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Lowdown on the Lockdown: Tourism Bay of Plenty’s Kristin Dunne

6 Apr 2020  By Shannon Williams | | @tourismticker

The Ticker’s Lowdown on the Lockdown brings you a daily take from a tourism professional exploring new ways of working, sharing what life now looks like for them and just how much Covid-19 has changed what they do.

Kristin Dunne

Kristin Dunne, chief executive at Tourism Bay of Plenty, on the emotional adjustment of the lockdown and the opportunity to collaborate to imagine a different future.

What was the lead up to the lockdown like for you and your team?

Prior to the lockdown our team was working hard to pull together a series of events for our community and industry with globally renowned conscious tourism thought-leader, Anna Pollock. As the crisis unfolded, we decided to go ahead with these events because, more than ever, we felt that our industry needed to hear Anna’s message and perspective.

Anna spoke to our shell-shocked industry on Thursday 19 March.  The video from the event has now gone viral internationally as it has such an inspiring message in these difficult times. I highly recommend this eight-minute watch from our industry event at the Mount Surf Club. 

You can also watch the livestream from the community presentation Anna gave on our Facebook page.

What is the team focusing on right now?

We have an even bigger job to do than we had before. In 2014 our visitor spend was $550m, and in January 2020 it was $1.11 billion. The last six years of progress could almost certainly be lost.

Our strategy “Te Hā Tapoi – the Love/ Essence of Tourism” is even more relevant now. It was already calling for a reimagined future for tourism and consideration of the net-value it can bring to our region, so we are a long way down the path to regenerating a healthier, more resilient, more collaborative, more valuable visitor economy for our region.    

We are fortunate to be a council controlled organisation, and partner with progressive councils who understand the need for Destination Management. We already have skill sets in research and insights, capability and capacity building that we are relying on heavily now, plus we have relationships with iwi and other strategic partnerships. I am so proud of my team, they are calling every single business to listen, support, understand, and help link them to the support available. We are doing in this in partnership with Priority One and the Chamber of Commerce and it is great to work together.

With assistance from the Government’s wage subsidy, we will also manage to maintain consistency for our Tauranga i-SITE and seasonal cruise teams, who are now actively part of our crisis management team.

Have you settled into working from home easily? What kind of challenges were you expecting?

We have a busy bubble with myself and my husband working from home, our seven-year-old son, my parents, plus an exuberant labrador puppy and ragdoll cat who is already exasperated by us all.  😊

I am working from a table in the kitchen area, I do have a screen, and a vari-desk to switch between sitting and standing. I am often in the bedroom doing zoom calls, so there are very few ergonomic rules being followed. My physio would be horrified. One of my team is working from a change table, and another using an ironing board! It’s not ideal but sorting out our own workstations has been too far down the list.

Our business continuity plan and redundancy systems have kicked in proficiently, however, and we have all the technology we need. All our files are in the cloud and we were already fully mobile in our work-styles. We use Microsoft Teams and Zoom constantly.

The challenges have been more the emotional adjustment needed for our team to cope with so much change all at once.

I am finding blessings in small things such as lunchtime walks around our garden and evening walks to the river. I am grateful for the love and support inside our bubble, and for the easy connections I can make with those outside our bubble through technology.

How often are you communicating with the team? What’s the daily schedule looking like?

No two days are alike now, and it has been hard to plan for anything or set a schedule yet. We are in crisis response mode serving our industry, community and councils as best we can. Like everyone, the team and I have been working long hours – waking early and kicking into it, while the household is quiet and then well into the night as well.

Our priorities include: participating as part of the Civil Defence Emergency Management team; escalating visitor-related issues; communicating with industry, board and stakeholders in a timely manner; supporting industry with their questions and challenges; understanding the scale of visitors who remain in our region and thinking about how we can support them; and, completing regular support calls to the many many businesses affected by this crisis.

I am also speaking to industry experts both nationally and globally to hear their perspectives and start gathering my thoughts as to the breadth, depth and length of this crisis, and firm up our approach once we transition into the restart and reimagining phases.

Have you implemented any fun games or activities to keep morale up with the team?

Supporting the team emotionally, while being remote, has been a real challenge. We have all reacted differently and have various home situations to try and balance with our roles. As is typical of my servant-hearted team – everyone and everything else has come first. We do a check-in on Zoom and share how we are feeling, finding fun in the “first world problems” we are facing, or sharing life-stories. We are also getting a glimpse into each other’s homes and often having random contributions on our screens from our children, pets and partners to keep us entertained.

Supporting the team’s morale and mental wellness will be more of a focus as we settle into this new reality.

And what about your family? How are they coping with the lockdown?

Our cat Simba just wants his house back during the day, haha. The dog Toby is super lucky as we live on two acres with a secluded river walk so his step count has gone up significantly as we compete for who gets to walk him next.

It is wonderful to have my parents with us and Caelan, our son, adores them. They are making lots of fun together, whilst we work.

But, I have decided to go on leave (as planned) from today, and that will really relieve the busyness in our bubble and mean I can enjoy more quality time with my family. We were to be in Fiji, but I feel just as blessed to be at home.

This is the second crisis our team has faced in the last short while (after the Whakaari/White Island disaster) so some of us are needing to take some hibernation.  I will be taking the opportunity presented by this crisis to disconnect, slow down, reconnect to nature, rest – stop, just stop. We will all need our bodies to be rested, our minds replenished and our spirits rejuvenated to create a “new world order” moving forward.

Have you got any fun ideas or goals you’re hoping to achieve as a household during the lockdown?

It is lovely to return to home-cooked meals, baking, card games, imaginative outdoor experiences, and the weather is glorious.

Our time-out is led by Caelan – he has a huge imagination and wonderful sense of adventure. He is not the sitting down type, or a device addict thankfully, so we are always on the go. This morning there was a competition to see who could roll a water balloon down the driveway and into a bucket. I’m pretty sure I won, but he would disagree!

I have been observing these wonderful experiences at arm’s length so far, and I feel strongly that this time has been gifted to us to remember what it is to be a human being, not just a human doing.  So I am looking forward to really being present with my son and loved ones.

We have a large garden that needs a lot more attention.   The previous owners had incredible green thumbs so we are trying to uphold their legacy.

I get to spend such little time at home, and with my family, that I am just happy to be in this bubble (disclaimer: with wine and for now!)

And have you got any messages of support you’d like to share with the BoP community, your team and the industry during this time?

There is opportunity in this crisis to collaborate together on imagining a different future. I am excited for that, and I am so proud of our industry for their strength at this time.

One of my favourite expressions is “Kia kaha, Kia māia, Kia manawanui | Be strong, be brave, be steadfast”. Never has that felt more true.

I will share the poem that Anna Pollock read, from an anonymous author, below.  

An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans 

Source: Science & Duality Conference, Facebook Page
Author Unknown 

Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.

We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt 
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls 
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our 
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.

We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions, 
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well. 
None of us; all of us are suffering. 
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause. 
Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India. 
You have not been listening. 
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives. 
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires. 
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs 
that you might hear:
We are not well. 

Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? 
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy? 

If you’d like to contribute to our Lowdown on the Lockdown series, contact the Ticker’s Shannon Williams at


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