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Walk First Stage Of Major Tourism Development

December 7, 2004

Nature Walk First Stage Of Major Tourism Development

A nature walk through Whakarewarewa geothermal valley is the first stage of the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute's major site expansion plans.

CEO Andrew Te Whaiti says the nature walk is just one small part of the extensive development beginning to unfold at the Institute.

"Tourism is demanding authenticity and environmental sustainability and the Institute has a responsibility to lead the way when it comes to protecting and maintaining the valley," he says.

The Institute is one of the top tourist destinations in the country attracting around 600,000 visitors every year.

"We can only do that if we stay on track with what visitors want."

The new trail is only a third of what will be a two-hour nature walk through the valley. Te Whaiti says the walk is a truly interactive experience using sights and sound but minimal signage. He says the intuitive nature of the walk overcomes language barriers to traditional signage and gives tour guides great tools for story-telling.

"It's a totally unique environment designed to surprise and delight our visitors and at the same time educate them in the ways of Maori. It's an intuitive thing and people will be encouraged to look carefully at the surroundings to see things like tools, carvings, drying berries and flax racks. Everything has a purpose for being there. We couldn't get that amount of information on any signs, let alone in six or seven different languages."

The nature walk has also challenged the landscape designers for two reasons. First, because there is a mandate not to introduce any new plants from outside the area. Secondly because construction work is confined to the perimeter of the nature walk so large machinery cannot be used.

"The trail will blend into the environment and look as though it's always been there and will set the style for the rest of the trail as it's being developed over the next year or so."

Te Whaiti says New Zealand is having a record year in tourism numbers and travellers are more discerning and demanding of authentic and natural experiences.

He says natural outdoor experiences are a high priority for tourists.

"Our valley is a beautiful and unique environment for them to enjoy, so we have a responsibility to ensure its sustainability and authenticity. If we don't, the tourists will be the first to tell us."

Tourism New Zealand CEO George Hickton says the country is experiencing a burgeoning success on the world tourism stage.

"This is due to destinations like the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute welcoming and almost pre-empting what visitors want, then delivering it in a way that gives them the opportunity to interact and experience the best of New Zealand."

ENDS


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