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Wednesday Letter: Why high value tourism ‘starts on the inside’

4 May 2022  By Contributor

New Zealand tourism needs to focus on professional development to upskill and transform into a high value workforce, writes Alex Dykman.

Alex Dykman

This week marks the beginning of New Zealand tourism’s road to recovery – the end of two years of domestic-only travel, and the beginning of welcoming back our international manuhiri. There’s a buzz in the air: 2022 could mark the start of a new tourism model for New Zealand, with the pandemic-driven shock to the system forcing us to rethink what we want the future to look like. 

We’ve seen two years of endless discussion around the type of tourism and tourists Aotearoa should focus on attracting, with ‘High Value Tourism’ being the buzzword in nearly every conversation. From the opinion that New Zealand should ‘unashamedly’ target the wealthy (Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, November 2020) to Otago University’s Tourism Policy School encouraging the shift from ‘High Value’ to ‘High Values’ (April 2022), the new model of tourism that we should be embracing is still up for debate. 

Most of industry agrees that ‘High Value Tourism’ is so much more than flying business class and eating at a high-end restaurant. It’s about a tourist giving back more than they take, being socially aware and engaged and caring about their environmental footprint. It’s regenerative, and matches core Māori values of kaitiakitanga, kotahitanga and manaakitanga. And it creates a future legacy that is both positive and sustainable. 

Building high value tourism from the inside-out 

As we reimagine tourism, policymakers and opinion leaders are focusing primarily on the types of tourists we are marketing to and enhancing the impact this specific type of tourism has on our communities. There’s a piece of the puzzle that’s missing here: We need to consider how to deliver high value tourism from the inside-out and that means building high value tourism businesses, not just attracting tourists. 

We want to attract travellers who care about their environmental impact. So how can operators and staff learn the skills to deliver a customer experience that heroes sustainability? We want to attract and retain a passionate and valuable workforce. So how can businesses learn how to become an employer of choice, and the relationship between employer experience and customer experience?

From passionate zipline guides imparting the biodiversity in EcoZip Waiheke’s prehistoric rainforest to team leaders focused on making their business an incredible workplace, there’s strong argument for tourism to embrace a better model ‘from the inside’. By empowering operators and tourism professionals to upskill in the practical and strategic skills that will deliver high value tourism, we can embrace change that is transformational, while still feasible and pragmatic.

Workforce capability lies at the heart of a high values tourism model, and there are a number of initiatives being worked on from the Go With Tourism Workplace Wānanga last November. With the tools, awareness and knowledge of how to embrace a more values-driven tourism model, achieving higher value tourism in New Zealand needs becomes a bottom-up, almost grass-roots movement – rather than a top-down, bureaucratic and policy-driven approach. 

The WTTC predicts that over the next year, one in every three new jobs will be related to the tourism sector. The 2020 Tourism Futures Taskforce Interim Report stated “Tourism needs to focus on the people and businesses of tomorrow”. 

By helping tourism professionals to embrace the specific skills that drive a higher value tourism model, we’re growing and transforming our high value tourism engine: A workforce that can sustainably deliver on the future-driven model of tourism we’re trying to create.

Alex Dykman is founder and chief executive of Maverick Digital.


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