Te Puia is reopening its doors to a new market, employing more staff and hoping to again be one of the heavyweights of the country's tourism industry.
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It's dropping its price and reinventing the experience to appeal to a domestic market as well as employing 14 extra staff members - taking the site's total staff to 44. It will open four days a week for reduced hours.
The reopening is just a drop in the bucket from where it was before the coronavirus pandemic struck, forcing the business to close its doors on March 21 and lay off 140 staff members.
The business, which had been 93 per cent reliant on international visitors, will go from an annual turnover of up to $25 million ''to lucky to make $2 million by the end of this financial year'', chief executive Tim Cossar said.
Te Puia, which incorporates the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, is made up of a tourism attraction showcasing Māori culture and geothermal attractions as well as the institute side of the business that runs a Māori arts and crafts school.
During the lockdown, it retained 30 staff, including 23 for Te Puia and seven from the institute.
The reopening would see an additional four staff employed at Te Puia's tourism side and 10 at the institute. Interviews are currently being held for carving students to return to the site.
On May 18, the Government announced a cash injection of $7.6 million which was tagged to the institute side of the business to ensure the future fostering of Māori arts and crafts.
Cossar said the tourism arm of the business still needed to be self-funding so staff took time during the lockdown to plan a model it believed would be attractive to the domestic market.
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He said it had been a challenge to reinvent but they were confident their new product would delve deeper into Māori stories that would appeal to locals and domestic visitors.
"International visitors were our lifeline. That was the tap and the tap turned off but we have developed something that I think people will really like. If we are humble with our storytelling with a bit of humour, I think Kiwis will love it."
Cossar said compared with pre-pandemic days, Te Puia would be operating on a skeleton staff but it was prepared to make adjustments depending on the demand.
He said there was already a good amount of interest in conferences and functions which would take them into winter next year, which all helped to boost revenue.
However the reality was, he wasn't expecting international visitors to return until at least September next year and the business was in the meantime pinning its hopes on Kiwis and the Australian bubble.
Despite remaining upbeat, Cossar admitted there had been many "bad days".
"This is the hardest thing I've ever had to encounter in tourism and it's even harder when you had a business that was so successful with international visitors.
"It was the worst day of my working life when I had to tell the staff we couldn't employ them as we didn't see anything changing in 18 months. But it has been a big buzz seeing some of them come back."
He said Kiwis would need to turn to their own country if they wanted some time out and he hoped Te Puia would be top of their "to-do" lists.
What's different at Te Puia?
* The price has dropped to $30 for adults and free for two children aged 15 and under with every paying adult. Extra children are $10.
* Te Puia will open Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm.
* Pātaka Kai restaurant will open Friday and Saturday nights with a new "grazing" menu.
* Instead of traditional hāngī and concert offerings there will be two guided tours throughout the day offering more domestic-friendly story-telling.
* Customers don't have to pay an entry fee to go to the restaurant, bar and cafe.