6 Dec 2011

Souvenir photos a worldwide business

7:02 am on 6 December 2011

A New Zealand business that specialises in photos as souvenirs of tourist attractions has expanded its operations to Australia, Europe and South Africa and is now entering the United States and China.

Magic Memories was founded in Queenstown in 1994 by Stuart Norris and his business partner John Wikstrom.

They saw a gap in the souvenir market to provide personal photos for tourists and their first venture was taking photos of visitors as they ascended in the Queenstown's Skyline gondola for dinner.

As Mr Norris puts it: "Then we'd quickly whizz down to the chemist on the motorbike and create a worthwhile product and put it in their hands as they came back."

Magic Memories then established partnerships with Ngai Tahu's jet boat operations and AJ Hackett Bungy before moving the model beyond Queenstown.

Under the model, Mr Norris says the company in the majority of cases taking all the risks of the venture, providing equipment, staff and all the infrastructure the tourist attraction needs.

The partner business agrees to allow Magic Memories to be integrated into their business and, in doing so, get a share of the profits.

The company began its export drive in Australia with the Sydney Opera House and has since expanded its presence in New South Wales and Victoria.

Magic Memories is now repeating the exercise in Europe, including the UK and Ireland, in South Africa, and also has operations in China.

It recently set up partnership with the world's second largest entertainment company, Merlin Entertainments, which Mr Norris says will be a key market for future growth and has its sights on moving into other countries such as Russia and India.

Mr Norris says the company now takes 15 million photos a year, hosts 29 million pictures on its website, and employs 300 people in busy summer periods.