Are We Silent About The Things That Matter?

100% Pure, one of the most successful tourism marketing campaigns ever.

Yes, the New Zealand tourism industry has basked in the glow of this campaign and reaped the benefits. But a question we must ask ourselves, how much are we doing, that is, what the tourism industry is doing, to ensure 100% Pure is more of a reality?

From my observations, we are not doing enough.

Why We Are Not Doing Enough

Tourism in New Zealand is an industry that relies on the consumption of immense quantities of fossil fuels to both get our customers to New Zealand, and then to transport them around the country. It is an industry that also relies heavily on beautiful unspoilt scenery, pristine lakes and rivers, and friendly faces behind counters, driving coaches, guiding rafts, preparing food and much more. These are the golden eggs that support tourism and make it New Zealand’s largest industry.

Tourism is also an industry that does not like to rock the boat too much.

But We Have Made A Start

On a positive note, there are a number of ongoing initiatives, like the Tourism Industry Association’s Tourism Sustainability Commitment, and the work being done by many companies both large and small. These range from carbon offset tree planting by Air New Zealand, to Pest Management programs being monitored by a number of smaller operators and many other individual onsite programs in areas such as waste minimisation.

However We Don’t Like To Rock The Boat Too Much

We don’t talk about the effects climate change will have on our industry and how our industry directly contributes to climate change. We say little and seldom take a stand over the continued degradation of our fresh water, caused in most part by intensive industrial scale agriculture. We contribute little to any discussions around the health and vitality of the many small communities that the industry relies on. These communities in many cases are in trouble with shrinking and aging populations, and a lack of anything other than seasonal employment prospects for those who remain.

Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

We as an industry we are silent on too many things that matter. We may not kill the golden goose ourselves, but we are certainly standing aside while it is prepared for slaughter.

At the 2017 Tourism Summit held in Wellington, one of the speakers was futurist Chris Riddel. After his presentation about how technology was going to change everything, I came away thinking, “What a load of cow manure”. Not once in his presentation was mentioned the disruptive effects climate change will have. Nor were clean waterways mentioned, nor the effect 9 billion people will have on the planet,  nor the fact that we are already using what the earth naturally replenishes 60% faster than the annual replenishment rate. Also not mentioned was increasing social tensions around the rich getting richer and the rest getting a smaller and smaller share.

The Things That Matter Were Ignored

As an industry we could also ignore these things that matter, or alternatively we could collectively speak louder, however, like all things, addressing what matters starts at home. It starts with looking at our own operations and asking ourselves, are we regenerating our landscape, or are we degenerating or allowing others to degenerate that landscape? Are we positively supporting our local community, or if it is in decline are we a part of the problem?

For each business the answers will be different, and what they can do about local issues will vary.

So yes it does matter for a Tourism Company to Care About Landscape, Rivers and Community. About the things that matter.

We can so be an industry that brings positive change.

Let’s get on with it.


Brian Megaw

"Clean water, a dramatic and beautiful landscape. Things that matter."