More than Navel Gazing

80% – 90% of our customers at River Valley, before Covid-19 were from overseas. That is a significant statistic when you are planning on how to survive with the current closure of borders. Added to this is the question of no one knowing when they are likely to reopen.

In answer to this predicament, we have watched other companies similar to ourselves make a variety of decisions.

A handful have closed for good.

Not that many I think at this stage, but that could increase. Deciding to close is the “brush” tourism off your hands’ approach and move on to something else. It has much to recommend it.

Some have chosen to hibernate, with reopening dates 18 months or more in the future.

Hibernating is the hiding in the closet approach, hoping that all the scary stuff “out there” will have gone and everything will be back to exactly the way it was before you peep outside again. Sometimes hiding in the closet could be a good idea if there is a big bad COVID bogeyman wandering around outside.

Some have chosen to continue operating at a reduced scale but have not made any strategic changes in how they operate or what they offer.

This is the fingers crossed and hope approach. This is a very popular approach and is often associated with massive discounting to try and get someone, anyone in fact, through the door. After all, fewer customers each spending less has to be a winner, doesn’t it?

Another group are those who have or are presently indulging in, some form of navel-gazing.

This navel-gazing is centred around the meaning of life, well life as far as a tourism business is concerned. Without some changes emanating from this extended gazing, then little more than frustration or a few warm fuzzies is likely to come from it.

Finally, some are using this period to have a good hard look at what they offer, what is important to them, and their customers, and deciding what they need to change.

These changes could be major or minor, and may involve dramatic changes in direction.

At River Valley, we have decided to take the last mentioned approach. That is having a real hard look at ourselves to make the changes required both for our satisfaction and to better meet the needs of our future customers.

However, this process could very quickly devolve into some serious navel-gazing if no actions are put into place.

So what are we changing at River Valley?

Somewhat surprisingly, we are changing very little in the sense of what we offer. We will continue to provide exceptional experiences both on the river and by horseback. The Lodge will still be a fun and welcoming place to stay, and if anything, the food will be even better.

The changes we are putting in place are more subtle. We have taken on board the concept that River Valley needs to be more of a destination, rather than just an adventure lodge with some cool things to do. We are scoping and putting in place several short walks. These will offer great views and in themselves be a reason to stay an extra day.

School holidays are a great time to scope out some new walks with the kids

Mt Aorangi is the flat top mountain, directly across the river from the lodge

We will, in conjunction with the Maori owners of the land across the river from the Lodge, be able to offer accommodation at the Lodge for hunters. While we have enjoyed a very positive relationship with the Aorangi Awarua Trust for years, this is a new development.

As mentioned above, we will be making more of our food offerings. The base for these meals will come from our onsite organic vegetable gardens. Extending the number of garden beds under cultivation is presently being carried out. The result of this for the diner will be an even better paddock to plate meal experience.

The lodge vegetable garden is currently being extended

Finally, and this is a little more philosophical, we are finding ways in which we can be a more regenerative company, as identified in our Holistic Purpose.

“Our purpose is to be a regenerative business that benefits the land, nature, family and staff, our local community, and our customers.”

That is quite an ideal to remodel on. Periodically we will be releasing more details of how this remodel is working out, or better yet, come and stay and experience it yourself.

Brian Megaw

The kids checking out the amazing views on one of our new walks

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