AIB Featured Business Leader John Anderson of Contiki

Last modified 22 June 2022
Categories: Business Leaders
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
AIB Featured Business Leader John Anderson of Contiki

If you’re from Australia, chances are that you or someone you know has gone on a Contiki tour. This is all thanks to New Zealand businessman John Anderson, founder of international tourism company Contiki Holidays. With a unique story to share, Anderson’s journey to success is a fantastic example of someone who identified an opportunity in the market, and through hard work and determination, was able to build a small business into a global brand. To date, Contiki has carried over 1.8 million passengers from around the world, proving the immense impact the company has had.

Though born in Wellington, Anderson began his venture when he travelled to England in 1961 to visit his father. It was on this trip that his business idea emerged, planning a series of stopovers en route to his final destination. As the president of his local Jaycees association, Anderson was familiar with networking with those from around the world. He contacted fellow presidents in the cities he wished to visit and received numerous offers to host him. As a result he was able to reduce his travel costs and see the world, all while completing his journey across to the UK. After arriving in England, Anderson began planning his travel to mainland Europe, however he had only 25 pounds to his name. It was this limitation that gave him the idea to advertise for 11 other Australasians to join him on the trip. He worked out the total cost for the trip, dividing it by 11 and therefore giving himself a free seat. This trip sold much quicker than he had anticipated, prompting Anderson to capitalise on the interest and advertise a second tour. Again, the tour was popular and sold out before the first tour had departed England.

Despite Anderson’s lack of experience, the tour was a profound success. The 12-seater van was nicknamed Tiki after the Maori good luck charm. After several successful tours, the venture that began as a means of funding his own travels became a fast-growing business. Tiki Tours was established and offered a number of trips with the fleet and staff growing rapidly. After a challenge from the New Zealand Tourist Board, Tiki Tours was renamed Contiki to incorporate ‘The Continent’. Contiki became a leading tour company for 18 to 35 year olds and by the mid 1980’s it was a global organisation headquartered in Hong Kong.

While Anderson experienced great success with Contiki, the journey was not without its challenges. When the stock market crashed in 1987, it devalued many of Contiki’s assets. Unfortunately Anderson was placed in financial difficulty, forcing him to sell his remaining shares in the company as well as his family home. Since then however, Anderson has continued to achieve great things, diversifying his career immensely. Along with Contours Travel, he has started tours to South America. In addition, he published an autobiography in 2010 titled ‘Only Two Seats Left’ which focuses on his time with Contiki. He was also made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013 for his services to tourism.

Reflecting on his business experience in an interview on Mumchic, Anderson explained that being an entrepreneur is “All about the right attitude, getting the right people around you to help you and to solve problems and innovate”. He added, “You have to hold very strongly to your core beliefs, because if you don’t, others will convince you that it’s not worth giving it a go”. Now an acclaimed public speaker, Anderson shares his business lessons and advice with audiences around the world.

We are pleased to share that John Anderson will be joining us as a guest speaker at the AIB Adelaide Alumni Event on November 19. If you would like to attend, email your interest to

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: MumChic; Wikipedia; John Anderson’s corporate biography.

Image by Chelsarmitage on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, added on 22/06/2022

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