A Whangārei tourist attraction has been recognised as among the best in the world by impressed global visitors.

Kiwi North has placed in the top 10 per cent of hospitality businesses around the globe based on a full year of Tripadvisor reviews, winning them the 2020 Travellers' Choice Award.

The reviews were based on pre-pandemic visits, when visitors comprised a 50/50 balance of national and international.

Kiwi North director of operations Allie Fry said, after a difficult year, the team is thrilled to receive the award acknowledging their efforts.

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"It's great to get this from our visitors. In these very difficult times, being chosen by the visitors themselves as one of the top 10 experiences in the world is a huge boost for us all. We are a small team who work really hard to ensure our visitors learn about our culture, heritage and unique ecosystems, and that they have a great time doing it.

"Reviews from our guests constantly note the passion, knowledge and friendliness of the staff. I'm very proud of our team and it is so rewarding to see our culture of manaakitanga coming through."

Kiwi North director Allie Fry is delighted with winning the 2020 Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Award.
Kiwi North director Allie Fry is delighted with winning the 2020 Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Award.

Tripadvisor's chief commercial officer Kanika Soni said winners of the 2020 Travelers' Choice Awards should be proud of the distinguished recognition.

"Although it's been a challenging year for travel and hospitality, we want to celebrate our partners' achievements. Award winners are beloved for their exceptional service and quality. Not only are these winners well-deserving, they are also a great source of inspiration for travellers as the world begins to venture out again."

Fry said, with 50 per cent of the museum visitors domestic and a large part of those from Auckland, the city's Covid alert levels (previously level 3 and now level 2.5) has been devastating.

"Auckland is a huge market for Northland and that was growing until they got shut down. Winning this award has been a real pick-me-up on top of being recognised as a strategic asset."

Another boost has been the announcement of a $400,000 grant from the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme.

The grant addresses the deficit in operating income lost with visitor revenue halved due to the loss of the international market, plus the funds needed to carry out long-awaited repairs to the museum's 36-year-old roof.

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It also contains the final funding necessary to start the extensive conservation project of Glorat, the Clarke Homestead, a Grade II Heritage New Zealand-listed building, protecting the significant funds already raised towards this capital project.

"There are really no words to describe the relief of knowing that our team, the museum collections, our education and community programmes and the living taonga in the Kiwi House are secure for another two years," said Fry. "Although the future is far from predictable, we can now go forward with more confidence."

She added: "We are extremely grateful and proud of the recognition of Kiwi North as a strategic asset of the Tai Tokerau Northland's tourism network. This formal acknowledgement of its value to the tourism sector is intrinsic to the organisation's future."

While schools and groups from around Northland are still visiting, as well as international tourists who are "still floating around", compared to how visitor numbers were tracking earlier in the year, it has been "very quiet". However, with this new award to their name, the team are bracing themselves for the influx when borders eventually reopen.

Kiwi North is governed by the Whangārei Museum and Heritage Trust. It is home to the Whangārei Museum, Heritage Park and the only kiwi house in Northland, housing kiwi, tuatara, gecko and insects. The Kiwi House is Northland's only opportunity to see these animals in a controlled environment providing both an education and tourism experience.

Kiwi North holds a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence, Qualmark Silver Certification, Zoo Aquarium Association Australasia Accreditation, is a member of the New Zealand Sustainability Commitment, supports the Tourism New Zealand Tiaki Promise, and was recently recognised as a Strategic Tourism Asset by the Government Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme.

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Tripadvisor is the world's largest travel platform with 463 million travelers across the globe using the Tripadvisor site and app to browse more than 860 million reviews and opinions of 8.7 million accommodations, restaurants, experiences, airlines and cruises.

To read the traveller reviews, visit www.tripadvisor.com.