Archive for the ‘General’ Category

NZx -20th December 2017: Starry night

Thursday, December 21, 2017
posted by malcolm


It’s late December and the rata is flowering beautifully on the West Coast, that’s a South Islander’s version of the pohutakawa ‘Christmas tree”!

In Akaroa our lavender fields are bright purple – Akaroa Organics  and ready for harvest.

In our last post for the year we’d like to share a recent experience with one of New Zealand’s leading and award winning activity operators. Checking in we were met by two foreign nationals, they were polite but curse. Unfortunately as soon as we were checked in the two staff spent most of the non contact time (about 30 minutes prior to the activity beginning) trying to redesign the retail space in front of the counter so “they could hide from people”. Really? As front line hosts,and the first personal touch-point between visitors and the company, it should be the opposite. What made it so bad was that they were so nonchalant about this, and everyone in the room who spoke good English could understand what they were saying.

Is this really the type of customer experience our award winning companies are delivering?

The actual activity was interesting but really not what it was hyped up to be. Interaction was limited and much of our time was spent looking at machinery. Trying to interpret a static object requires certain skills, especially when those components dominate the overall experience.                       ]

The power of marketing! 

Have a great Christmas/Kirihimete and a very happy 2018!

Ka kite ano


NZx – November 26th: Sustainable tourism

Saturday, November 25, 2017
posted by malcolm


It was heartening, if with a strong sense of deja vu, to see the tourism industry (re) start a process to ensure economic, environmental, host community, and visitor satisfaction and engagement, drive the future of sustainable tourism in New Zealand. 

We have of course been here before with initiatives such as Green Globe and Environmental Plans. These initiatives, while driven locally, had a global context and more importantly measured success towards publicly stated goals. Poor decision making and lack of integration resulted in a lost opportunity for the industry and the weakly positioned environmental initiative in the form of the original Qualmark.

You can read more about this current sustainable tourism initiative here:

In a sense there’s nothing really new here. The approach is the industry’s response to rapid growth, increasing public concerns about international visitor numbers, effects of tourism on local communities and the environment and ensuring tourism businesses are economically successful. All sensible and admirable goals – if not a little overdue.

Over the years such initiatives have been met with initial support, particularly amongst the larger tourism entities – check out the current list of supporters here. Many other entities will undoubtedly sign up, driven by a mixture of opportunity, marketing push/pull, desire to stay ahead of the pack and some through genuine commitment.

As Fonterra has found their nearly tw0 year old public relations campaign has meet with mixed reaction. Some see through it as typical pr speak , while others believe it has a role to play in ensuring the dairy industries future in an increasingly skeptical New Zealand.

While not suggesting the campaign is no more than tourism’s version of pr speak it will take more than this initiative to make a difference.  More needs to be done with both Central Government and Local Government to ensure all parties commitments are in alignment.

Of course it is local communities that drive a lot of input into both forms of Government. We have previously commented on tourism social license to operate in previous blogs.

The 14 commitments are big on the right words but light on measuring and reporting on success, other than financial.

Hopefully this tourism initiative will be both sustainable, wide reaching and effective!

Ka kite ano

Future of NZ tourism

     Cruising Piopiotahi /Milford  Sound



NZx – October 31st : delivering on the promise

Thursday, November 9, 2017
posted by malcolm


It’s that time of the year again.Hopefully you have your team in place, well trained and ready to go!

Recently we took part in a discussion with Tai Poutini Polytechnic, employers and others associated with tourism on the West Coast. We discussed the opportunities and issues that involve training those involved in tourism.

Much of the discussion was based on the qualities of a guide. How do you take someone that may have all the necessary technical skill (i.e. hard) but needs coaching on the (so called “softer”) skills of guiding i.e. people management ? I think there was general agreement in the group that the biggest need was in the latter. For example how do you mentor an eighteen year old to lead, inspire, entertain and enlighten a 60 year old visitor from another country?

In this blog we look at some some of the qualities we should be training just about anyone involved in tourism, but particularly guides.

Charm / ātahu

Every person in your group is looking for information and more importantly, entertainment, from their guide.  Remember we are now an entertainment centric society. A guide should always be constantly looking for opportunities to charm and involve your group in doing things, rather than just listening.

An active C drive / mātau

You may of course be a very  charming person but if you don’t have the mātau then your’e on the back foot from the start.  Yes you need to know facts, figures and anything else somebody on a tour might ask you. You also need to be prepared to find an answer and get back to people.  Make sure you engage with everyone in the group and facilitate discussion between the group.

Stories / tito

Visitors (some) love hearing  facts behind the topic of interest e.g. Tane Mahuta, but above all visitors love their guide to share a personal story about the topic. Stories engage people’s minds and more importantly hearts. Facts alone do not.

