September 30, 2008

Kia Ora !*FIRSTNAME*!,

Fast pace for new face

James Fitzgerald joined the team earlier this month (September 10) and it’s been a ‘full on’ first few weeks for him out and about meeting industry folk and going on product famils. Next week he heads to Asia for more than two weeks (October 6-24) of frontliner training in Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and China as well as providing a Rotorua presence at Kiwi Link Asia. Armed with double degree (Commerce and Tourism) from Otago University, James spent a year driving backpacker coaches around the South Island before heading to the UK where he worked for Flight Centre as a travel consultant for a further year before returning to New Zealand. Back home in Wellington he started his own inbound travel web business, Beyond the Highway, managing tour, campervan and hotel bookings. Selling the business, James and wife Erin moved to Tauranga earlier this year with daughter Holly to be near family.

New DRTM collateral

The newly printed Rotorua map, specifically printed to meet the needs of international markets as well as event organisers, is now available while we are expecting delivery of our new MTB brochure this week. The new brochure is pitched at first-time mountain bikers as well as families keen to give the famed Whakarewarewa Forest MTB tracks a go. Various distribution channels will be used including The Redwoods Visitor Centre, Tourism Rotorua i-SITE Information Centre as well as bike shops in Rotorua, Hamilton and Auckland. Both are new downloadable off Loaded just three weeks ago, the new regional map has already been downloaded 151 times.  Click here to download a copy.

More new stuff added to site

The latest user-friendly features that DRTM have incorporated into our main site are an accurate Google search function, three-day weather forecast, a shopping and services area, a Maori image gallery, admin access for local operators who advertise on the site to update their own listings and downloadable visitor maps (as mentioned above). A range of i-SITE Hot Deals available on the site will also be directly linked to appropriate individual operator listings by the end of this week. Ensuring the site is relevant, user-friendly and innovative is a key factor so that Rotorua is perceived as a desirable destination. This unsolicited comment from Pam Kniss of Discover Downunder, Denver–based travel company in the US in the past month is typical of feedback about the site. “The website is wonderful – it contains a wealth of information! I especially liked the Maori words and phrases section. A lot of work has gone into producing this.”  

Our winning web ways

Comparing traffic on DRTM’s main website,, of the past month (August 23 to Sept 22) to the same time last year, the news is all good: visits are up by 8.01% (to 34,822), absolute unique visitors are up 8.46%, pageviews are up 26.75% (to 253,202) average time on spent on the site is up by 9.63% (to 6:32 minutes) and bounce rate is down by 21.44% (which means more browsers who come to the site via search engines are staying on the site to look at other pages). The latest Alexa ranking also shows is gaining ground among the top RTO websites; our 4th place ranking behind Queenstown moved up 97,679 places (to 659,008) in the past month. The month of August was our best month for absolute unique visitors (28,381) since we charged to Google Analytics tracking in June 2007.

Good news in any language

The majority of our stand-alone foreign language sites are also performing well. Comparing July/Aug to Aug/Sept, our Chinese site saw an 18.4% increase in visits, a 17.19% increase on absolute unique visits and a 52.62% increase in pageviews; our Japanese site was up 21.03% on visits, 21.43% up on absolute unique visits and 26.78% up on pageviews and our Spanish site was up 15.79% on visits, 15.33% up on absolute unique visits and 25.71% up on pageviews. The Korean site was the only under-achiever, suffering decreases of 13.5% and 25.58% in visits while still managing to make a small gain (3.22%) in pageviews. Our new French alone-alone site,, will be launched at the end of October. 

First for island sanctuary

Wonderful news from Mokoia Island; the very first kiwi egg to be laid on the native bird sanctuary has been sighted by Department of Conservation staff. At this stage they’re not sure whether the adult male incubating the egg is sitting on one or two eggs. The original plan was to uplift the egg(s) to Kiwi Encounter but it has since been decided to let nature take its course and leave the egg(s) with the male bird. Bryan Hughes, CEO of Mokoia Island Wai Ora Experiences - the license-holders of the island, says if all goes well there’ll be a healthy chick to add to the island’s kiwi population of eight adults by Christmas. Three young kiwis were released onto the island five years ago to begin a kiwi crèche programme as part of the Bank of New Zealand’s Kiwi Recovery programme. Other birds (from the Ohope and Whirinaki conservancies) have been added in the ensuing years, the last one was released in May 2008 to coincide with TRENZ ’08 in Rotorua. Mokoia Island provides the ideal habitat for kiwi chicks because it’s predator-free and close to a major urban centre. Bryan says they hope to eventually have 20 breeding pair on the island at which point kiwi from the island would assist in the re-population of mainland areas where kiwi numbers have been decimated.

