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Sustainability to the summit


Tourism Industry Aotearoa invites tourism businesses to join its sustainability journey, with clear goals and measurable outcomes to encourage a flourishing tourism ecosystem.

The future of tourism in New Zealand drives Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA), the member-industry body representing and advocating for New Zealand’s large and diverse tourism industry.

TIA has around 1,300 member businesses ranging from small owner-operators to large publicly listed tourism corporates and international hotel chains, and it initiated the Tourism Sustainability Commitment (TSC), which aims to see every New Zealand tourism business committed to a sustainability journey.

The TSC framework identifies four elements of tourism sustainability – economic, visitor, community and environment – with core aims to work towards.

Rebecca Ingram, TIA chief executive maintains that New Zealand tourism is undergoing a shift and in addressing industry groups post-pandemic has stressed that the future will not look like the past.

“More regenerative, sustainable tourism is being embraced by the entire industry – this is tourism for good, with net positive impact.

“The focus needs to be on growing value, not always volume, and we must focus on what we can control, so that when people do use their ‘carbon budget’ to come all the way to New Zealand, they can enjoy a low-carbon, responsible holiday.

“As an example, overseas visitors are now helping to restore biodiversity in Aotearoa through their contribution to the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy.

“The Department of Conservation recently announced it was working with Ngāi Tahu to move 10 kākāpō to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in the Waikato, one of many conservation projects aided by visitor levy funds.”

For those tourism businesses that see sustainability as daunting on top of day-to-day operational demands, Ingram advises a slow and steady approach.

“We encourage every business to start with one initiative, and as confidence, capability and capacity builds, look to incorporate other changes.

“The TSC framework can be applied to any business and we’ve also developed a capability-building programme that is achieving great results with cohorts of operators.

“A great first step is to know your carbon number, which in most cases is much easier to do than you might expect with many free online tools available. This will give a business clarity about its carbon footprint and where the easy wins are for reducing it.

“Many operators start with changes to cut costs or improve efficiency, like purchasing milk in refillable kegs to reduce waste and carbon, using an organic waste collection service or composting.”

Public consultation recently closed on TIA’s draft Tourism 2050 & Beyond industry guide with Ingram saying the outlined goals are designed to measure progress in the industry across a balanced scorecard.

“Yes, we are interested in the economics, but equally how tourism is interfacing with the environment and our communities, while ensuring our visitors have great, authentic experiences because making progress across all these fronts is central to tourism’s future well-being.”

A view shared by many in the broader tourism industry is that New Zealand does not have a clear structural tourism operating environment to address productive, sustainable and inclusive tourism growth.

“TIA believes that a National Tourism Policy Statement (NTPS) would be an important step forward for a mature tourism industry, ensuring all the key roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and understood, with mandates to ensure those things are delivered.”

Demonstrated commitment to goals

Near Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, Treghan Luxury Lodge offers 5-star luxury accommodation in private guesthouses among secluded gardens and for many years in a row, has received Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Award, placing it in the top one percent of accommodation properties worldwide based on guest reviews and experience.

Treghan’s owners and hosts, Anna Hamilton and Murray Bain signed up to the Tourism Sustainability Commitment (TSC) believing that every New Zealander – starting with themselves – has a responsibility to care for, protect and maintain the natural and cultural landscape and to tread lightly on the planet.

They’ve long been minimising their environmental footprint using sustainability practices, extensively planting trees, adhering to no-chemical spray policies, carpooling, recycling, composting, eating organically and using natural products in the home.

“Now as tourism operators, we align our values and ethics with TSC and Tourism 2050 & Beyond, and embrace the Tiaki Promise to protect our country’s natural and cultural environments.

“This care flows through to our team with a collaborative workplace that lets them shine, and to feel they matter.

“We also value our communities, working hand in hand with our suppliers to make sure all are treated with respect by us and within their organisations, and making our guests aware of our environmental commitments.”

Hamilton says as awareness grows around sustainability commitments by New Zealanders and tourism operators, those businesses demonstrating belief and dedication to these goals will become more attractive to guests.

“As people generally become more aware of the importance of climate change in our future, it will become a very real consideration when guests decide where to stay and what to do.”

Meanwhile, just north of Kaikōura in the South Island, Hāpuku Lodge + Treehouses supports the TSC and for every room night spent in one of its five free-standing treehouses, a native tree is planted on the property, helping offset emissions created by guests' travel.

Owners the Wilson family see themselves as kaitiaki (guardians) of their environment, hence Hāpuku also sponsors marine mammal research conducted by Moana Mark, building the South Island’s only dedicated marine mammal laboratory on its property and donating a proportion of every guest’s stay to its research projects.

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