Sustainability is key to a thriving industry

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Tourism is no different from any other sector experiencing significant growth. Each sector has business cycles and we are at the top right now. However, with such exponential growth, it is also the perfect time to look at ensuring the sector grows in a sustainable manner.

“Sustainability” is now a mainstream buzzword that has been talked about for the past 20 years or more, especially in corporate New Zealand. Quadruple bottom-line reporting and initiatives such as carbon zero, energy efficiency, water conservation and recycling and reusing are familiar tactics to the sustainability journey. However, the new language of sustainability includes the living wage, host communities and a social licence to operate.

First up, I wanted to debunk the myths around the term “sustainability”. It can mean different things to so many people. I think the better term to use is anchored in the traditional concept of “kaitiakitanga” which is around guardianship of our land, water, air, people, culture and communities for future generations. This means we can put our own unique New Zealand identity and needs into the conversation.

With kaitiakitanga as a key value, each one of us has a part to play to ensure the well-being of our businesses, sectors, economy, environment, people and communities. Within our sector, we have worked hard to establish the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment with Tourism Industry Aotearoa, which is a values-based journey over the coming years.

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism have now signed up to this commitment. It’s not compulsory and is free to join. It is also not limited to tourism operators, with accommodation providers, transport operators, retailers, hospitality providers and event venues also joining us on the journey.

Under the commitment, there are four areas of focus and 14 goals:

ECONOMIC
1. Sustainable Businesses: Focused on long-term financial performance.

2. Capital Investment: Businesses invest capital to grow and/or improve quality and productivity.

3. Productivity: Businesses innovate and have effective strategies to mitigate the effects of seasonality.

VISITOR
4. Visitor Satisfaction: Businesses undertake customer satisfaction monitoring, evaluation and reporting.

5. Product and Market Development: Businesses innovate to improve or upgrade their offering to enhance visitor experience.

6. Visitor Engagement: Businesses educate visitors about New Zealand’s cultural and behavioural expectations.

HOST COMMUNITY
7. Sustainable Employment: Businesses pay a fair wage to all staff.

8. Quality Employment: Businesses support their workforce to flourish and succeed.

9. Community Engagement: Businesses actively engage with the communities in which they operate.

10. Sustainable Supply Chains: Businesses have socially and environmentally sustainable supply chains.

ENVIRONMENTAL
11. Ecological Restoration: Businesses contribute to ecological restoration initiatives.

12. Carbon Reduction: Businesses have carbon reduction programmes towards carbon neutrality.

13. Waste Management: Businesses have waste reduction and management programmes.

14. Education: Businesses actively engage with their visitors and communities on the importance of restoring, protecting and enhancing New Zealand’s natural environment.

These 14-goals are a holistic approach to operating a successful and sustainable business in any sector. Some of our operators are also taking this further, adding additional goals such as embracing tikanga and te reo Māori into their everyday business activities.

Our overall goal is to have all Waikato tourism operators signed up to the Sustainability Commitment by 2020. We are also keen to bring others with us across the Waikato region, so feel free to find out more, read the case studies and download “how to” checklists at: www.sustainabletourism.nz

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism is the regional tourism organisation charged with increasing international and domestic leisure and business travellers, expenditure and stay. The organisation is funded through a public/private partnership and covers the heartland Waikato areas of Hamilton City, Matamata-Piako, Otorohanga, South Waikato, Waipa, South Waikato and Waitomo Districts. Find out more: www.hamiltonwaikato.com

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About Author

Jason Dawson

Chief Executive, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism