Many local businesses around New Zealand are having to quickly adapt to a new reality in lockdown, and for Little Green Tours, that's meant a complete re-think.

Marc Osbourne and Alison Haines launched their business last year, using an electric car to take customers on sightseeing tours of the Rotorua region.

"We'd just started getting some momentum from it," said Haines.

"We did a tour with an English couple," said Osbourne. "The following day I developed a cold - just a head cold, nothing developed from it. But it made us aware. This is when we were learning about coronavirus and what was happening in China.


"So we thought 'okay, this is going to have a huge impact on people, they're going to lose trust, they're going to lose confidence in New Zealand and travel, so we followed up with the English couple to see they were okay. All were well and nothing had happened."

But there was more to come.

"It was all the bookings that started getting cancelled. First we noticed it was on Airbnb and HomeAway, the two platforms we use for the cottage. And it was like ping, ping, ping, all these bookings [cancelling].

With their business now on hold, they've found a digital solution - with a bigger goal than just passing the time.

"Things closed down even more so we thought, let's pivot more towards a virtual tour. We've been to these places, if you can't leave home then, from your living-room, you can enjoy the tour," said Osbourne.

"We've been lucky in that we've spent a number of years travelling throughout the country, so we've got photos and video and stories from just about everywhere in New Zealand," said Haines.

"So we came up with this idea of, both on our Facebook page and we've joined a couple of quite large Facebook groups, every day we are going to feature a different part of the country and hopefully, at the end of the 28 days we're going to be down in Stewart Island.

"It's fantastic, we're reaching people in all sorts of countries, they're loving it and interacting with it.


"The local tour operators have said they will provide stock photos, or video, or drone footage to supplement the tour," added Osbourne.

"It's promoting their experience but also giving information to share."

The virtual tour doesn't make them any money. Its motivation is to spark and maintain interest in New Zealand as a destination.

"We can't take people on tours in the car, but we can still show them New Zealand," said Haines.

"We can still spread the word of how great this country is, it's not about us anymore, it's about promoting New Zealand while we're in lockdown."

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