Liz Bonham took a childhood nickname bestowed by her irritating brother and used it for her business, Lizard Adventure Travel. The namesake couldn’t be more prominent, with a much larger-than-life gecko on the side of the 24-seater bus for group outings.
The Halifax native studied athletics and recreation at UBC and has worked in tourism, but admits: “I was always leaving jobs to travel. I thought it would be great if I could have a job that involved travel and event management.”
Of her Lizard day trips, “it’s all local,” she says. They go to the southern Gulf Islands, west to Sooke and beyond, and for some the destination is up-Island or the Lower Mainland.
Bonham offers out-of-the-ordinary excursions. “Each trip is really different. It’s definitely not just sightseeing.” She’s always looking for the place less-travelled, the interesting experience.
One summer trip was a “wine, cider, and honey tour” of the Saanich Pensinula. Sometimes a group will go to Goldstream Park, or a winter ski and snowboard day trip to Mt. Washington. Sometimes a trip is to Vancouver, for example, to a matinee performance of The Lion King. Overnight trips aren’t offered, for now.
The toughest thing about starting the business in May 2009 was having to refocus the business plan soon after she started. Originally, Bonham thought backpackers and hostellers would like her different kinds of day tours and initially partnered with the Ocean Island hostel downtown.
But she found independent-minded backpackers resisted booking ahead, especially for a group outing, so she switched gears and focused on the retired people who live here.
Trips are advertised in the Active Living Guide put out by local recreation centres, and on her website. Some are repeat customers for different trips, and she gets lots of suggestions from her older crowd.
“Active seniors are the repeat customers — the bread and butter,” Bonham says. Old doesn’t mean idle: one of her customers was 95.
Other markets include incentive travel. Business owners and managers want to reward their staff, and Bonham will organize an outing. It might include corporate team-building activities.
She also puts on an “adventure race” at Thetis Lake Park, which sends groups on a course laid out through the park.
Check out the rest of the winners from the 2011 10 to Watch:
Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre | Body Dynamics Headquarters | Cook Culture | Draught WISE Draught Integrity Technicians | Evidents Mobile Dent Repair | Origin Gluten-Free Bakery | Onlyhuman Furniture | Pizzeria Prima Strada | Sterling Financial Accounting Services