Bless this lake – and all who fish in it

Lake Tarawera is the place to be tonight (Tuesday, September 30) from 5pm with the opening of the 2008/09 trout fishing season coinciding with the opening of the renovated Landing Cafe under new owners Paul and Nicky Connell. Based around the Scottish tradition blessing boats for safe passage and good fishing at the start of each season, the Blessing of the Boats ceremony has marked the start of the season on Lake Tarawera for the past decade. This year’s event will include a pipe band, Highland dancers and local Irish band, The Blarney Boys. There will also be some special surprises, says Paul, who took over The Landing Cafe on July 1 and also owns Clearwater Cruises. At 5.30pm a ceremonial haggis will be piped down the hill to the café. Following speeches and the blessing of the boats that have gathered along the shoreline guests, can sample haggis. Those not brave enough to try haggis can buy gourmet pizza from the café or sample the range of hot food and beverage that will be available from the temporary stalls. The fishing season officially starts at 6am on October 1.

Head first into record

Local gymnasts this month established a new world record travelling the greatest distance in an hour of forward rolls ahead of next month’s Indo Pacific Trampoline and Tumbling Championships being held at the Energy Events Centre, October 12-19. A team of elite gymnasts from Rotorua’s Mid Island GymSports Club, plus four athletes from the NZ trampoline team rolled 10,183.9 metres straight into the Book of Guinness World Records (subject to verification later this year). The previous world record, held by Germany since 2002, was 9092.4m, rolled in an hour. Rotorua will host more than 300 trampoline and tumbling athletes from seven countries at next month’s event. It’s the first time New Zealand has been selected to hold the championships.

Funding innovative energy ideas

Tourism businesses have until 4pm this Friday (October 3) to apply for funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's (EECA) Innovation Fund. Businesses can apply if they a) use large volumes of hot water or where pre-heat/waste heat recovery could be a real advantage, b) are considering a renovation or construction where solar or heat pump water heating could be incorporated, c) are demonstrating leadership in energy efficiency and sustainability and responding to climate change, d) have an innovative idea to improve uptake, or systems and design.
For details and application forms, go to or reference number 23003, or email

Hot Fest

Shop Rotorua is coming to the party and ‘Painting the town red’ during next month’s 10-day Hot Fest, October 3-12. Shops will be open late next Friday (October 10) and culminate in a Hot Fashion Show at 7pm in City Focus.  It will feature more than 150 models showing off garments from 29 of Rotorua’s clothing outlets. No admission charge. The free event is one of a dozen free community happenings including a Great Pukeko Chase, arts exhibition, photo competition, kids’ costume contest and climbing competition. View to look at the events schedule.

Tops with influential guide book

Lonely Planet’s latest New Zealand edition guidebook lavishes praise on Rotorua, describing it as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. It says “Here the daily business of life goes on among steaming hot springs, explosive geysers, bubbling mud pools, and the clouds of sulphurous gas responsible for its unique eggy smell.”  It goes on to say “Breathe in the sulphur-rich air of Rotorua and you’ve already got a taste of NZ’s most dynamic thermal area with spurting geysers, steaming hot springs and exploding mud pools. The Maori revered this place, naming one of the most spectacular springs Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters).” Rotorua also featured highly in the Bay of Plenty highlights section, with hangi and concerts at Tamaki or Mitai Maori villages, the kaleidoscopic colours at Wai-O-Tapu and mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa Forest and flying active marine volcano, White Island making the list. It also rated Whakarewarewa Thermal Village as one of New Zealand’s top 10 Maori cultural experiences. The new guide was released on August 19.  Rotorua was also thought good enough by Lonely Planet reviewers to make their Best in Travel 2009 Guide. The Rotorua region came second behind Tokyo in the elemental travel section. The entry says “If you arrive in Rotorua thinking this town sure does like egg sandwiches, you’d be forgiven - but off the mark entirely . . . the land in Rotorua is alive: it rumbles, gurgles, spits and hisses like a prehistoric creature of sorts.”

