For 170 years visitors have flocked to Rotorua to see Māori culture, now Māori culture is being taken to the world stage and there's a thriving future ahead.

As word spread about the geothermal attractions Rotorua had on offer Pākehā tourists began arriving at the heart of Te Arawa.

In 1848 the village of Te Wairoa was founded as a stopover for tourists who came to see the premier visitor attraction, the Pink and White Terraces.

Māori began hosting cultural performances and guiding tourists around the area. Access to the terraces was controlled by the Tūhourangi people, who earned substantial income from tourism.


The income gave Māori economic independence, and made up for the challenges of farming in thermal areas.

In 1886 the Pink and White Terraces and the village of Te Wairoa were destroyed when Mt Tarawera erupted.

Tourism at Tarawera was disrupted, but a lot of people from Tūhourangi relocated to Whakarewarewa thermal village, which became a popular visitor destination.

170 years on Māori tourism is thriving, with 57 per cent of all visitors to Rotorua having a Māori cultural experience.

Rotorua Daily Post reporter Alice Guy takes a look at the changing face of Māori tourism in Rotorua.