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Tribal Tattoos a Growing Trend for Tourists


The practice of taking home a tribal tattoo after a visit to the Pacific goes back almost 50 years to when American Peace Corp workers first visited Polynesia and left with armband tattoos. Now the trend is spreading globally, with tourists from countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and France taking a shine to Polynesian tattoo designs. Indeed, an increasing number of Euro backpackers are leaving NZ with a Maori or tribal tattoo.

Much of this growing trend can be attributed to the average visitor’s increased interest in the histories, stories, and symbols of the cultures and tribes of the region, which is often beautifully encapsulated within tribal tattoo designs. This interest has led to visitors choosing to have one of these designs etched onto their skin not only as a reminder of the time spent touring, but as a way of sharing what they’ve learnt about the region’s history, cultures, and peoples with others.

For many people who choose to get a tattoo – tribal or otherwise – the symbolism or meaning behind the design is particularly important. While some tourists prefer an established symbol from a particular tribe, others like to have mixed designs that might include a combination of Maori, Samoan, and/or Tongan elements. Whatever their choice, their desire is, usually, to pay homage to the culture(s) from which the tattoo design originated and provide themselves with a long-lasting reminder of what may be a life-changing travel experience. Because tourists often seek tribal designs, companies like Zealand Tattoo, which has branches in Christchurch and Queenstown and which offers clients options in Maori, Oriental, or Ornamental designs, place great value on ensuring unique, custom designs that also maintain a clear and respectful understanding of the meaning behind the symbols.

Considering how tattoos can be expressive, meaningful, honouring to the culture from which they came, and require no extra luggage space on the return trip, it’s easy to see why more and more tourists are opting for this as a memento of their trip.


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