Rotorua tourism businesses are at the top of their game, taking out three of the 14 categories in the recent Tourism Awards, but one winner isn't letting the award get to their head and is starting a new venture to keep the industry innovative. Zizi Sparks reports.
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About 10 to 15 jobs will be created in Rotorua by January with the $1.5 million expansion of an existing tourism business.
Redwoods Treewalk has started work on Redwoods Altitude, the next phase of the attraction.
The Treewalk is a 700m walk along bridges and platforms strung between the century-old Redwoods, 6m and 20m above the ground and the new venture will take visitors even higher into the treetops.
The bridges in the new section will be 5m higher than the highest platform on the Treewalk with an option to leap from the trees at the end.
The eight people on each trip will be attached to the trees via safety cable.
Work on the $1.5m expansion started in mid-October and co-founder Bruce Thomasen said the new experience would feature up to 25m high suspended bridges and 27 platforms.
The new experience would be a guided two-hour tour and involve visitors walking along platforms and bridges strung high in the trees. Thomasen said it was designed for thrill-seekers as some bridges had missing planks and "frayed" ropes.
"The overwhelming feedback from the Redwoods Treewalk was to go higher – so we have done just that, all while maintaining our kaitiakitanga (guardianship) role and continuing to act sustainably," he said.
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'Would be like building a zipline on Mount Ngongotahā and flying it over Kauae Cemetery'
"Redwoods Altitude is about bringing a jungle experience to our backyard."
It would also be educational with guides teaching participants about local stories including forest history, flora and fauna.
"This was a vision when Redwoods Treewalk was first installed. There was always going to be stage two."
Like the existing Treewalk, no nails, screws or bolts had been put into the trees.
"We have used the unique Treewalk tree sling technology to suspend the bridges and platforms . . . The slings are set to ensure the trees can continue to grow."
Thomasen said it was important to be innovative in the tourism space to attract visitors.
"There are more visitors coming through and we want them to stay longer. More attractions mean they can stay more than one night," Thomasen said.
"This is about adding to the option of what guests can do in this beautiful, magnificent environment.
"We're so lucky, within five minutes from the CBD you can be in this enchanted Jurassic forest ... this is an adventure activity that hopefully Rotorua can be proud of."
The six-week construction would cause some path closures to minor tracks in the forest.
The jobs had already been advertised with interviews expected to start in the next week or two. A price had not been agreed on but it was likely to cost about $130 for an adult.
Destination Rotorua chief executive Michelle Templer called the project exciting.
"The diverse range of attractions and activities on offer to locals and visitors is a key part of our destination appeal. Rotorua has one of the highest levels of spend nationally on recreational activities by international visitors.
"Treewalk's phase two development will create new jobs and is one of a number of recent investments that demonstrate real confidence in the destination."
Redwoods Treewalk was among three businesses in the area to win an award at the New Zealand Tourism Awards which were run by Tourism Industry Aotearoa and aligned with the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment.
The business won the Tourism Sustainability Business Excellence Award for businesses with less than $6m annual turnover.
MDA Experiences won the He Kai Kei Aku Ringa Māori Tourism Award and Murupara's Stray & Kohutapu Lodge won the Community Engagement Award.
Sudima Hotels, which had a branch in Rotorua, won the Supreme Tourism Award.