My earliest memories of discovering New Zealand
go back to the 1990s when I took the first
research trip and drove around the country, amid
its various landscapes and scenery, and experienced
adrenalin-pumping, soft adventure activities.
I have the most vivid memory of myself staring at
the awesome glacier with glistening ice blue peaks,
on my very first scenic flight from Queenstown. The
other memory is of the rugged beauty and contrast of
West Coast. The sheer variety of landscape baffled
me; to stand on the beach, see the green mountain
ranges in the distance, and the snowy peaks behind
them, standing tall against the clear blue skies. My
good friend, Brendan Davis travelled with me around
the country. Each day was a discovery of a picture
postcard scenery. I decided that this slice of heaven
had to be shared with many more of my countrymen.
I pursued Tourism New Zealand’s Singapore
office as well as Air New Zealand way back in 1992,
to look at India as a focus market that was nowhere
on their ‘to do’ list.
We decided to host a famil (familiarisation trip)
with travel writers, which took place in 1994, all
through private enterprises. Many articles started
surfacing. We conducted seminars on Beacon
Holidays Road Show across six cities and launched
New Zealand in India as an Outbound Destination.
We partnered with Air New Zealand, which offered
a fare of Rs 10,000 and we had a package of NZD
300 for five nights for IATA agents to travel and
discover the beauty of New Zealand.
It was only later that Sarah Meikle started
visiting India, and Kiran Nambiar was appointed
as Country Manager in 2003. I had the opportunity
to brief George Hickton, who was then the CEO of
New Zealand Tourism Board, on his first trip to
India. I was invited to Queenstown for a tourism
seminar to talk about the opportunities of the
Indian market and present the nuances of the
needs of the Indian market. It was an eye-opener
for the RTOs and New Zealand vendors to know
what exactly they needed to do to service different
market segments out of India.
We had a few opportunities to establish
relationships with our business partners, and
introduce many aspects of discovering New Zealand
to our clients. We offered assistance to group travel
agents and opened up the Gujarati segment. We also
handled one for the big brands in the early days.
We launched the first self-drive brochure in 2008
and started selling Solo New Zealand. This won
the Best Brochure Award in Asia. As the market
evolved, we introduced luxury lodges and Food and
Wine Tourism products of New Zealand.
My experience teaches me that you never stop
learning. I appreciate the commitment of Tourism
New Zealand, which thoroughly researched the
market and established the brand image of New
Zealand as an aspirational destination.
I was recently invited on my first famil with
Tourism New Zealand, and we had an opportunity
to attend the World Cup match in Hamilton, which
was the highlight of the trip.
We visited the Hobbiton, and I had the pleasure
of chatting with Ian Alexander, the owner of a
family farm of 1,250 acres, whose fortunes turned
after the place was chosen as the location for the
film trilogy. Today, it is a major tourist attraction.
We had fine experiences of dining and wining—
from the great New Zealand wine to gourmet fusion
delicacies at Curator’s house CHC, The Green
Dolphin, Kaikoura, The Marble Point Winery, and
Hanmer Springs. The soak at Hanmer Springs
was a great experience and is recommended as an
ideal stay for honeymooners. Whale-watching was
an outstanding experience and the quaint town of
Kaikora, with its blue shoreline, is stunning.
It was a great to see Christchurch, the charming
city, getting back to its feet following the massive
after-effects of the earthquake in 2011. The
Re:START Mall is a great initiative for tourists to
explore, along with the Quake City nearby.
Destination New Zealand has been innovating,
creating new products, and catering to the demands
of international visitors, yet maintaining the beauty
and serenity that are the core tourist attractions. It
is important to understand that, to thoroughly
experience a destination’s nuances, we need ample
time, even if the country looks tiny on the map. Yes,
New Zealand is indeed ‘100% Pure’