It's peak season for the tourism industry, but what's been piquing New Zealand's interest over the past two weeks is the ongoing tales of a UK family doing all the things our industry is working so hard to avoid.
We have been cringing as we hear how this family were reported to have littered, abused people, stolen and generally behaved in an offensive way.
This bizarre behaviour is a bit like watching a reality television show – and it's a story that just keeps on giving.
But media only covers what's not normal, so the fact that this family's antics sparked headlines for so long shows, thank goodness it's newsy enough to be unusual. If this same family had behaved similarly in destinations like Las Vegas or Ibiza it would most certainly have gone unnoticed by the media.
And what I have been delighted to see is the outraged response from New Zealanders. You see tourism isn't just about us being great hosts to visitors. Its also about attracting the visitors who value our country and what we have to offer.
Before summer our industry launched the Tiaki Promise — a commitment that when people visit here they will respect and look after the land with the view that it will look after you and future generations.
The Tiaki Promise speaks to simple concepts like driving safely, being prepared when venturing into the wilderness, showing respect, protecting nature and keeping New Zealand clean. Things we all can live by not just our visitors.
Sadly this one family didn't get the memo and that is where the New Zealand public has stepped in and emphatically said "what you are doing is not ok".
So, thank you New Zealand for being good hosts and actively displaying our values by showing these visitors that we expect them to respect our culture and care for our environment. It's the concept of manaakitangi, a two way process of showing kindness, generosity and respect for each other.
Tourism is currently our number one export earner and by 2025 it is forecast that international visitors will reach 5 million per annum, up from the current 3.5 million. We want to do everything we can to make sure it's an industry that works for New Zealanders.
So far we seem to be doing alright. A recent survey by the tourism sector found that 95 per cent of the New Zealanders recognised tourism as a key contributor to the economy and were largely positive about the benefits it brought to their communities.
But we want to keep it that way. This summer we've seen some positive steps in the work the regions have done in trying to educate freedom campers in the "dos and don'ts".
While we still have a way to go both the education plus investment in well-placed freedom camping infrastructure like toilets, showers and rubbish disposal is starting to have an impact.
Long may New Zealanders be so protective of our country that we are prepared to call out people for inappropriate behaviour. Rest assured the tourism sector is also doing everything it can to get that message through to visitors long before they get here.
Thank you New Zealand for your manaakitangi.
• Charlie Ives – executive officer, Regional Tourism New Zealand