Last night was the culmination of months of preparation as we celebrated the successes of businesses and individuals within the industry at the New Zealand Tourism Awards. Congratulations to each and every one of the award winners and finalists below
Air New Zealand Supreme Award
Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne
Awarded the highest accolade, Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne is a beacon of sustainability, welcoming 95,000 visitors annually to its Wellington wildlife sanctuary. With a mission to foster understanding of New Zealand's culture and environmental preservation, Zealandia stood out with rich data, visionary planning, and strong community support from 500 volunteers. Judges praised its long history of "doing good things," dubbing it a worthy exemplar, showing New Zealand where it needs to head.
Airbnb Tourism Excellence Award (Small-Medium Business)
Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne
Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne is a unique, 225ha eco-sanctuary in the heart of the Capital. Because of Zealandia, Wellington is one of the only cities in the world where bird biodiversity is increasing—not decreasing. Through tours, wildlife spotting and interactive opportunities, Zealandia aims to inspire visitors to help reverse the loss of nature in their own communities. Judges said “Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne is an iconic organisation which embodies sustainability, has very high customer ratings and strong community support - boasting over 500 volunteers. They have a great vision and have shown consistency over a long period of time.”
BDO Tourism Excellence Award (Large Business)
Skyline Queenstown is one of Queenstown’s most popular tourism attractions. The business has recently completed a major upgrade of its gondola to shorten queues, and also runs a luge, a restaurant and access to 30 world-class mountain biking trails. Judges recognised Skyline’s extra efforts to lighten its footprint, its charity work and its significant investment on Bob’s Peak. They also acknowledged its support for recreational opportunities such as the Queenstown Marathon. “Skyline Queenstown is providing a world class experience, high performing teams, and taking innovative approaches.”
Tourism Industry New Zealand Trust Community Engagement Award
Adventure and eco-tourism business EcoZip Adventures is founded on the concept of commercial conservation — a successful and sound commercial business able to fund conservation and social initiatives. Judges said “the company’s exceptional efforts to give back to the community showed a commitment that went far wider than just itself. A template for all tourism businesses to improve the social licence in their communities.”
Tourism Talent Employer of Choice Award
Judges called GO Rentals “an industry standard bearer, with an outstanding demonstration of investment in staff which goes beyond many others in the sector.” The company had made a clear link between values, staff engagement and customer satisfaction, with excellent support materials to back their claims. “This is a tourism company that had risen to workforce challenges in a difficult environment, with industry leading practices and innovations to retain and recruit staff,” judges said.
KiwiRail Tourism Environment Award
Christchurch Airport believes that aviation is critical to people continuing to visit but also that it needs to “pull every lever we can – technological, behavioural, regulatory” to reduce emissions. Initiatives included a 400ha solar park, investing in native planting and biodiversity projects, and an aspirational waste diversion from landfill project. Judges said Christchurch Airport, which has gone from being carbon neutral to climate positive, had a bold vision. “They are at the forefront of airport environmental initiatives globally. It’s clear they're on a journey and bringing others on board too.”
Tourism New Zealand Industry Collaboration and Alignment Award
Kohutapu Lodge & Tribal Tours Ltd
Indigenous tourism operation Kohutapu Lodge & Tribal Tours has the community firmly at its heart. From offering immersive cultural experiences in its home town of Murupara, the business has branched into life skills programmes for local rangatahi (youth), including a cross-cultural exchange with Aboriginal youth in Australia. Judges praised Kohutapu’s incredibly brave leadership and the amazing global collaboration at work. “The lasting and longer term results are yet to be seen but the buy-in from partners and impact on the youth and community is clearly visible.”
Toroa ā-uta, Toroa ā-tai Māori Tourism Award
Tauhara North Tourism - Te Pā Tū
Rotorua-based Te Pā Tū, at the former Tamaki Māori Village, is a cultural and dining experience, owned by Tauhara North No.2 Trust. Since acquiring the village, the trust has changed its business model, enriching the experience and introducing a value-based pricing model. Judges said the transformation was “second to none”. “The kaupapa behind the business, the way they have revitalized and evolved their experience and the impact and outcomes that have led to a values over volume-based experience with amazing results, is impressive.”
*Award sponsored by New Zealand Māori Tourism
Westpac Resilience and Innovation Award
Tauhara North Tourism - Te Pā Tū
Te Pā Tū is a cultural and kai (cuisine) experience at the former Tamaki Māori Village. Judges noted that the new owners, Tauhara North Tourism, had made a very bold move to downscale volume and focus on value and visitor satisfaction. “Te Pā Tū’s radical reinvention has been quite exceptional. Reinventing its visitor experience from end to end, including joining forces with MasterChef winners Kasey and Karena Bird, has allowed Te Pā Tū to capture more value in the process.”
NZME Visitor Experience Award
Queenstown-based Altitude Tours set out with a goal of creating the world's best wine tour and now offers a variety of high-quality visitor tours. The judges made special mention of Altitude’s “impressive focus on customer satisfaction, measuring and delivering beyond expectations”. Altitude’s use of technology “to gain real-time feedback, to evolve quickly and continue to refine and improve their business” was a great example for others to follow, they said.
Individual Awards 2023
Eudora+ Emerging Tourism Leader Award
Heidi Farren, Altitude Tours
Heidi Farren is co-founder and general manager of Queenstown-based Altitude Tours. In six years, the business has grown from two vans and two staff members to 8 daily tours, 19 vehicles and over 50 staff. Judges agreed there was “something special about Heidi”. “She is widely respected by those around her and is an inspiring leader in her business.”
Marsh Tourism Industry Champion Award
Margaret Davidson, Mitchell Corp
Margaret Davidson has played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between tourism operators and the international community. For three decades, she represented many small local operators who would otherwise remain unconnected and isolated. Judges noted Margaret’s commitment to the industry through Mitchell Corp and her dedication to training, mentoring and careers. “Margaret is a great example of someone who brings others into her waka to paddle with her,” the judges said.
Sir Jack Newman Award Outstanding Industry Leader
Malcolm Johns is widely regarded as a global leader in sustainability in the aviation sector. Currently CEO of Genesis Energy, he formerly led Christchurch International Airport for nearly a decade. During that time, the airport has led its global peers in decarbonisation. Malcolm's commitment to climate action extends to an impressive 90% reduction in the airport's operational greenhouse gas emissions, meaning it became 'climate positive' in 2022. His leadership steered the airport past an earthquake, a terrorist attack and a pandemic. Beyond aviation, Malcolm has also been the chief executive of Intercity and contributed to the boards of Tourism Industry Association and Tourism NZ. He is a founding member of the Climate Leaders Coalition Steering Group and chairs the APEC Business Advisory Council's climate leadership taskforce. Known for integrity and effective communication, Malcolm remains dedicated to tourism's future, embodying the potential within the industry.