‘You’re in tourism?  Is that a real job? Aren’t you just on holidays all the time?’

For those of you not in the tourism realm, tourism seems easy – we’ve all been on holidays before. Think about your favourite holiday ever…what made it your favourite?  Was it the accommodation? The food?  The people?  The things you saw or did?  What made you want to go there in the first place?  Was it easy to plan and achieve?

Of course, we can all plead ‘holiday mode’ when experiencing a holiday – we don’t think about the behind the scenes elements that make it our favourite – in fact, often we congratulate ourselves on ‘making it happen’ because it was my holiday, right?  Wrong.

Being ‘in tourism’ takes a lot of work, dedication, long hours (yawn…sorry!), passion, keeping up-to-date with market trends and expectations, planning, delivering and endless rainbows of enthusiasm.

So, what makes tourism just happen?

  • It’s the ‘need to see to be believed’ photos that pop up in your Instagram feed that made you finally decide to click the ‘learn more’ button
  • the easy to book and plan website and the follow up customer service emails from ‘Stacey’ welcoming you and reaffirming you’ve made the right decision
  • the front desk staff with their lovely smiles who made your check in a breeze
  • the complimentary chockie on your pillow
  • the sparkling clean turquoise swimming pool scrubbed religiously every morning before the sun rises
  • the tour guide full of great humour and exceptional local knowledge
  • the easy to use map, apps and signs that help your journey
  • the friendly ‘thank you’ email when you return home, inviting you to provide feedback and welcoming you back again.

Yes, you’re right – tourism ‘just happens’…

But it’s ok, you aren’t alone in this misconception.  Many people who are in or aspiring to be in tourism don’t realise the immense effort required to a) deliver the above b) be good at it.

We’ve heard it all too many times – ‘but we have the biggest, best, most scenic…why aren’t visitors coming?’

You might have the world’s biggest lobster, the most incredible ‘bring tears to your eyes’ panoramic view or the oldest culture on the planet, but this alone won’t make tourism happen.

Let us give you an example:

The Tourism Just Happens guidelines

The Tairāwhiti Gisborne Region on North Island New Zealand is stunning.  Home to a strong Maori culture, sacred sites, spectacular scenery and celebrated as the first place for the light to touch New Zealand every day, it sounds ‘majestical’ (thanks Ricky Baker aka Hunt for the Wilder People).

Although the region has amazing natural and cultural features, without a Vision, a Plan and way forward it’s unlikely tourism will just happen.

The Tairāwhiti Gisborne community through the Eastland Community Trust realised this.  They know the value of their cultural and natural assets, wanted to share these with visitors while also providing benefits for local people.  The Activate Tairāwhiti organisation was established to deliver economic, social, cultural and environmental returns for Tairāwhiti, with the Activate Tairāwhiti Tourism body developed this year, specifically as the new Regional Tourism Organisation to deliver these outcomes from a tourism perspective.  As expert tourism planners, TRC Tourism were thrilled to be contracted by Activate Tairāwhiti six months ago to support them on this new tourism journey.  Starting from the ground up, we learned about the assets, opportunities, capacity and capabilities, existing and potential experiences, markets and aspirations of local Maori. Together we identified new experiences and ran them through our robust feasibility checks to make sure they would be viable, desirable and achievable.  Before we could then hit the launch button (it’s really hard to do this sometimes when you are excited about the new experience…but don’t put the cart before the horse!), we needed to map out the what, where, when, why, how and who (WWWWHW) which started with a unified Vision and a Visitor Strategy.

As part of this process, we also used our favourite tried and tested Visitor Experience Cycle, mapping each stage of the Tourism Just Happens process to understand what visitors need to make their ultimate tourism experience – from an inspiring photo on Instagram to the ‘thank you, come again’ email.

The happy ending?  Two new visitor experiences have been launched in Tairāwhiti this summer:

Waka Voyages Tairāwhiti, Waka Cultural Experience – a chance for visitors to hear epic stories of the region’s voyaging history and it’s Māori ancestors delivered on board the Waka while it is berthed in Gisborne marina.

Maunga Hikurangi – A local Ngati Porou guide will take you on a journey to the sacred site of the majestic Hikurangi Maunga carvings the first place in NZ to see the light each day.

But wait…this isn’t the end – the product development journey has only just begun, highlighting the need to assist these and future new businesses through:

  • Establishment of the experience – setting up the foundations for success
  • Providing business capability support – making sure we have the skills and tools needed to deliver
  • A sustainable business model – we have enough people power, money, the ‘i’s dotted and ‘t’s crossed so we can continue our success to infinity and beyond!

Activate Tairāwhiti Tourism will be crucial as the foundation from which successful regional tourism can grow.  To make this happen, TRC are now working with the Activate Tairāwhiti Tourism team to develop outcome orientated action plans. This plan has seen two new roles created and recently filled, with the team ready for business 2019.

So, for those about to go on holiday, please spare a thought for all of those who are ‘making’ your holiday happen – keeping the pillows fluffed, the drinks cold and the sun shining.

For those in or thinking about going into tourism – congratulations!  Remember – tourism doesn’t ‘just happen’, YOU are making great holidays happen for other people which in return is achieving YOUR vision. Remember, you don’t need to go it alone, the TRC Tourism team are here to help you on your journey.