Taking the long view
I genuinely believe tourism can be a force for good. critical that we take a longer-term view for how we keep it that way.
Tourism creates opportunities for people to immerse themselves into culturally diverse communities and see another way of living.
Aside from visiting Australia, my first major trip overseas was to backpacking around Vietnam.
It was an incredible trip, filled with laughs and tears (literally, after a motorbike accident).
That trip made me understand the world I lived in was incredibly different from how other parts of the global population lived.
Put simply, I got a major culture shock straight off the plane.
I have subsequently travelled extensively around Asia, the Pacific Islands and the United States. Every time I travelled, I learnt new things and came away with a greater appreciation of the world we live in and the perspectives of other people and cultures.
However, tourism can also affect communities and be the catalyst for change.
There is no denying that before the pandemic, tourism globally was putting excessive pressure on some communities and some were struggling to cope.
The necessary infrastructure was not there to support the volume of visitors and, in some cases, the sheer numbers of people overran the community and made it a place locals no longer wanted to live.
I do not believe New Zealand had reached that point, although concerns were emerging.
If we look at the data holistically, there was plenty of capacity off the traditional “golden route”. I would describe it as our tourism demand was unbalanced.
The popular places were struggling to cope, while neighbouring areas would gladly have taken more.
In addition, everyone seemed to want to visit New Zealand in a 90-day window, rather than spreading out through the year.
As we build back with the goal of having a tourism industry that enriches people and place, one of the things Central Otago should consider very carefully is what we want tourism to look like in the short, medium and long term.
As a regional tourism organisation, we take a long-term view to inform our short and medium-term goals.
Much of this thinking will extend beyond our lifetimes.
This is a good thing, in my view, as we consider what kind of future we want for our children and grandchildren.
In the coming weeks and months, their views and aspirations for what a tourism future in Central could be.
I look forward to hearing those views and engaging with you all.