NorthChamber IA5 Tourism and Hospitality sector event – Overview of Speaker presentations

Overview of Speaker presentations
IA5 Tourism & Hospitality sector- Wed 8th July 2020


Facilitator Rebecca Varley, Sales Manager, NorthChamber. 

AIM to create a wider understanding of the collective industry and foster a more collaborative approach.


  • Hon Shane Jones NZ First Minister for Regional Economic Development,
  • Tania Burt, General Manager Destination Northland, Northland Inc
  • Greg McManus, Chief Executive Officer, Waitangi Trust
  • Jeroen Jongejans, Owner operator, Dive Tutukaka
  • Stephanie Mitchell, Squadron Leader, You Travel Whangarei
  • Chris Galbraith, General Manager, Far North Holdings
  • Riki Kinnaird, The Duke, Duke of Marlborough, Russell

Hon Shane Jones – Minister for Regional Economic Development who pledged his support to developing the region and elaborated on the recent PGF funding announcements with the aim of kick starting our region’s economy. At the end of May, $498 million of PGF funding was approved for Northland projects – 23% of the total funding – “Northland has been forgotten for so long it is well and truly overdue.”

Tania Burt, General Manager Destination at Northland Inc then highlighted the current focus of our Regional Tourism Organisation, the value it provides and the importance of working with Tourism New Zealand and giving Northland tourism a strong voice. Their three key priority areas for the next 12 months will be destination management, industry capability and product development. Tania also gave details on Savour! Northland Feast 2020, the regions first festival post Covid celebrating all things Matariki.

Greg McManus, CE of the Waitangi Trust gave a very insightful presentation on Waitangi’s COVID response, the broader impact on the Arts, Culture and Heritage sectors and the future; Waitangi’s leadership role in the recovery of tourism in Northland. A priority for the business was to look after their staff and community, “a strong Waitangi is a strong Bay of Island.” He has taken this on as a personal challenge and the Treaty grounds was one of the first local businesses to open post COVID. He encouraged locals to return and visit this exceptional place and delighted the crowd with a tale of meeting of visitors from Oamaru who’d been back to visit after a 50-year absence. Finally, he elaborated on an ambitious project being undertaken to have the Waitangi Treaty Grounds named as New Zealand’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Jeroen Jongejans, owner of successful Dive! Tutukaka Jeroen presented some very fascinating statistics about our marine life and the value of preserving our natural resources and the associated increase in tourist revenue for Northland.  Based on modelling from the Great Barrier Reef marine reserve using scale and current statistics – creating our own here in Northland from the Three Kings to the Hauraki Marine Park could potentially generate income of 300 million annually and 3000 jobs. To achieve this we need to celebrate our sub-tropical environment, protect our moana and return it to the state it was in two or three generations ago.

Chris Galbraith, General Manager for Far North Holdings discussed the groups significant recent investment in tourism sector infrastructure. For example, the cruise ship pontoon and tenders, Russell & Paihia wharves, Opua Superyacht and Events Pontoon, Bay of Islands Airport and the marina expansion. The group is busy working with stakeholders in trying to access various funding streams to progress shovel ready projects and believes strong investment role of Far North Holdings is key to the regions status as a preferred destination both domestically and internationally.

Riki Kinnaird, host for the evening and the “Duke” at the Duke of Marlborough was next to give a presentation. He highlighted the impact of Covid to working capital through uncertainty and closure for hospitality throughout Northland. However the team at The Duke had managed during lockdown to take an ongoing issue of seasonality of work and potentially create a positive outcome.  Through collaboration with QRC, MSD, Northland Inc, MBIE & other industry leaders they have developed a pilot program to increase staff retention and upskill staff. Darrell Lambert – Northland Regional Labour Market Manager at MSD – joined Riki on the stage as he shared the story of these powerful partnerships.

Stephanie Mitchell, Squadron Leader and owner of YOU Travel Whangarei revealed some little-known insights into her slice of the tourism sector and the devastating implication of Covid 19 on travel agents in New Zealand.

The advent of Covid saw the business shift rapidly from sending people away on holiday to desperately trying to get them home to New Zealand amid rapidly closing boarders, shifting rules and multiple time zones. Then it became all about repatriating client’s funds. Around $2billion of client funds are paid out annually for overseas travel by agents. At YOU Travel alone Stephanie and her team are working to retrieve. $2.6 Million belonging to clients, it is a complex process, she estimates there is six more months of work to do in this space, with no income.

She began lobbying government on the 3rd March, “we called on government to recognise our business sector and help us through.” Most people, including government think that “Tourism” included travel agents, however Tourism in NZ is recognised as “a business that attracts people to its area”,  travel agents largely do the opposite, they send people far away from their area. So although the effect on tourism was recognised early on by government, travel agents fell through the cracks when it came to eligibility to access the Tourism fund.

Stephanie’s fight to have the sector identified and acknowledged for its differences and contribution has come at great cost. We will be detailing it further next week on the weekly NorthChamber Advocate page.

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