Chantal Napa with her business partner US-based Haydn Adams talking about their latest venture, the Kia Orana Podcast. KATRINA TANIRAU 20070225/ 20070226/ 20070227/ 20070228/ 20070229
Award-winning tourism operator Chantal Napa barely paused for breath after the travels bans shut down her business; now she has launched a Cook Islands podcast with US business partners Haydn Adams. Rashneel Kumar conducts a three-way trans-Pacific interview with the podcasters.
When Chantal Napa started her online holiday and tour booking company in 2016, people doubted the concept.
They said Chantal’s Concierge was new to the local market and would not work.
Napa proved them wrong – the business became a major success within months and performed well.
That is, until the Covid-19 pandemic when – like every other tourism business in the country – it hit rock bottom. It had zero income.
Now Napa is venturing into another unfamiliar territory and critics are already casting doubts.
But Napa knows the Kia Orana Podcast she has created in partnership with US-based author Haydn Adams will find success like her earlier venture.
“I’m fearless. When I started the concierge everybody said ‘we don’t know what that means, it’s going to fail, and it’s going to this and that,” says Napa.
“I go okay, but I’m not going to die if it fails. That was a new concept too but it worked right.”
Success is like a recipe, Napa says, and the mother of two believes she knows the formula to get the result she desires.
She left a good job in Australia before moving to Rarotonga to start Chantal’s Concierge.
“My (former) boss said ‘are you crazy, you are in this age where you can move to a six figure salary you have been working so hard for.
“I said to him, ‘I know, you have taught me the recipe and thank you. I will take that recipe to Rarotonga because now I know how to bake the cake and I will bake it again over there’.”
Napa says from experience, she has learned that to run a successful business, it’s necessary to have a good concept.
“And then step one, step two, step three, wall, that’s okay, wall again, that’s okay. Climb the wall and keep going. What is the worse that that will happen, will you die? No, then keep going until you get that success.”
Haydn Adams fell in love with Cook Islands when he first visited the country several years ago. So much so that he ended up penning a book. He called it How I Fell In Love With an Island.
While under lockdown in the United States, Adams has been thinking of a way to keep connected with the Cook Islands.
“I felt I wasn’t going to get back to the Cook Islands anytime soon because of the lockdown so what’s the next best way to stay connected and give something back to the Cook Islands,” says Adams.
“That’s when the idea of creating the podcast came about. Technology has made things so efficient that people across the seas can stay in touch and connected to each other.”
Adams approached some of his contacts in Rarotonga before contacting Chantal Napa.
She responded to his email immediately and that’s when the Kia Orana Podcast initiative started to take shape.
Napa first connected with Adams through reading his book, while she was on holiday on Aitutaki.
Midway through the book, she emailed Adams to compliment him for his writing and invited him to visit Chantal’s Concierge in his next trip to Rarotonga.
In November last year, Napa had a surprise visit from Adams.
A friendship formed then, after a brief meeting, has eventually led to the Kia Orana Podcast venture.
Napa brings to the podcast a local perspective of the island, while Adams comes from a tourist, and an American perspective.
In each podcast episode, they bring their knowledge together to inform their listeners what they will expect to find in the Cook Islands.
They both believe the islands are special, unlike anywhere else on earth. And it’s their unique perspectives that truly makes the Kia Orana Podcast special.
Since its launch more than a month ago, the Kia Orana Podcast has uploaded five episodes. They have a couple recorded and ready to go in the coming weeks.
The ones that are available include interviews from some accommodation providers, a stone carver and everyone’s favourite, the two aunties of the Cook Islands, Nane and Lydia.
Napa says the statistics show the podcast is gaining reach in their major markets such as New Zealand, Australia and United States.
“And this is just naturally, we are not even boosting our reach,” she says.
She admits they are up against the wall because the podcast is yet to register any member and make any money.
Full membership comes down to $2 per day, plus VAT and credit card fees. In turn, Kia Orana Podcast will not take commissions from businesses for any bookings linked from the podcast.
Membership will buy businesses a Kia Orana Podcast interview with Chantal Napa for 12 months, a picture and bio of their business, link to their website and other contacts. Monthly statistics of the podcast, an invaluable insight into how they are progressing, will also be available to them.
“We are not charging anyone/potential customers who listen to our interviews. However, we are asking local Cook Islands businesses to help us grow both the podcast and the website, by becoming members,” Napa says.
Membership agreements are valid for 12 months with a special launch offer that will get businesses an additional three months of membership complimentary.
“We have realised people don’t want to pay,” says Napa.
“When I talk about the podcast I can see a lot of blank looks but that’s fine. I just remind myself I’m in Rarotonga, I’m not in New York, Dublin or in Auckland. I’m in Rarotonga with chickens, coconut and palm trees.”
Napa has been in a similar situation before but she knows the way around the wall to get to where she wants to go.
And it’s at the heart of the local tourism industry in this Covid-19 time.