In July last year I was supposed to be in London visiting family. It would have been my first time back since 2001 and the first time my kids had been to Europe. Like many thousands of others, our travel plans were shattered in 2020 by COVID-19.
Yes, it was sad; yes, it was disappointing, but when our tourism industry asked us to ‘Do Something New, New Zealand’ to help keep them afloat until our international visitors can return, we decided to answer the call, and I fell in love with our country all over again.
For me, our visit to Northland, Wellington and the top half of the South Island was more like a trip down memory lane but for our teenage children it was a chance to show them there was more to life in New Zealand than the little patch where we live in the Bay of Plenty.
In July we ventured up north to ride horses on the stunning white-sand Pakiri Beach, walk the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway, check out some New Zealand history (and amazing French pastries) in Russell, see the majestic meeting of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea at Cape Reinga and boogie board down the mighty Te Paki Sand Dunes. An additional highlight was driving on to Ninety Mile Beach, one of the few beaches left in New Zealand where you can do this.
In December we flew to Wellington and caught a ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton, picking up a rental car and exploring the Tasman region (including the pristine Abel Tasman National Park) and Kaikoura (snow-capped mountains across the water on a sunny summer’s day) on our way to Christchurch to catch up with friends.
With so many free things to do in our natural environment, I can’t say we spent a lot of money on tourist activities but we did spend money on accommodation and oodles of money eating out!
I know plenty of people who hired a campervan and took a road trip over the past year or visited family and friends in other parts of the country they hadn’t seen in ages.
Was it simply because we had itchy feet and wanted to explore after having our freedom briefly taken away last year? Was it because we wanted to help our fellow Kiwis – those businesspeople who suffered a huge loss of income while others were unaffected? Or was it a highly effective marketing campaign? Probably all of the above.
Tourism New Zealand figures show that more than half a million Kiwis were outside their home region in the July 2020 school holidays, and 1816 extra New Zealanders visited Kaikoura – a 56.2 per cent increase on the previous year and the largest increase across all regions. Even more Kiwis ventured out across the country in the September 2020 school holidays.
The good news is the Do Something New, New Zealand campaign is one that keeps on giving with marketing starting again from 19 April-6 June and a winter version of the campaign planned for 7 June-18 July.
Of course, now that the travel bubble has opened with Australia, you’ll have to share all New Zealand has to offer with our mates across the ditch, but don’t let that stop you Doing Something New, New Zealand!
Feature photo by Kyle Mulinder.