Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lonely Planet: "NZ needs to protect its image"

As New Zealand continues along the journey of trying to establish a national identity, the regions are trying to attract visitor numbers by manufacturing their own unique icons. Are they creating cultural cringe or unique and enduring kiwiana?

The Dominion Post
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
Rebecca Quilliam

The Lonely Planet has again turned its attention to the land of the long white cloud. Rebecca Quilliam looks at how the country fared in the latest edition of the popular travel guide.

The Lonely Planet has scrutinised nearly every inch of Godzone and has lavished praise on the country's beauty but warns the tourism industry needs to protect its green status.
The new guidebook, released today, said there were "few countries on this lonely planet as diverse, unspoiled and utterly, utterly photogenic".

However, the book noted that while tourism numbers in New Zealand have risen, so has the environmental cost, with extra visitors putting strain on the clean, green environment the country is renowned for.

For the first time all listings in the Lonely Planet have been evaluated for their sustainability, with the best included in a "GreenDex" – an index of all the tour, accommodation and eating choices that demonstrate an active sustainable tourism policy.

"We hope that this, and other similar initiatives, will encourage other operators to see that there's a clear financial advantage in operating an environmentally-responsible business," book co-author Charles Rawlings-Way said.

The guidebook has praised the country's recognition of Maori culture and how "grass-roots small-scale Maori tourism operators give a more genuine experience for travellers".
Some of the top Maori experiences include exploring the East Cape, taking a Footprints Waipoua tour, and attending the Kawhia Kai festival.

It's not all good news though as the five authors also point out the darker, duller and plain odd aspects of the country.

They described the Tasman Glacier as having a "predictably spectacular sweep of ice, but further down it's downright ugly".

Bluff was described as "unimpressive" with the main reason for visiting to catch the ferry to Stewart Island.

They also include "tacky" features many towns and cities proudly display. Targets included Auckland's Sky Tower that "looks like a giant hypodermic giving a fix to the heavens", the replica Stonehenge in the Wairarapa – "A lifesize recreation of the original. Weird? Yes. Tacky? Absolutely", and Cromwell's "heinous giant fruit thing".

The main centres received good marks from the authors. Travellers were encouraged to, "rock into Wellington for a big city hit" and experience its "red-hot arts scene". Auckland could "justifiably respond to its detractors, `Don't hate me because I'm beautiful'." And Christchurch combines "an easy-going provincial charm with the emerging energy and verve of a metropolis".

The authors embraced small-town New Zealand, such as "cute as a button" Naseby, "best-kept secret" Opoutere, and Takaka: "laid-back to near horizontal. . . dreadlocked types rub shoulders with hardened farmers and crusty fishermen in equilibrium: the bike shop sells guitar strings; the pub serves chai".

However, not all out little towns found favour such as the Gulf Harbour – "a Noddy-town development of matching houses"– Dargaville – "you should know not to expect too much" – and Pauanui – "an upmarket refugee camp for over-wealthy Aucklanders".

Appropriately the authors compared the national psyche to "that little guy at school when they're picking rugby teams. . .Then, when he does get the nod, his sheer determination to prove himself propels him to score a completely unexpected try. "When his team-mates come to congratulate him he stares at the ground and mumbles `It was nothing, ay'."

They advised tourists to bring with them insect repellent to keep the sandflies away, the ability to get excited over a rugby game and a long sleeve shirt for summer – "the sun kicks like a mule".

They also included a dos and don'ts list. According to the authors, visitors should bring a small offering such as wine or chocolates if invited to a meal, turn up on time at restaurants to ensure their table is not given away, and tip about 10 per cent for good service. The don'ts include sitting on a table or surface where food is prepared as it is culturally offensive, or belch at the table as it is considered bad manners.

The author's comments are fair, but surely New Zealand is not the only country to turn their nose up at table burpers?


Click the "Get Widget" link below to place this widget on your website or blog!