas and many more support staff who now have no income at all.

For general manager Suze Kelly, the shutdown is heartbreaking.

"It does feel like it's been a long sad year since COVID started," she tells Newshub.

"All our trips were based on people being able to arrive from all over the world to join a trip on certain dates together, so once you can't do that, it's the end of it."

Adventure Consultants general manager Suze Kelly.
Adventure Consultants general manager Suze Kelly. Photo credit: Newshub.

Kelly was Adventure Consultants' base camp manager and remains committed to helping their Sherpas.

"Through our Sherpa Future Fund, we've been able to fundraise quite a lot and send over funds to every household and that's been really, really, super appreciated," she says.

Adventure Consultants began when Cotter was asked by mountaineers Rob Hall and Gary Ball to join the first expedition of its kind - guiding paying customers to the top of Mount Everest. It can now boast guiding 360 people to the very top of the world.

The endeavour can easily take a tragic turn. Hall died on an expedition in 1996 and the events were made into the 2015 film Everest.

Cotter, who led the rescue mission from base camp, then took over what was left of the company. He started out in an old shed in his back garden and added expeditions to each of the seven summits.

Sir Edmund Hillary's son, Peter Hillary, opened the new Wanaka office in 2013.

"Adventure Consultants is one of the world's finest international guiding operations," says Hillary, who is chair of the Himalayan Trust.

"They're the best, they're an outstanding operation. We should be very proud of them as New Zealanders."

Cotter has summited Everest five times and he holds out hope to do it again. While he knows it's the end of an era handing over the keys and locking the door to Adventure Consultants one last time, he is grateful for all the adventures along the way.