Generally speaking, when travellers plan a trip to New Zealand they probably have two things in mind: Hobbits and mountains.
We got a rude shock when we found out there were no real Hobbits frolicking through the hills of Matamata, but maybe that says more about us than the destination…
While attending Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) MEETINGS trade show last week, we had the pleasure of chatting with Karl Wixon, who is the ‘Kaiārahi Māori’ for New Zealand Story.
New Zealand Story is a government-funded program focusing on how the New Zealand tourism industry shares the story of their country with the rest of the world.
Wixon told us they’re trying to move people’s perception beyond Hobbits and big mountains.
“My role within New Zealand Story is actually bringing to the surface the Maori side of things and how that becomes part of our national identity and culture and the way we engage and connect,” Wixon told us.
“It’s not just something we show, its also about how we act, how we greet, how we do all of these things.”
“It’s about moving beyond, not leaving behind, the Haka, Hongi, Hangi and Pukana.”
“I say that not to belittle these things, these are powerful things but they become the default setting and the default image of Maori which is a very narrow point of view of the culture and all its shades of brown.”
The challenge now is to think about Maori culture and how its integrated into events.
“In Māori culture, we call it dial-a-haka, or book-ending. We open and close an event with a Māori touch, but there’s nothing in the middle. Or paint it brown, which is, oh we’ve developed this thing and we want a Maori image. Dare I use the word tokenistic? So this is about moving on.”
According to Wixon, contemporary Māori tourism operators often simply reflect the values and traditions of their culture.
And event planners from all walks of life could learn a thing or two from them.
Wixon told us Māori valued behaviours are injected into the very fabric of how contemporary New Zealanders hold events.
These behaviours are separated into three groups:
Whanaungatanga – Developing relationships based on shared connections.
Manaakitanga – Treating others with care, respect, dignity and reciprocity, so they may speak well of you.
Kaitiakitanga – The host’s duty of care for people and place reflected in all they do.
New Zealand Story is working alongside Tourism New Zealand to switch the narrative of how the country is portrayed to the world.
It’s now less about place and more about people.
“I think earlier it would be fair to say New Zealand Story probably saw the job as selling New Zealand. Now it’s about selling New Zealanders,” said Wixon.
“It’s about bringing to life the way others view us; the third party perspective. It’s not about standing out and proclaiming our virtues, it’s about seeing how others see value in us in New Zealand.”