Organisation and flexibility / nahanaha

You need to be super organised and flexible if you want to be a great guide. The group will have certain expectations about what the are expecting to see. You need to deliver on those, and make sure your timing for pre-booked events is perfect. At the same time you need to be flexible. If an attraction is suddenly closed you need to find an alternative!

Humour / whakataka

Your visitors are on holiday; they want to be entertained. That includes the use of humour.  It’s a skill to be developed but can ease a difficult situation, reassure visitors, make them laugh and add real value to a situation. While jokes are part of this, the most important part is you as the leader facilitating the humour in an appropriate way.

Empathy / aroha

You can be assured that somewhere, sometime, when you have a group something will happen to someone in the group. It may be lost luggage, bad news from back home, a cultural issue,or any myriad of issues. In this situation aroha will get you a long way,  make your guests feel valued and can assist in solving the issue.

A related aside
We recently booked a hire car through a national well respected brand. Something went wrong with the booking so we when we arrived the staff were put out –  the booking hadn’t been updated. Instead of applying the principles of Manaakitanga, they made us feel as though it was our fault that the booking hadn’t updated. What happened to the ethos that the customer is always right? While the situation was eventually resolved, it certainly wasn’t in the spirit of Manaakitanga. They should read this post!

You can read some other interesting views of the qualities that make a great guide, and a tourism host, here and here!

Ka kite ano


                                                                                                                                                                            Guiding at Maungatautari


Last month we looked at some views on why NZ tourism needs to develop it’s social license to operate.

As previously noted, there are many definitions of how to obtain and maintain a  social license to operate. At the micro level it’s about the concept of  a project achieving ongoing approval of the local community and other stakeholders. That may be formal through processes such as the RMA or the DOC concession process or informal such as access agreements.

At the macro level it is how industry sectors work at a national level along similar lines, and particularly how they influence government.

The opportunity to achieve a social license to operate can be seen as an overall outcome. There is no rule book which defines the process, a method, tools or ways to achieve such an outcome.That is both an advantage and disadvantage.

Gavin Shepherd in the Te Awamutu Courier argues, that for the farming sector, “long-term profits on farm are more linked to these social perceptions than efficiency in production or scale at all costs”.

Dan Ormond, formerly partner at Ideas Shop, notes that, along with knowledge of who your market is and its size, “all aspects of engaging with stakeholders and developing sustainable business practices need to be communicated well in order to keep your business’s social license to operate”.

So how do we achieve such a license?

There seems to be general agreement on the following processes:

  • identify key stakeholders (people affected by the project/sector) and continue to review these
  • gain social acceptance based around legal, social,and cultural norms – both formal and informal
  • gain credibility based on accurate and transparent information and importantly delivering on promises and representations that have been given
  • gain trust from the local or national community based on being accountable, collaborative and sharing experiences
  • deliver extensive and wide ranging communications across all channels that integrate all of the above.

In terms of a tourism perspective we note Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) comments that “globally tourism is today the 3rd largest export industry in the world after chemicals and fuels. Last year alone, 1.235 million travellers crossed international borders in one single year. By 2030, this 1.2 billion will become 1.8 billion”. Globally tourism has sustainable development as a key plank in all its 5 pillars:

  1. Economic: yielding inclusive growth;
  2. Social: bringing decent jobs and empowering communities;
  3. Environmental: preserving and enriching the environment and addressing climate change;
  4. Cultural: celebrating and preserving diversity, identity, and tangible and intangible culture, and
  5. Peace: as an essential prerequisite for development and progress.

As an aside the UN General Assembly declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Who knew?

In NZ tourism faces some political issues and community fears. As Professor Chris Ryan noted immediately after the election, all major parties played lip service to developing integrated tourism policy. This remains an ongoing challenge for the industry but should not deter Tourism Aotearoa  Tourism New Zealand local Regional Tourism Organizations and tourism operators doing more in this space.

Regular snapshots of how NZ communities view tourism show a trend towards less acceptance at the current and particularly the projected levels of international tourism.

In summary, achieving and maintaining a social license to operate is a dynamic, long-term, holistic and vitally important process for both key industry sectors and individual operators. The difference being primarily the scale of the input.

As social scientist Kate Brooks states “Any industry, that operates, particularly using common resources like water or land, forests, has to concern themselves with social license to operate issues. It’s like somebody saying I want to come in and use your front yard (for my own profit).”

Ka kite ano

Cruise ship passengers      Whangara Marae





NZx – August 22nd: A social license to operate

Monday, August 21, 2017
posted by malcolm


Continued growth in New Zealand tourism is raising questions over it’s social license to operate. As Tourism Aotearoa states ” Tourism will only achieve our Tourism 2025 aspirational goal if we maintain and enhance our social licence to operate. We are encouraging tourism operators to recognise the importance of growing their businesses in a way which balances the economic, social and environmental impacts.”

