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.

The Lazy Gene

People are lazy. When it comes to procrastinating us Westerners have the luxury of avoiding doing what we should be doing. My friend Chris Chilton is a writer and I am in awe of his ability to meet his writing deadlines throughout his lengthy career. I decided I would give myself a deadline and write a new blog every month…. so it has been a year since I have written one. I should lie and say I have just been too busy, but I probably could have fitted it in between ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Star Trek Discovery, or one of the five Nordic Noirs that I have binge watched since Netflix and Smart TV changed my life. I could have also taken the time to write a better script for the dreadful ‘real’ characters in my worst indulgence….

“My name is Kim Godby and I am addicted to The Real Housewives”.

And yes, I can hear you- “oh, how can you watch that rubbish?”. Of course you are right. I am going to put it down to my father and his love of daytime soap operas. My first ever memory is from The Young and the Restless. I can remember Leslie and Lori Brooks having a fight over the recently blind Brad Elliot. I can still outline several of these very complicated plot-lines from various daytime soaps throughout the 70s and 80s. It’s a skill, and I am available for pub quiz teams.

The last year has been great with the business. It is growing in a very organic way and I look forward to the coming 12 months. I have partnered with a few other operators that share my view/mission including Ness from Kiwi Virtue and Laura with NZ Chauffeur. There are so many new visitors and plenty of work here in the ever growing Queenstown and I hope to further our relationship to benefit everyone.

There has been an influx of Americans since the Trump election but let’s not get into a discussion about the reasons why. I have had the pleasure of driving around some amazing people from this very diverse country. When I started Kim Godby Driver Guide, I researched the market and focused on the Indian and Chinese visitors, but as the business evolved I naturally attracted a market I had not expected- older Americans, often women, traveling alone or with another woman. I have loved showing these folk my home. We put the world to rights in our travels and I have made some lifetime friends. I have also been hired by several production companies and I had the pleasure of driving around the Art Dept. for an US TV commercial being shot here. Alan is an actor, writer and Larry David impersonator. My face hurt for days after he and I got into hysterics during an unfortunate wine waiter encounter. Charming Marwan loved motorcycles and British Punk and Lisa and I shared the same opinions on everything we spoke about (mainly food, wine and the other two). I drove them around for 10 days and I still miss them now. The relationships I have formed, however fleeting, give a feeling of gratitude and satisfaction that I did not expect when I started this business.

So if the lazy gene permeates my day and I end up binge watching the new Preacher series this time next month instead of writing a new blog, please refer back to this one and pretend. In fact, I declare this blog my Mandelbrot set. https://youtu.be/PD2XgQOyCCk

I accused my friend Jon of having the lazy gene which stopped him achieving what he wanted to do with his music. He used it for one of his musical escapades:

https://thelazygene.bandcamp.com/

https://www.reverbnation.com/thelazygene

The New Generation and the Snapchat Flatmate

I am a big movie and TV fan- you may have noticed… and I love a good political satire. After a fabulous tour to Glenorchy to play Lord of the Rings dress up in the spectacular Paradise forest, I sit down on our mega couch, and settle in for the cold, autumn evening. The tv looks like the Tyco monolith, waiting to impart its universal knowledge into my spongey cortex. I fumble the remote controls and “Bling” there is the fabulous John Oliver in an interview with the ultimate humanitarian and icon of our time- the Dalai Lama. John Oliver’s joy during this meeting is evident on his face. As the interview continues, I cannot help but be impressed with the Dalai Lama’s humour, honest talk and practicality. He describes how his learning has enabled him to take on the suspicion and negativity of others and turn it into “Patience, tolerance and compassion”

……“Bang!…… clomp, clomp, clomp….. Hiyaaaaaaa!

Flatmate is home.

I grunt. She flops onto the couch, iPhone popping and chirping, its luminescent screen lighting her perky little millennial face (I am always impressed by their ability to text with two thumbs, talk, walk and hold 3 conversations online with several different apps simultaneously!). She starts to impart her learnings from the day and tells me about the hilarious Snap Chat “convo” that is currently happening…….. John Oliver raises the topic of the Chinese dominance of Tibet and their discovery of the ‘true’ Panchen Lama.

Increase volume on tv…….

The 14th Dalai Lama replies to this with, “Not using the human brain properly is harmful”

……Giggle, selfie pose, flash!, wooooohp…….. giggle……

Sigh.