NZ first for enviro award

Congratulations to Steve and Gillian Osborne at Alpin Motel for leading the way in gaining the country’s first Qualmark enviro rating. It’s doubly good
the couple are pro-active as Steve is the president of the Rotorua branch of the Motel Association of NZ. Proudly 100% New Zealand owned and operated, Alpin is the first motel in New Zealand to receive the new Enviro rating. Offering his congratulations to the couple on their property been awarded the Enviro-Silver logo, Qualmark’s Chief Executive Geoff Penrose said the Osbornes’ business is “a great example of how environmental good practice can be integrated into quality tourism products.” Alpin already held a self-contained and serviced 4 star quality assurance rating from Qualmark. Steve said going through the Qualmark Responsible Tourism Operations criteria confirmed that good business practices can result in actions that are also good for the environment. Geoff added that the tourism industry has responded positively to the initiative so far, with many operators keen to achieve recognition for their sustainable efforts through Qualmark’s new enviro logos. Steve was also recognised by Motel Association of New Zealand in July. He received the Jack Hopkins Memorial Award for his services to motelling at the MANZ AGM and conference held in Napier in July 25/27. Steve reckons it’s mostly for being pro-active in the face of big changes and challenges within the motel industry.

Quest for more

Down the road, the newly opened Quest Rotorua serviced apartments scored a four and half star Qualmark rating (self contained and serviced) earlier this month. New owner Bharat Chandnani says he’s delighted they have joined only a handful of other Rotorua properties who can boast a four and half star rating from Qualmark. Bharat is keen to claim an Enviro ranking but says although they have all the criteria in place, Quest Rotorua need some proven history of good practice under their belt before they can apply. An accommodation provider with 25 years experience behind him, Bharat took over the Quest Rotorua on September 4. With a motel in Auckland (and others in India), Bharat sees the Quest Rotorua as a good strategic move with TransTasman flights in and out of Rotorua now looking likely.

Contenders for best businesses

Best of luck to all the finalists in this year’s Westpac Rotorua Business Excellent Awards, especially those tourism and hospitality businesses being recognised for their good business practices. Agroventures, New Zealand RiverJet, NZONE - The Ultimate Jump Rotorua and McDonalds Family Restaurants are vying for glory in the Hospitality and Attractions category while Lakeland Queen (2006) Ltd and Essence Café are among the four finalists in the Emerging Business category. Winners will be announced at the gala dinner being held in the Energy Events Centre on November 7.

Would like beer with that?

Rotorua brewing company Croucher Brewing came out on top in the sixth annual Great Down Under Wine Challenge in Tauranga on August 28. The formal dinner wine challenge is a competitive event showcasing the best of food and wine tourism on the premier touring routes of Australia and New Zealand. It is based on a five-course degustation-style dinner. Each course is served with two ‘blind’ wines to match the food. This was the first time beer had been introduced, and Croucher Brewing won for its pale ale, matched with the chocolate fondant with rum and raisin gelato dessert. It was up against Flying Horse Brewery in Melbourne, which put forward its mahogany porter. Co-owner of Croucher Brewing Paul Croucher said “Some might think that Croucher Brewing was at a disadvantage, because porter is traditionally a good match for chocolate, but our pale ale has intense fruity flavours and aromas which complemented the dessert.” The Great Down Under Tour is a marketing alliance between Victoria’s Great Southern Touring Route and the North Island’s Great New Zealand Touring Route (GNZTR). It seeks to focus attention on these regions and the wealth of product each has on offer. The Great Down Under Wine Challenge has been running for five years and is exclusively for media, winemakers and travel trade.

NZ voted No1 again

New Zealand has been voted the number one destination by travellers in the UK. The Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Travel Awards 2008 (UK) showed New Zealand was the favourite country in the world amongst its readers.
This is the fifth year in a row that New Zealand has been ranked in the top five favourite countries by the publication’s readers. Tourism Minister Damien O’Connor said the win shows that the New Zealand tourism industry is delivering a high-quality experience to visitors. “New Zealand tourism operators should be justifiably proud. These awards recognise how satisfied our visitors are with the experiences they have here. New Zealand, with a total satisfaction score of 95.11 percent, was also listed third overall in the ‘Top 100’ section of the awards which includes cities, airports, hotels, cruise lines and other sectors within the tourism industry. Auckland Airport (sixth favourite airport worldwide), Air New Zealand (sixth favourite airline worldwide) and Huka Lodge (eighth favourite leisure hotel - Australasia and South Pacific) also featured in the awards. Condé Nast Traveler is a glossy lifestyle publication with an emphasis on luxury travel. It has a circulation of 85,000, with more than 90% of its readers holidaying three or more times a year.

Still beautiful

Rotorua has been voted as one of New Zealand’s top three most beautiful cities (population over 20,000) in the annual Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards announced in Dunedin on September 19. In choosing Dunedin as the overall winner, the judges said they were extremely impressed by the standard and presentation of all the finalists. The awards aim to promote New Zealand’s best towns and cities. Like the other towns and cities in the competition, Rotorua was judged on the number of volunteers involved in the Keep New Rotorua Beautiful (KRB) organisation as well as the number of community beautification projects the KRB committee runs. Rotorua has won the Most Beautiful City award four times in the past; 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2006.