There is no widely accepted definition of a social license to operate (SLO). However a recent paper by the Sustainable Business Council suggests key attributes include:

a.  a measure of confidence and trust society has in business to behave in a legitimate, transparent, accountable and socially acceptable way;
b. it does not derive from a need for legal or regulatory compliance, instead is deemed to be the foundation for enhancing legitimacy and acquiring future     operational certainty, realising opportunities and lowering risk for the business;
c. an unwritten contract between companies and society for companies to acquire acceptance or approval of their business operations;
d. the terms of a SLO are often project or location specific. Although society as a whole ‘issues’ the SLO, it is usually local communities who are the ‘key arbiter’ of     the terms of the SLO due to their proximity to the company’s activities and associated effects;
Tourism New Zealand acknowledges the visitor experience “is affected by the New Zealand community’s own view on tourism – the more the community can understand the benefit of a strong tourism sector, the more likely it is to take a positive view on tourism growth. New Zealand is a long-haul, premium-priced destination with a strong, niche appeal in most overseas markets. We rely on positive brand association and word of mouth to make the most of our unique strengths as a destination. Poor visitor experiences will make it harder to compete with other tourism boards for targeted customers.
As Chrisopher Luxton, CEO Air New Zealand, recently stated ” The biggest issue the industry faces is its social license to operate.Tourism consumes infrastructure such as transport, accommodation, national parks, and puts particular pressure on places where there are low numbers of residents.  If visitors came to the country and thought it was clean but “broken down” and unable to handle its popularity then they might go home wishing they had gone to Dubrovnik in Croatia to see Game of Thrones sites. “That’s not a place we’d want to be. “If we don’t manage the social and the environmental pieces, the social license to operate as an industry is lost because, frankly, socially Kiwis sit there and say, ‘Yeah, I’m getting jacked off with all these tourists coming through the country and it’s irritating’.”
Of course tourism is not the only sector to be involved in this discussion. As Tourism NZ board member Raewyn Idoine says public perceptions of tourism are at a key point and action is needed now so the industry does not go the way of Fonterra. ‘‘Everybody loved farmers until they started polluting streams and rivers and making butter cost too much,’’ she says.  Now Fonterra is funding milk in schools and making expensive PR campaigns with Richie McCaw to improve their image.’’
The issues are clear and the current election campaign lightly touches on some of these issues.  At the time of writing no one party has really addressed the potential answers.
We will discuss some options to manage tourism’s social license to operate in next month’s post.

Ka kite ano


Just what is tourism’s social license to operate in NZ?






NZx – June 29th: water, water everywhere…..

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
posted by malcolm


Water, water everywhere so whats the issue…….?

A recent visit to Waireinga/Bridal Veil Falls, revealed a deeply discoloured waterway, with warning signs about the quality of the water, and danger to swimmers. Standing in the midst of 217 ha Wairēinga Scenic Reserve, surrounded by tawa-dominated forest, watching the water flow over 55 metres basalt cliffs, one wonders how this could happen in New Zealand.

There is good work being done in parts of the catchment. Over 8kms of native planting in an area upstream of the waterfall has been completed as part of a local initiative coordinated by Whaingaroa Harbour Care.

Water is already to be established as a key component of this years elections. A recent survey by Lincoln University (8th Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment) canvassed New Zealander’s views about aspects of the environment .

The worst managed environments were perceived to be rivers, lakes, and groundwater, largely on account of very negative perceptions concerning the management of farm effluent and runoff. In fact, nearly 60 percent of respondents deemed farming to be one of the three main causes of damage to freshwater.

In a separate report,  Our fresh water environment 2017, found nearly three quarters of native freshwater fish species are threatened by or at risk of extinction, as well as a third of native freshwater invertebrates and a third of native freshwater plants.

All of these reports raise the current issues, but also note the lack of data, and that the snapshot doesn’t take into account the slow movement through aquifers – such as those in Canterbury. The real impact on communities in these area may take many years to surface. 

Both New Zealand’s leading export industries, tourism and farming, need to better manage their social license to operate in the environmental space. Water quality, the wider environment and sustainability are discussions (and subsequent actions) that need to form a key part of the this years conversations.

Ka kite ano

                                    Waireinga/Bridal Veil Falls

NZx – May 30th: alternative facts

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
posted by malcolm


The recent public debate (which is full of alternative facts) about Auckland’s proposed bed tax highlights the gaps between local and central government funding, and the lack of understanding as to how tourism adds benefits and costs to all aspects of the New Zealand economy.

Many people have a view on the tax but only a few reflect the facts. Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Chief Executive Chris Roberts says the commercial accommodation sector receives just 9% of the total visitor spend in Auckland source (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment).