The next day we jumped on the bikes and made our way south to the raging metropolis of Invercargill. It is not a favourite destination, but it has become a common target recently due to an aging bunch of relatives and on a more fun note, the fantastic transport and bike museums. It was a spectacular day! Southland normally delivers horizontal hail, Wahine destroying winds and 3rd degree sunburn, but this day, wow….. we were only at risk from overheating at the traffic lights down Dee St. We had come down for the Southland Entertainment Awards. My friend Chris Chilton and his team organised this great evening at the beautiful Civic Theatre. The talent from the performers like Jenny Mitchell, Shannon Cooper Garland, Simon Thompson, Jason Kerrison and many more were mind-blowing. It was not like this when I lived here as a teenager! There were handfuls of great ability but Southland suffered from a very NZ condition- The Tall Poppy Syndrome. If you were in that talented minority you lacked the confidence to stand up against an overwhelming wave of “you are not better than me:”, and this was as relentless as the Antarctic tide eroding Oreti Beach. I sensed none of that on this evening of celebration.

But we had come specifically to see Pretty Wicked Head perform for the first time in 25 years. As Shaun and Vaughan, accompanied by Chris, entered the stage, shouts came from little pockets around the auditorium. They played a medley of 3 great songs and it was fantastic. Pretty Wicked Head were ahead of their time in Invercargill 30 years ago, and probably still are now. Their album was a tonic to me as a teenager in this place. The music was dark, begrudging, surging and powerful, the lyrics were clever, personal, angry and utterly infused with the frustrations of being, and living in the “arsehole of the world” (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, 1965). Was this night an anomaly, I don’t know, but I hope the new generation living here have developed a little backbone, nouse and an attitude that was lacking here when I was young. Go Millennials and the new generations to come!

A Road to Unease?

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Sam Neill’s Red Bank Farm in Earnscleugh with one of my tours. The property will no longer be open to the public, so we were very privileged to be one of the last to visit. It was pleasing to be away from the Queenstown bubble for an afternoon and be on a functioning, rural property complete with animals famously named after Mr Neill’s notable friends, including the kunekune- Angelica.

The vineyard produces some fabulous wine of course, and my guests were suitably impressed. Jenny walked us around the property in the scorching Central Otago heat, and after scoffing down a fabulously ripe greengage (getting most of it down my front), we went into the wharenui inspired barn. The simple, open design and the typically New Zealandness of this space is palpable. Mr Neill has filled the hall and restrooms with Kiwi art, and this is simply pride inducing. Of course Mr Neill himself is an example of fine New Zealand art.

I had met him long ago when I was working in a Dunedin bookshop. As I was fumbling around under the counter looking for an eftpos roll, I sensed someone at the till, but this was not the usual feeling of ‘someone is wanting my attention at an inopportune moment’, there was an aura settling over me, a certain mysteriousness. I looked up and saw a tall, slim man, with an ageless countenance and an ease of movement. He looked at me…. “How are you, can you please look up a book for me? I had to send him to another counter and mumbled this at him like a Kmart doorman talking to another elderly woman wanting the Spanx section (I am not good around famous people). He moved off and I watched him disappear between the Harry Potter stand, and the Andris Apse collection.

Mr Neill is arguably one of our best actors, He is perhaps most famous for “Jurassic Park”, “The Piano” and recently “The Hunt for the Wilderpeople” but the man was elementary to the golden years of NZ film during the 70s and 80s. This leads me to my favourite Sam Neil film – “Cinema of Unease”. I played this to my guests as we made our way to the Two Paddocks vineyard. This film outlines the history of NZ film with Sam Neill’s own personal perceptions and memories interwoven through the backdrop of the New Zealand landscape, a landscape laced with roads, roads leading to and from, a road leading us away, or to, a certain darkness.

As a girl growing up in the bottom of the country, at the bottom of the world (cue: Rise and Shine- Pretty Wicked Head), I craved the road. As soon as I was 15 I got my driver’s licence and knew that freedom and opportunities lay ahead, along that dark, asphalt way. We as kiwis have an intimate relationship with ‘the road’. It runs through our land as veins run through ourselves. It is something that exemplifies kiwiness- to get out to go somewhere else. Our film and our art echoes our wanderlust, and visiting Mr Neill’s beautiful property reminded me of this: the uniqueness that is New Zealand and being a New Zealander.