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O'Connor: Holiday Accommodation Parks of NZ

23 June, 2008

Holiday Accommodation Parks of New Zealand Conference

Kia ora.

Thank you for your invitation to once again open your annual conference, it’s great to be here.

I’d like to acknowledge Fergus, Steve and the HAPNZ Board for their hard work and commitment to the sector over the past year.

There has been some great progress made in the tourism industry since I spoke at your conference this time last year.

We launched the New Zealand Tourism Strategy to 2015 last year, which will guide how we develop the tourism industry over the next seven years. The Strategy makes sustainable business practices central to the future vision for our industry. Its actions and recommendations seek to ensure that, through to 2015 and beyond, New Zealand’s tourism sector delivers a world class visitor experience. Tourism will boost prosperity, attract ongoing investment and take a leading role in protecting and enhancing the environment. And increasingly, communities and regions will recognise and value the benefits of tourism. That is our strategic direction.

The Strategy also sets out what we need to do, together, to overcome the challenges ahead. And I emphasise the word ‘together’ because in the tourism industry, we cannot go out on our own. Our tourism product is 100% Pure New Zealand, our landscape, our people, our culture. For our strategy to succeed, we need buy-in right across the economy. We need each and every New Zealander to understand how important tourism is to this country.

I’m pleased to be able to say that we have huge support for the Strategy across government and from the private sector. In fact, Rod Oram said it was arguably the best industry strategy we have in New Zealand. The Ministry of Tourism, Tourism New Zealand and the Tourism Industry Association (the Royal we), have recently drafted a detailed plan to guide the implementation of the Strategy to 2015. The plan sets out the “who” and “when” for each of the Strategy’s 92 actions.

I’m pleased that you, the holiday parks sector, have recently developed your own Strategy to 2015 and it is great to see that it closely aligns with the Tourism Strategy at the national level.

Holiday parks are the first sub-sector to formally demonstrate commitment to the national-level goals and it’s great to have your strong support.

Both strategies are underpinned by two key values – kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga.

These concepts have been summarised as ‘guardianship’ and ‘hospitality’, however their full meanings have a wider range and depth.

Kaitiakitanga refers to our responsibility for the preservation and promotion of our environment, people and culture. Manaakitanga refers to the care, engagement and hospitality we show our guests, on the basis of mutual respect between host and visitor.

While these are traditional Maori values, they resonate globally. I don’t believe any other tourism industry in the world has embraced indigenous concepts in this way. They differentiate us in the world, and can inspire visitors. We want visitors to return to their home town and tell others about how they experienced these values first hand.

You might be wondering what it means on a practical, every day level, to implement kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga, and how you can work to achieve the vision set out for a sustainable and growing holiday park sector.

Sector-specific guides have been developed to help operators implement the recommendations of the New Zealand Tourism Strategy. The guides outline the ways you can support the shared aims of the Strategy and the New Zealand Holiday Parks Strategy of creating a sustainable tourism industry that delivers maximum benefit with as few unwanted effects as possible.

I am pleased to be officially launching the guides here today, and I have copies of the accommodation guides for you to take away. In the interests of sustainability, we’ve also put them on the New Zealand Tourism Strategy website.

So far, the four-page guides have been developed for three sectors – accommodation and hospitality, transport, and visitor activities. I’m sure you’ll find them useful as a checklist to tick off the actions you are already doing, and find out what else you can do as you develop and strengthen your businesses.

Some of the tips are detailed and specific. Others will require you, either individually or as members of HAPNZ, to work out how best to implement them in your community, or within the holiday parks sector.

And because our strategies are so closely aligned, I am certain that implementing the tips given in the guides, will also help you to achieve the vision of your Strategy for the holiday parks sector too.

Operating sustainably is no longer optional. In today’s world, it is essential for business success. Doing what we can to protect, or preferably enhance, our natural environment, will also reward us financially, ensuring the industry’s economic sustainability too.

It is New Zealand’s natural environment that underpins one of the most successful country tourism brands in the world – ‘100% Pure New Zealand’.

But here in New Zealand, and around the world, there is much greater attention than ever before on human impacts on the environment. Our 100% Pure brand promise means we have to do all we can to protect our environment. International visitors will increasingly seek information to make sure their choices are ethical and sustainable. To deliver on this image and protect what New Zealand families have always enjoyed, we need to take credible and visible steps to reduce our environmental impact and improve our environmental management.

Some of you may have heard me talk at the national tourism conference last year about research which shows that around a third of New Zealanders have purposely avoided buying from companies because of that company’s impact on society or the environment. The research also showed that up to 1.4 million New Zealanders say they will pay a premium for products and services which have a positive social or environmental benefit.

What these results highlight is an increasing expectation by New Zealanders, as well as our international visitors, that businesses will act responsibly to address these issues. Thanks in part to the great work of the AA and Regional Tourism Organisations throughout the country, domestic tourism still makes up more than half of our tourism spending, and 70% of visitor nights at holiday parks, so we must listen to this feedback.

I know that in some ways I’m preaching to the converted today, as many of you are already leaders in environmental sustainability.

But there are always things we can do, every day, to make changes to the way we operate our business.

I would also like to briefly mention an idea that I am floating with industry at present around an environmental levy for overseas visitors coming to New Zealand. The money collected would go into environmental infrastructure and it would be focused on wider industry good projects. It would be an open and transparent fund that would be managed by an independent group including representatives from the industry and central government. Any such levy would also deserve promotion on the basis that we would be using money for environmental protection to underpin our 100% Pure New Zealand brand that is something to be proud of and marketed accordingly. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on such a levy.

I’d like to take this opportunity to endorse the HAPNZ data collection programme which I understand is being launched later today. Good data is vital to help make well-informed, strategic business decisions. And I know you’ll find the ability to benchmark against each other extremely valuable.

It’s great to see an industry group recognising its needs in this area, and getting a system up and running, while ensuring that there is alignment with other sectors and what is going on at the national level. I’d like to congratulate Fergus and the HAPNZ Board on this achievement.

I look forward to working with HAPNZ to help achieve our common goals.

I see the New Zealand Tourism Strategy to 2015, together with your Strategy 2015, as providing an excellent framework to help one another achieve this.

Our Strategies both seek outcomes of world-class experiences for our visitors, world-leading environmental best practice, and strong healthy relationships with our communities.

I’m sure that, together, we can achieve a truly sustainable nation that enjoys economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being.

While escalating oil prices will provide a challenge for tourism and every other industry in this country it is a challenge faced across the globe and our ability to compete will depend, as always, on delivering a better product than our competitors.

We are well positioned internationally with our 100% Pure NZ brand with very high levels of visitor satisfaction so the challenge is to continue to deliver an authentic, educational and inspiring visitor experience.

I note Dr Ian Yeoman, Victoria University’s incoming professor of tourism management, summarised authentic as an ethical, natural, honest, simple human experience.

Holiday parks are perfectly positioned to deliver on that authentic experience for both international visitors and Kiwis wanting to find out more about our wonderful country. I have no doubt you will continue to play a large part in our tourism industry’s future and reap the rewards of a decent return for your efforts.

Thanks again for your invitation to speak today.


ENDS

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