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‘Doubling down’ on Hikurangi experience

Being a Maori-owned tourism business sets Maunga Hikurangi Experience apart, says Ngati Porou Holding Company programme manager Brett Johnston.

As a Maori-owned and operated tourism business, more aspects of Maoritanga can be incorporated into the experiences, he says.

“The people who have come on tours up the maunga absolutely love it.

“I've noticed that some tourists are blown away by the small things. Of course, they love to see the sunrise and be the first person in the world to see the start of the day, but a lot of the time they comment on animals living in the area, the people working on the Pakihiroa farm, and even the trip up the maunga on the UTV.”

Mr Johnston said tourists enjoy interacting with Maori being themselves, doing what they do on their whenua.

“Maori typically tend to be fantastic storytellers, whether they realise it or not. Maori businesses being themselves really pull tourists in and make tourists engage with them.

“We want to feed people and share the story about their food and where it came from, what local producers there are, and often they are pleasantly surprised to learn the meal came from the same area they are visiting.

“It's a multifaceted story we bring to the table — we don't appreciate the depth that there is to our stories half of the time, but when we share the story they are blown away.”

Coming out of Covid-19 lockdown, Maunga Hikurangi Experience has realigned its delivery.

“Traditionally we would look at the international market, but the domestic market is just as strong. We have a big push at bringing Natis back to their maunga.

“There are a lot of Natis who live in places where they don't get a chance to come back to their maunga and experience it. So we are trying to get Natis to reconnect with their land.

“We recognise that accommodation will be key in helping to grow the tourism industry on the Coast. At the moment we're working through what that might look like — it could be tapping in to Air BnB or building cabins somewhere near the maunga. We just really need to get more accommodation up along the Coast so that we can help unlock the tourism potential of the region.

“We have been taking people up Hikurangi since 2000, but after 18 years of doing it we decided to double down and put more resources and structure into it.”

In 2018 they launched the Maunga Hikurangi Experience.

“People who come up the maunga only see the tip of the experience but there is quite a bit of depth to it all. We took the time to put in place the booking systems, marketing, online tools, and from this hard work we managed to get a gold Qualmark certification.”

Qualmark is an independent validation that proves a business is a quality tourism experience. It is recognised by the tourism industry that they deliver a quality experience.

“It has been a huge journey for us, from where we started to where we are now.

“Learning how the tourism industry worked was all new to me,” Mr Johnston said.

Trust Tairawhiti and in particular its tourism team was very helpful and gave Ngati Porou Holding Company and Maunga Hikurangi Experience knowledge about how the tourism industry works.

“Whenever we needed to talk to someone we could call Adam Hughes and the team, and they would come and share knowledge with us.”

FIRST IN THE WORLD: While taking a couple up Hikurangi, Tour Guide Monty Manuel took this photo of the sunrise with Wharekia peak in the distance. Picture by Monty Manuel