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Nelson Tasman Invites Visitors To Fall In Love With Slow Travel

A region’s latest tourism initiative champions the attractions, cycle trails, transport choices and other visitor services that offer ‘light footprint’ itineraries and a slow holiday vibe.

Led by Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA), the latest phase of sustainable tourism promotion builds on the region’s Zero Carbon itinerary, the first of its kind in Aotearoa and the winner of the Industry Collaboration Award at the 2021 New Zealand Tourism Awards.

It also aims to capitalise on the growing number of tourism operators reducing their environmental impact through zero-carbon certification and other initiatives such as co-operative visitor transport, conservation projects and promoting cycling opportunities.

Launched at the start of March, the campaign encourages visitors to ‘fall in love’ with the region’s many naturally ‘light footprint’ attractions such as the Great Taste Trail, national parks and reserves, kayaking and walking, as well locally produced food, wine and beer. It also highlights a new three-week ‘Slow Down & Savour’ itinerary created by leading New Zealand travel writers, Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater.

‘Nelson Tasman is shaping up as New Zealand’s leading destination choice for environmentally conscious travellers,’ says Sarah. ‘We’ve always found it pretty easy to find eco-friendly activities and services, but the growth in cycle trails, improved public transport and operators focussing on reducing carbon emissions are making it even easier to travel with a light footprint.’

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NRDA’s Visitor Destination Lead, Craig Boodee, says that slow travel is key to unlocking genuinely regenerative tourism in Nelson Tasman.

‘Not only is slowing down one of the easiest ways to be a more sustainable visitor, it also increases the likelihood of the spontaneity and surprises that make travel so rewarding. It also increases the chances of cultural exchanges between visitors and our locals,’ says Craig.

The Fall in Love campaign and new slow-travel itinerary align with the recommendations of new research into sustainable tourism, The Role of Sustainability In Destination and Operator Choice, released by MBIE in January 2024. As well as quantifying the growing role of sustainability in driving holiday choice, the research also revealed that most travellers equate sustainable travel with connecting with nature, in turn offering New Zealand a marketing advantage as well as leverage to create positive change in traveller behaviour through inspirational outdoor activities.

NRDA Chief Executive Fiona Wilson says, ‘this new research shows that Nelson Tasman is right on track, building on our natural advantages and supporting eco-friendly businesses and other entities that protect and enhance our green heart. Through our Light Footprint, slow travel itineraries and Fall in Love campaign, we want to attract visitors who really care about the places they visit, stay longer and leave it in a better state for the generations to come.’

The Gentle Cycling Company is a keen supporter of the Light Footprint initiative and features in the new Slow Down & Savour road trip. ‘We’re so fortunate that the Great Taste Trail offers so many return rides and loops, so visitors aren’t always relying on a shuttle pick-up,’ says co-owner Bernie Whitaker. ‘The trail passes many major attractions that also happen to be light footprint and locally owned, so the benefits flow straight back to our communities,’ says Bernie.

According to MBIE’s sustainability research, making sustainable travel choices easy and rewarding is key to encouraging uptake. ‘Visitors will always be focussed first and foremost on having a great time,’ says Craig Boodee. ‘The sweet spot is when those experiences intersect with initiatives that benefit everyone in our region such as growing great local business, improving public transport and minimising waste.’

Bennett & Slater’s Slow Down & Savour road trip ticks boxes of benefit to both sides of the tourism equation by promoting ‘hub and spoke’ travel based out of four regional locations. As well as being big on small business and allowing time to sift around, it encourages plenty of exploration on foot or by bike, kayak and other low-emissions activities.

The road trip itinerary can be found on the Light Footprint Holidays page on, which also features Zero Carbon itineraries and local sustainability stories.

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