Regional tourist operators have a tough task attracting a steady stream of the tourist market off the beaten trail. Māori operators in Te Tairāwhiti are looking at ways to change that by banding together.
Mt. Hikurangi, the first in the world to greet the dawn of a new day is a unique experience that Ngāti Porou are wanting to share with the thousands from around the world who visit NZ every year.
Jason Gerrard (Ngāti Porou) is the Tourism Manager for Maunga Hikurangi Experience. He says "Maunga Hikurangi has been operating for around 20 years. It's only in the last year that we've been venturing into the tourism platform."
Last year, Ngāti Porou created Ngāti Porou Tourism, the only commercial operator with permission to provide guided tours of the maunga. With the help of NZ Māori Tourism and SPTO, they're looking at ways to broaden their horizons at events like the South Pacific Tourism Exchange held in Auckland this week.
Gerrard says "the normal challenge is getting our name out there, getting the industry familiar with what we do offering a product out on the East Cape. Some of the challenge is how do we reach that market out there to inform them about what we do."
Hoki Mai Chong (Haina, Ngāti Korokī-Kahukura), chief advisor of New Zealand Māori Tourism acknowledges the hurdles Māori operators face in the regions. "It is difficult. It's up to our operators to put it out there and have rely a lot on word of mouth" he says.
"We do a lot to publicise and give them opportunities through events like this but also Māori Tourism Trade Day."
Gerrard says they're finding that the current market trends are now wanting a range of unique experiences in one package.
He says "we work collectively with a collection of services like waka hourua (Waka Voyagers Tairāwhiti), offering packages not only in Gisborne and Ruatōrea but with the local people of the area as well."
Managing Director of Auckland's Toru Tours, Paul Fuimaono agrees that a combined effort is key. He says " the big thing is now we're talking about a category or a group of like-minded people coming together. What that means is we're sharing experiences, we're sharing our business experiences but also our tourism experiences and hopefully create opportunities for our communities."
New Zealand's biggest annual business-to-business travel and trade event kicks off in Rotorua next. The highest platform for Māori tourism operators to potentially bathe in the light of new opportunities.