“The original targeted rate proposal was for 330 commercial property owners to pay the full cost of Council tourism and event promotion. The cost of that promotion is currently shared by every ratepayer in Auckland, residential and commercial.

“It is still not the fair share that Mayor Goff repeatedly talks about. The small targeted group receives around 7-8% of the total visitor spend in Auckland, and yet is being asked to pay 50% of promotion and event support.”

We note that in 2014 international and domestic visitors spent $ 66 million per day in New Zealand communities. Thats a fact.

Shamubeel Eaqub also believes the plan offers no clear alignment between costs and benefit.  You can read his original article here

With 2017 being an election year , one assumes there will soon be a large amount of alternative facts in circulation. Tourism will need to make sure it’s voice is united,  clear and more importantly heard.

Ka kite ano 


Visiting Dunedin is always a great experience. Next time you are there, visit the Dunedin Chinese Gardens. The Gardens reflect the contribution people from China have made, and continue to make, to Dunedin. This is an authentic experience with the picturesque and peaceful surroundings reflecting the spirit of the place and the concept of “keeping the clouds and borrowing the moon”.

Most Chinese festivals are observed by eating a particular food as a custom, and the Dragon Boat Festival is no exception. Zongzi, a pyramid-shaped glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in reed leaves, is the special food eaten to celebrate the day. It has various fillings. In north China, people favor the jujubes as the filling, while the south sweetened bean paste, fresh meat, or egg yolk.

The Dunedin Chinese Garden recently celebrated the legend of Qu Yuan, and integral part of world-wide Dragon Boat festivals. A fun family day was held with different events based around this fascinating legend. As part of celebrating the legend, the Garden’s also offered visitors the chance to try Zongzi.

Our order taken we sat in the Tea House listening to melodious singing from Tai Chi exponents. The pork Zongzi arrived but on unwrapping the glutinous rice was cold and uncooked. A new dish eventually arrived but again fell well short of an authentic warm dish. The staff did recognise the issue with a free gift which helped, but the experience failed to maximize the cultural opportunity and link to the event.

In the competitive field of visitor experiences you get one chance to make a great impression. This is even more so when you are dealing with cultural experiences. The opportunity to introduce visitors to authentic cultural based food was missed – the experience reflecting negatively on our otherwise good experience.

Ka kite ano



NZx March 25th: the pace of change

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
posted by malcolm


There is no doubt that the pace of change in New Zealand tourism is continuing to grow: everywhere you look there are more visitors out there experiencing what NZ has to offer. A recent trip to the West Coast confirmed that. Even a site like Oparara was very busy.

Some of the tourism issues have or are being well debated. Issues such as freshwater, overcrowding at key sites, climate change and visitor levy’s are all part of the current “conversation”.

On a broader level, but very closely aligned with increasing tourism, a number of issues were highlighted last year by Jan Wright, Commissioner for the Environment. Wright raised four key issues: climate change, slow progress in marine protection, lack of trees on unstable hill country, and concerns over the future of our wildlife.

She made the interesting point that environmental issues, rather than separate domains (air, land, marine, climate and fresh water), should form the basis of the shared story. This more holistic approach makes common sense.

Wright’s comments reflect the split in the key debates, and lack of an holistic approach, being canvassed over NZ tourism, the environment and business.

Mayor Goff’s accommodation tax being one such initiative.

A wider, holstic example is the recent study identifying Rakiura’s Port Pegasus for a potential new salmon farming enterprise . This central-government funded programme involves Ngai Tahu, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Sorry – where is tourism in that mix? Its unbelievable that tourism opportunities are currently heavily restricted in Pegasus yet an industry with doubtful environmental credentials is being supported.

NZ tourism is entering a sensitive phase, particularly in regard to the potential effects on local communities of such growth and the shutting out of potential added value tourism opportunities.

Ka kite ano



          Visitors on Rakiura/Stewart Island


NZx February 22: A true kiwi experience

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
posted by malcolm


Looking for a true example of a sustainable kiwi experience? Wingspan (the National Bird of Prey Centre), nestled in the picturesque Paradise Valley just north of Rotorua, is a great example. 

Established in Rotorua in early 2000 the key objective is to celebrate and share New Zealand’s unique natural heritage, particularly taonga such as falcon (karearea) , kahu (Australasian Harrier) and morepork (ruru).

The key elements, from a purely visitor experience, are the interaction between the guides and the audience, the guides and the raptors and the raptors and you. A chance to see raptors fly, have them land on your hand and head (!) .

The Centre also has a small Visitor Centre and shop but your focus should be on on the interactive afternoon session

Like so many conservation initiatives in New Zealand the enterprise is underfunded. Its definitely a real kiwi experience, not overdone and truly interactive.

Visit and help celebrate our taonga!

Ka kite ano



Ruru experience