OPINION: Visitors – both domestic and international – make Hawke's Bay a better place for Hawke's Bay locals.
They provide the population we need to sustain many of the restaurants, events, shops, parks and experiences that we love and are all so proud of.
We have seen what life is like when the visitor is removed from our local economy and I for one, would not like to repeat that experience any time soon. This is why it is more important than ever that we secure a long-term sustainable future for our region's tourism industry.
Even before Covid-19 shut our borders, our minds had already turned to improving the sustainability of our industry here in Hawke's Bay.
We know that 89 per cent of consumers care personally about protecting the environment and that 9 per cent say they want to live more sustainably. What's more, 71 per cent of global travellers think travel companies should offer more sustainable choices.
Indications also suggest that post-Covid this will be truer than ever, and there is now hope that New Zealand can lead the way with a blueprint for a sustainable tourism industry that lives up to our '100% Pure' offering.
It is certainly a big topic. And it is also a broad term. Sustainability, I am quick to acknowledge, means many things to many people.
For our industry, there are four pillars to sustainability – economic, visitor, host community and of course environmental. These are the pillars that guide the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment, which all tourism businesses are encouraged to sign up to.
The Tourism Sustainability Commitment (TSC) places sustainability – of our communities, our economy, our environment and our visitors – at the heart of everything we do.
It means that as an industry we want to act as a guardian to our environment; operate our businesses with respect and consideration to our local communities; to develop unparalleled visitor experiences; and maintain productive, thriving businesses that contribute to the local economy.
These are also goals that align with the Māori values of kaitiakitanga (guardianship), manaakitanga (hospitality) and whanaungatanga (working together), which many within the industry are successfully using as a guiding compass already.
Tourism, like any other industry, has a role to play in ensuring what we do is sustainable on all fronts.
Last week we met with Hawke's Bay businesses who were either already signed up to the Tourism Sustainability Commitment, or who were interested in doing so.
Some businesses were exemplar in their application of sustainability practice and were keen to mentor others who were embarking on the journey. It was another illustration of what our sector can do when we choose to work together as a team.
Tourism is returning. However, the future has not been written, and our sector acknowledges that now is the time to have these conversations so that we can author an abundantly sustainable future for our visitor economy.
- Hamish Saxton is the CEO of Hawke's Bay Tourism