A growing number of New Zealanders are travelling to destinations off the beaten track.

Ten years ago Tourism Australia famously asked the world: "where the bloody hell are you?"

For NZers, the answer almost always used to be Australia. Now, it could be Hungary or Ecuador, Iran or the Maldives.

Australia, the US and the Pacific Islands are still our top destinations, but some of the biggest changes over the past 35 years reflect our proximity to Asia. Only 316 people went to Thailand in 1980, compared with 31,440 last year. Indonesia is up from 472 to 32,780 and China from 168 to 18,300.

The Herald analysed Statistics New Zealand figures for the number of New Zealanders travelling overseas for the purpose of "holiday/vacation" for years to September.


It found the number of Kiwis flying to another country for their break had more than doubled in the past 20 years - from 438,073 in 1995 to 1,014,220 in 2015.

The manager of Flight Centre's Mt Eden branch, Maree Joll, has been in the industry for almost 20 years. In that time she's noticed New Zealanders seeking more adventurous destinations.

"It's the Kiwi mentality," she said. "We tick off some of the things from our bucket list then we want to get to some of the more remote places. We're quite confident travellers, as well; we're wanting to try to get off the beaten track."

Figures show that one in four New Zealanders took a holiday overseas in the year to September, and Ms Joll believed this was because airfares had become more affordable.

She said it was common for people to take a quick break to somewhere accessible, such as Australia or one of the Island nations in the South Pacific, and then also a longer break somewhere further abroad.

"They're now doing two or three trips a year whereas 10 years ago they may have only been doing one."

Statistics New Zealand figures reflected this - it showed that Kiwis were still flocking to the South Pacific. In the year to September, 414,060 people holidayed in Australia, 97,480 in Fiji, 65,360 in the Cook Islands and 19,620 in Samoa.

Maree Joll, 40s, branch manager

Maree Joll. Photo / Supplied
Maree Joll. Photo / Supplied

Maree Joll's latest trip was a whirlwind escape to India.


It was just a week long, but that was all the time she could afford to be away from work.
She started in Delhi, went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, to Jaipur for a hot air balloon ride then on to Udaipur.

"It was a really good taster, put it that way."

Ms Joll said India was somewhere she'd never thought of going, but the opportunity presented itself and so she went, without any expectations.

"It wowed me."

And that's from someone who's sat as close to Rwandan gorillas as "you would next to someone at the dinner table" and who's been to Antarctica.

About 10 years ago, Ms Joll went on a cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina's southernmost town, to Earth's most southern continent. Antarctica has seen a boost in tourism numbers in the past 20 years - in 1995, no New Zealanders holidayed there, but 10 years later in 2005, 208 Kiwis went there on vacation. In the past decade, that figure has dropped off slightly and between 60 and 120 people go on holiday there each year.

Ms Joll said the increased interest was probably due to people becoming more aware of the continent through climate change issues and it being more accessible.

"But it is a seasonal trip, during our summer time."

Ms Joll, who has been in the travel industry for the past 18 years, said the increased popularity of Antarctica was not the only change she had noticed. People are going overseas more often and are more likely to be intrepid travellers, she said.

"There are so many more flights into New Zealand these days, so there is far more opportunity to get to a wider range of countries. And a lot of those countries have been opening up.

"Twenty years ago, I probably never would have thought about going to Croatia on an OE, but these days we send people to Croatia every year. The same with a lot of countries in Africa - it's opened up a lot."

Chris Smaill, 63, Mt Eden

Gail Smaill and Chris Smaill on holiday in Zanzibar. Photo / Supplied
Gail Smaill and Chris Smaill on holiday in Zanzibar. Photo / Supplied

If you were to ask Chris Smaill how many countries he's been to, he would have to sit down and really think about it.

He's collected passport stamps from some rather unusual places, but there are a few that he's not been to that may take you by surprise.

"I've never been to Italy, for example," he says.

"I guess I have the philosophy that it's easy to go to places like Europe when you're old. You may as well do more intrepid places when you're younger and your body can handle it."

Mr Smaill, 63, first started his hunt for adventure in 1988 when, as a high school teacher, he took a group of keen teenage hikers to the Himalayas.

He was hooked and started to take a group every year, but he noticed the number of adult chaperones increasing and the number of students decreasing as university began to cost more.

"Then someone asked me if I'd plan a trip to South America.

"I told them I'd never been to South America, but they said they trusted me," Mr Smaill said.

"More recently, I've fallen into a pattern of a big trip every two years."

These days, Mr Smaill, a part-time lecturer of electrical and computing engineering at the University of Auckland, takes a group of usually the same 22 people on his bi-annual adventures.

They've most recently returned from Beijing, North Korea, Western China, Uzbekistan and South Korea.

In the well-travelled Kiwi's Top 20 list of destinations and experiences, he includes:
Bhutan: Hike to the iconic Tiger's Nest monastery, perched precariously on a sheer rock face.
Uganda and Rwanda: Trek through an ancient rainforest to spend time with a family of mountain gorillas.
Kenya: Cycle through an African savanna teeming with large animals in Hell's Gate National Park.
Morocco: Hear the shifting sands sing on a camel safari in the Saharan Desert.
Chile: Cruise the full length of Patagonia past fjords and glaciers that reach the sea.
Bolivia: Mountainbike the "Road of Death" from a ski-field to the Amazon jungle.
Chile: Attempt to fathom the mysteries of Easter Island and its huge stone figures.
Nepal: Trek and fossick for rocks in the Himalayas, all the way up to Muktinath to see the Eternal Flame.
Antarctica: Experience being on the ice on Ross Island and visiting Scott's Hut, Cape Evans.
Argentina: Enjoy exciting tango dancing in Buenos Aires at a show and on the streets.
New Zealand: Cycle from Mt Cook to Oamaru on the Alps to Ocean route.

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