There are no vips in NZ tourism

This is something I have noticed in my years of working in tourism and hospitality, and this blog has turned into a bit of a rant so I must have been quashing my irritation?!

Recently, I took 2 lovely people hailing from Shanghai to a luxury lodge near the metropolis of Te Anau. It was a last minute booking during the down season.

We walked into the hallway (cue tumble weeds and a whistling wind), finally found the proprietor and were met with:

“Oh. Did you just book online?”

“Yes, sorry, thank you”, answered my sweet client, in pretty good English.

“Well, we’ll put your bags away shall we…”

We had left the luggage at the door while looking for our host. Now, I had pre warned my people that there probably would not be any food available here, and I waited around with them so I could take them the 15 minutes back to the supermarket. This surprised them as they were staying 3 nights at $250 a night. But as someone who grew up near here, I had a pretty good idea of the lay of the land.

“Excuse me, is there any meals?”

“Oh no. Did you not organise anything? There are restaurants in Te Anau but you’ll have to get a taxi. We can probably do you a breakfast tomorrow?

“Oh, yes please. Thank you.”

“What time?”

“I am sorry, I don’t know yet. When does breakfast finish, please?”

“Well, I’ll need you to decide a time because I have to bring in staff….”

Really? These are the only 2 people in the lodge. They are paying a good chunk of your bills for the month and you can’t make a little breakfast for them? Sure, we all get tired of silly questions and tourists, but I get tired of people that just don’t do their job properly. Provincial NZ needs tourism, but they sure don’t want it.

I remember growing up amongst these “reams of farmland” (Richard Reeve, 1996), driving around in a Ford Escort, attaching cassette tapes to road markers, holding the case out the window, and driving off. The tape was left flying heroically in the Southland gales like a linesman’s flag at an All Black’s game (Btw, Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ took ages- so satisfying). We referred to the tourists driving around us, stopping to take photos of sheep and mountains, as ‘Loopys’, and to be a Loopy, you just needed to be from Otago.

Now the years have dropped away like the beach at Orepuki. Tourist numbers have increased exponentially and I say “Bring me more”. I have met so many incredible people that I now call friends all over the world. Queenstown, and by extension, Otago and Southland tourism is thriving. The recent ‘bed tax’ has raised questions about lagging infrastructure, but I think the term ‘over tourism’ is a misnomer. Life in provincial NZ has changed. Godzone is in the international arena. We can hark back to the perceived wonder years when “You could leave your doors unlocked”, “Have your keys in the car while you were in the shop” and “… pay $300 wk rent for a 3 bedroom house”, but I never did this.

I believe us Kiwis need to look after tourists and visitors with the homegrown genuineness we now seem to reserve for ourselves.