This was a special project for me as Wānaka is one of my favourite places in the world and tourism is an industry I’m particularly interested in. Like the rest of NZ’s tourism industry, Wānaka has been hammered by Covid 19; in 2019, visitors spent more than $600m in the region, with 60% of visitors being from overseas.
Even before Covid hit, pressures created by tourism meant that the sustainability of growth, measured by year-on-year increases in visitor numbers, was questionable. These pressures have been particularly pronounced in Wānaka with visitor spend in the last 10 years growing at twice the national rate and the resident population doubling over the same period.
The Board and the Management Team wanted to use the enforced pause of Covid, to take a step back and think about how tourism in the region could ‘square the circle’ of revitalising the essential economic contribution of tourism, with the impact of tourism on the host community and the environment.
The start point for the project was the love and sense of care that everyone involved has for Wānaka. This meant that rather than thinking just about how to minimise or off-set the negative consequences of tourism, LWT wanted to focus on how tourism can be part of ensuring that Wānaka thrives, now and for future generations.
After a round of consultation, I facilitated sessions with the Board and Team where we defined a new Purpose for LWT, the areas of strategic focus, and a new Destination Brand Framework.
For me, this was a chance to do a deep dive into the debate about the future of tourism in Aotearoa New Zealand, and particularly to learn about regenerative tourism. But more than that, it was inspiring to work with people who care so deeply about the place they live, and for the conversation to be about what it means for a place to thrive, not just about ‘business’ or today.