Make it worth rising before dawn: Part III lessons from New Zealand rural tourism development

25 Jun

Having grown up ambivalently in a tourist town and having lived and worked in many rural communities, I have a soft spot for rural tourism development done well. On our recent trip to New Zealand, we encountered many clever innovations. Such as one that drew me, a seriously non-morning person, to convince my husband that we should pay good money to be awakened before dawn for a day of adventure in Dunedin on the southeast coast. The draw, it turned out, was an irresistible package of local attractions, and I’d bet that many communities could do the same, albeit with different attractions. It was great fun.

What happens before dawn in your community that might be unique? In Dunedin, we woke at 4 a.m. to see shy, rare yellow-eyed penguins make their daily pre-dawn jaunts to the sea from sheltered nests above the shore. With a guide, we hiked over sand dunes by the dim light of a down-facing flashlight, then crouched in a wooden “hide” awaiting the waddling ones. Couldn’t do that at home in Oregon!

What might you add on to the “main draw” that would surprise and intrigue a range of visitors? After sunrise, we returned to our small bed and breakfast, which had arranged the tour, for our morning meal. Then, Hildegard, our hostess/tour guide (and former biology teacher) took us on a short van ride to orient us about the Otago Peninsula’s geologic, human and natural history. We hopped on a harbor boat to see Northern Royal Albatrosses, which have nine foot wingspans. We don’t know much about birds (except that penguins are cute!) but they sure were impressive! We also saw one sea lion– which was apparently a big deal because they are very rare in New Zealand. That was less impressive to we Pacific Northwesterners who are used to sea lions as salmon-swiping, dock-breaking pests!

What small scale volunteer activities might visitors enjoy and learn from in your community? After a picnic lunch, Hildegard took us to the ranch of a friend undertaking an eco-system restoration project. We learned about native plants and the impact of human development, then planted a two foot tall totara seedling. If we go back in fifty years, it will be a hundred feet tall!

All this in one day. All arranged through a small bed and breakfast. All memorable.

 

Part I: Tourism development lessons from New Zealand

Part II: Tourism development lessons from New Zealand

Nature Guides Otago and Nisbet Cottage (our base)