The thing about New Zealand is it's really, really safe.

When international visitors (and, more importantly, prospective visitors) are asked what comes to mind when they think of New Zealand, the word "safe" is generally high on their list. "Hobbits" are also likely to get a mention and, if prodded, our would-be visitors might also imagine "clean waterways".

The Hobbits and the clean waterways are myths and courtesy of the recent stranding in Kaikoura of dozens of international visitors, the safety claim looks shaky at the moment, too.

The travel industry thrives on snippets of information and you can be sure that travel agents the world over received frequent and detailed briefings about the recent earthquakes and the effect they had on visitors to our shores.

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That's just one of the reasons we should be grateful to the sterling work put in by Civil Defence, the Kaikoura community and, in particular, Ngai Tahu and the local Takahanga marae. They fed visitors, kept them warm and, when necessary, sorted them out for beds. Good Kiwis.

But ongoing tremors could have a long-term impact. The perception of these things is key for the strength of our tourism economy. We must seem to be safe. The water must seem clean. "You want to see Hobbits, mate? Sure, just pay me a hundred bucks and go look in that hole ... "

Even in times of local suffering, we need to make sure there's a plan to care for our guests. It's the prudent - and decent - thing to do.