Wai Ora raises the bar

It’s a hotel, luxury retreat and spa resort rolled into one – and the result is just gorgeous. We are talking about Tatou International’s Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort that opened earlier this month. From the beautifully detailed cultural touches and the use of luxurious fabrics in tranquil colours to the 'best of the best' spa facilities and the sympathetic use of the surrounding land, Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort is a fantastic new addition to Rotorua and one that adds integrity to Rotorua’s ‘spa city’ claim. A range of natural therapies and treatments are on offer on the eight state-of-the art treatment rooms. All treatments, using Wai Ora spa products of course, are available to in-house guests as well as day spa guests (who have access to a dedicated courtesy shuttle) from 11am to 11pm daily. The 4-star plus accommodation offers 20 superior rooms as well as 10 junior suites. Staying at Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort is an all inclusive package not only are there luxury add-ons like slippers, bathrobes, spa and sauna access and high-speed wireless internet but delightful little touches like a welcome bowl of (seasonal) fruit, nightly turn downs and hot water bottles. In Holden’s Bay, on the shores of Lake Rotorua, the destination spa resort also features the stylish 60-seat Mokoia Restaurant specialising in seafood, spa cuisine and indigenous foods and flavours and an English-style bar named Manary in recognition of the resort’s past life as Manary Lodge.

More development for Skyline

Skyline’s new double chairlift and scenic luge track extension opened this past weekend. The $3m project included the erection of an additional double Doppelmayr chairlift (crossing above the existing tracks) extends from chairbase to the old helipad. It will increase luge capacity to more than 2000 rides per hour. Three new track extensions will feed from the new chair and link up to the existing scenic, intermediate and advanced tracks. The accompanying photograph is testament to the hard work and long hours that have been put in by Skyline contractors, subbies and staff to get the new facilities open for the school holidays.

Selling the sizzle

Charles Royal has a plan: to get the humble snag onto the breakfast plates of overseas visitors who comes to New Zealand. The well known chef and owner of Kinaki Wild Herbs has teamed up with Dunninghams and Rotorua’s Traditional Smallgoods to develop and launch a range of New Zealand made gourmet sausages that feature indigenous herbs. Twelve months in the development, the range includes pork and pikopiko, beef and horopito, lamb and kawakawa and venison and piripiri. Expected to be available commercially in November, the new range was taste-tested at an official launch at Te Puia last Monday. Charles reckons the ideal would be for his new herb range to become as familiar to New Zealanders as European-style sausages like bratwurst, chorizo and kransky.

Tea for two

Great to hear of the plans for expansion at Gooding, a retail and manufacturing outlet in Fenton Street. The adjacent building has been leased and a hole is being knocked through the wall to give access to the additional space. Owner Robert Gooding says Stage I is an expanded retail and manufacturing area. The expanded product range, including men’s and women’s accessories, shoes, their own fashion lines and a huge range of NZ made merino, is expected to come on stream by Labour Weekend. Stage II, Tea @ Gooding, is an upmarket teashop serving beautifully presented dainties – things like small, perfectly formed club sandwiches, tiny cup cakes and sweet treats served with quality loose tea and coffee. Robert believes that presentation is all important so his customers can also expect to be served high quality food along with good china, cloth napkins and tablecloths. The range of mainly NZ and locally made products used in the teashop, including cheeses and breads, will also be available for purchase through the shop. Initially open until 5pm six days a week, the teashop is expected to be operational by Christmas. Robert says when demand for longer opening hours is there (possibly due to TransTasman flights at the airport) the teashop and the retail area will both stay open. He also hopes to get an on-license to enable guests to enjoy a glass of wine with their food.     

Helen at helm

The newly opened Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort is being managed by Helen Beckett. With Maori in Tourism Rotorua as their Support Services Manager for the past two years, Helen spent the previous five years with Scenic Circle Hotel properties in Rotorua, Christchurch and New Plymouth moving through the ranks to a GM role. Born and bred in Rotorua, Helen also brings a strong background in office administration and HR to her new GM role that she took up on September 25. She says it’s a great opportunity to be involved with such a forward-thinking company that have placed so much emphasis on attention to detail throughout the total make-over of the property.

