Wroxham boat business cruises into Far Eastern waters

An award winning young businesswoman has moved to Malaysia to expand her Wroxham-based cruise business into the Far East.

Katie Hanger set up Lola Charters in 2008 offering chartered boat tours around the Broads and is now hoping her business will see the same success abroad.

Her company is in a joint venture with Tropical Charters, who are already well established in Langkawi- a island off the north west Malaysian peninsular – and with whom she now shares a fleet of seven boats.

Additionally, Ms Hanger has set up an events management company based in Kula Lumpur named Pathfinder Events, splitting her time between the two. The 29-year-old, who won the Young Businesswoman of the Year at the EDP business awards last year, already had some knowledge of Malaysia having previously worked for Lotus in the country's capital.

She explained that she was expanding because she was looking for opportunities in between the seasonal trade of the Wroxham part of her business, and wanted to challenge herself.

She said of her Malaysian experience: 'The pace is so much slower and there is no urgency, which is lovely if you are retired but not so great if you are trying to run a business.'

However, she added: 'One of the nicest differences is the sense of freedom. Freedom to really do some blue sky thinking and get really creative about how to run a business. It's a great feeling.'

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One focus for the company will be on 'rib safaris' in which tourists are taken on inflatable boats around the 99 islands of Langkawi.

For Pathfinder Events, which borrows its name from her partner Mark Lawrence's British business, Ms Hanger has joined up with a Malaysian business partner for what she calls an 'east meets west concept.'

She is also keen to point out the country's growth as a tourist destination – business tourism arrivals are targeted to grow from 1.2 million to 2.9 million by 2020 and more flights are coming in via Air Asia.

Ms Hanger's brother Rob is now managing director of Lola Charters, which had a predicted a turnover of �150,000 for 2011. He operates two main boats in the fleet. These are Lola, a 35ft Fairline Targa, and the Naiad, a Broom boat altered to cater for the corporate market.

? john.owens@archant.co.uk

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