834 days. That’s how long we went without welcoming international guests to New Zealand. I still vividly remember the day our borders closed, the ensuing chaos of repatriating guests, and managing the emotions and fears of our Queenstown-based staff. Then as the months went by, many borders began to open, and our newly acquired USA tour operator, Austin Adventures, resumed trips. Together, we were once again inspiring people and changing lives…except in New Zealand, where our borders remained stubbornly shut.
Over those 834 days, the Adventure Travel community as well the entire New Zealand travel economy, had a once in a lifetime opportunity to take a pause, reset and be more than ready for the restart of travel to come. We were able to tackle major projects on the ‘to do’ list that we could never get around to. We had a focus on how we operate more efficiently, to ensure the best guest experience for when we were ready to travel again. Additionally, our industry has been able to reflect on what is important, Papatūānuku (Mother Earth).
Collectively, we realised it was time to not just give back, but to affect serious change by making tourism regenerative, rejuvenating the communities and environments which our visitors love so dearly. Across our small country, tourism businesses joined hands, and for the first time for a long time, they shared ideas, solved problems, identified threats and opportunities, and made plans.
Visitors now returning to New Zealand will find that there’s a much stronger focus on sustainability and the environment. The respect for and integration of Tikanga Māori has grown hugely over the past couple of years. Everything that New Zealand is known for is bigger, better, and stronger.
It was a very long road, but we ran our first Active Adventures trip to New Zealand for international guests this past June. It was cleansing after such a long hiatus. Our product, our guides, and our precious suppliers, who also held on for 834 days, delivered beyond our wildest dreams, and our guests were blown away. Adventuring in New Zealand is back, and it’s better than ever.