No blarney, they’re off

After realising his dream to build and operate a specialist lake-edge fishing lodge, one of New Zealand’s top fly fishermen is leaving Rotorua. Pat and Helen O’Keefe of Blarney Lodge have sold their well known Lake Rerewhaakaitu property and take their leave on October 7. The lodge has been purchased by a local farming couple as a private residence. The O’Keefe’s have no fixed plans other than to return to their roots in the south at some stage.

Expanded role

Congratulations to Melissa Mills who officially became Agroventures’ General Manager of Sales and Marketing on September 1. The newly created position brings a much stronger operational aspect to the current sales and marketing responsibilities of the role that Melissa took up two years ago.

Irishman for Peppers

Internationally-trained Brendan Davis is the new Executive at Chef Peppers on the Point. A proponent of French classical cuisine drawing on world-wide experiences, the Irish-born chef aims to further enhance the luxury lodge’s superb culinary standards through his passion for fresh local seasonal ingredients. Brendan has worked at a number of leading hotel chains, casinos and restaurants as well as the Antarctic base station before his travels first brought him New Zealand where he met his future wife. The couple have returned to New Zealand after seven years in Ireland.

Are we pure at heart?

Is New Zealand really clean and green? And do we care enough about protecting our environment? These appear to be the questions in the minds of our international visitors. Research released by TNZ earlier this month shows that international visitors think the biggest problems with New Zealand’s natural environment are litter - and lack of recycling facilities.
TNZ’s CEO George Hickton says the continued success of the country’s tourism industry relies heavily on maintaining our clean and green image. The latest Visitor Experience Monitor results show that meeting visitor expectations can be as simple as providing recycling facilities and being rigorous about picking up litter. George says “These are issues we (the tourist industry and the public) can all tackle and help make a real difference. We know that our international visitors are becoming more environmentally aware and that the 100% Pure brand means they come here with a set of expectations about the way we are managing our environment.”  

Upward trend in spending

The international visitor spend increased to $6.2 billion in the year to June 2008, according to data released by the Ministry of Tourism earlier this month. Bruce Bassett, Ministry of Tourism Research Manager said that “Overall, this (4.7% growth) is a pleasing result for the industry during a period of relatively slow growth in arrival numbers.”
Spending levels by key markets increased for Australian (up 16.5% to $1.7b), UK (up 13.7% to $1b), Japanese (up 10.6% to $426m), Korean (up 6.5% to $256m) and Singaporean visitors (up 6.4% to $62m). Bruce said is it encouraging to see UK spending levels exceeding one billion dollars particularly as the UK has always been a valuable market for New Zealand. Decreases in spend were recorded by US (down 11.5% to $618m), Chinese (down 1.7% to $261m), Taiwanese (down 19.4% to $58m), German (down 8.6% to $240m) and Canadian visitors (down 3.5% to $114m).
For further information go to

Aloha from Hawaii

Did you see Andrew Te Whaiti’s column in the latest issue of Inside Tourism? The former Chief Executive at Te Puia is now Managing Director of The Department of Discovery, Hawaii is busy embracing what he calls “Ancient Ways New  Discoveries” – a new way of considering and presenting cultural tourism.

Law score for Hales

Former Domestic and Events Co-ordinator Hayley McVicar is settling down and enjoying the good life in the Middle East. Hayley shifted to Dubai in late July and she has joined the biggest law firm in the Middle East, Al Tamimi and Company. Part of a marketing team of five, Hayley’s publications and communications role includes looking after their monthly in-house magazine, Law Update, as well as advertising and PR. They even have an in-house graphic designer. Interesting they have five people to market one company while DRTM have 10 to market an entire city.

Baby Blake on way

Former Media Advisor for DRTM, Hannah Stone (now Blake) is on her way to becoming a Mum. Now resident in Sydney, Hannah and Dan’s first child is due in January 17. Hope all goes well.

Whaka 100 MTB Ultra Marathon
25, 50 and 100km MTB races
Long Mile Road, Whakarewarewa Forest
October 4

Rotorua Ekiden Relay
Traditional Japanese running relay
Village Green, Rotorua Lakefront
October 11

Indo Pacific Trampoline Championships
Watch the best Indo-Pacific gymnasts
Energy Events Centre
October 12-19

Xterra Trail Run #3
Off road running series with 10km, half and full marathon options
The Redwoods, Long Mile Road
October 19

Home and Garden Show
Trends, innovative ideas and knowledgeable experts,
Energy Events Centre,
October 31-November 2

For more information on these and other events, go to

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Jill Marshall
Communications Manager
Destination Rotorua Marketing
Private Bag 3007, Rotorua
Phone +64 7 349 7285
Fax +64 7 349 4133