Five Māori tourism experiences from Northland, Tairawhiti, Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty have been recognised in the inaugural Māori tourism Dragons’ Den held in Napier, where new and existing Māori tourism businesses pitched their fresh, innovative ideas in front of the Dragons’ and audience.
The Dragons’ Den attracted 97 applications across four categories, with five groups receiving top honours. The Dragons’ ‘Wow Us’ Award’ was awarded to Whakapaumahara Marae in Northland and its proposed Whananaki eco-kainga visitor experience.
“This idea encapsulated elements of manaakitanga, integrating tribal stories and technology with a range of outdoor and indoor experiences”, said Dan Walker, Deputy Chair of NZ Māori Tourism.
“There was also a strong community aspect supporting the venture. The Dragons believe this venture has very real potential”.
Mr Walker said the interest and high calibre of applications in the Dragons’ Den reinforced the interest and ideas that exist in Māori tourism around the country.
“The initiatives ranged from guided walks, digital Māori tourism experiences, a native garden maze, and Māori kai experiences. Most whilst commercial, included social enterprise aspects into their ideas, ensuring that the whanau, wider community and region benefit from the opportunities that tourism brings.
NZ Māori Tourism Chief Executive Pania Tyson-Nathan was thrilled with the interest in the Dragons’ Den and has confirmed it will take place again next year.
“Te Rua o Ngā Taniwha (Dragon’s Den) is a generator of ideas and passion. It further confirms what we know about the Māori tourism sector; that our people are entrepreneurial, the thinking is fresh, and our sector is awash with fantastic ideas."
Seventy-five percent (75%) of entries were from the North Island, fourteen percent (14%) were South Island entries and eleven (11%) entries related to national initiatives.
• Bring your idea to life (start-up) (40 entries)
• Small business big Māori tourism idea (25 entries)
• Innovate for Success (18 entries)
• China New Zealand Year of Tourism in 2018 award (14 entries)
Three shortlisted finalists for each category were selected through a rigorous judging process by a panel of eight Dragons who have extensive tourism industry and new start-up business experience.
The event was held at the Napier Conference Centre on 7 August where the 12 finalists pitched their ideas to Dragons and audience.
Bring your idea to life winner: The Native Gardens Maze, Tairawhiti (Dion McLeod)
This entry in its simplicity appealed to Dragons and fitted the brief of a new start-up idea that has the potential to be a new tourism attraction in Gisborne. The maze will incorporate native scrubs, trees, plants, flaxes, ferns and hedges and will be planted in the shape of a specific Māori design, i.e. a koru or taniwha. Another element that appealed to Dragons was as people flew into Gisborne they could look out the window and see the native garden maze below, and the educational element for locals, New Zealanders, and international visitors about Aotearoa’s indigenous flora and native birds.
Small Māori tourism business with a big idea winner: Kohutapu Lodge Whirinaki Rainforest Guided experience (Nadine and Karl Toe Toe)
Kohutapu Lodge is an existing Māori owned cultural tour and accommodation business based in the Murapara area. This entry was well-researched with a clear marketing plan that identified an opportunity to grow the business with a guided Whirinaki rainforest walk experience with a focus on tikanga woven with myths, legends, and rongoa as well as korero on native birds. A new concept that will be introduced is ‘forest bathing’ which connects visitors with physical and mental health benefits. This entry also had a strong focus on community engagement and education for tamariki on the role tourism can play with creating jobs and getting tamariki excited about tourism.
Innovate for Success winner: Stay Native indigenous online booking platform (Chanelle and Te Ara Armstrong)
This entry’s idea is to provide visitors with an online booking platform that is owned by Māori and hosted by Māori accommodation, attraction and activity operators. Stay Native will facilitate connections between travellers and hosts. They hope to inspire more participation by Māori in connecting their businesses and experiences for the benefit of hosted businesses and enhancing visitors’ cultural journey throughout Aotearoa. Judges were impressed with the innovative approach and integration of technology Stay Native displayed and their vision to provide a conduit for e-learning and business generation for all hosts.
China New Zealand Year of Tourism 2019 winner: Napier Māori Tours (Hinewai Hawaikirangi & Cameron Ormsby)
Napier Māori Tours is a new business that offers unique and authentic eco-cultural tours that fuse hunter gathering, traditional Māori kai, stories and waiata as mana whenua of Ahuriri. The business plans to target visitors from the growing premium Chinese market who have a strong desire to catch fish, hunt, gather and be engaged with local Māori and learn more about the role that kai has with culture. The experience will also look at visitors planting native trees and learn more about indigenous flora. Food, culture and manaakitanga are an important part of Chinese every day way of life as it is to Māori so there were some good synergies in the entry.
Dragons’ Award ‘Wow Us’ winner: Whakapaumahara Marae, Northland (Pam Armstrong)
The winner of the Inaugural Dragons’ Wow Us Award was Whakapaumahara Marae and their Whananaki eco-kāinga experience. This new cultural tourism experience impressed the Dragons with its alignment of technology, tradition and manaakitanga, as well as its potential to create opportunities for new jobs, growth and development for the people of Ngāti Wai. Whakapaumahara Marae in Whananaki is located 44km north of Whangarei. The proposed venture will integrate new technology tracking the ancient flight path of the Tukaiaia—a sacred ancestral bird of Ngāti Wai—on its journey from China to Aotearoa. The 4-hour coastal walk will incorporate solar powered ‘pou’, audio technology with explanations in the Chinese language, accounts about the celestial and seasonal significance of the lunar calendar and a footbridge that links North and South Whananaki. Visitors will also experience a traditional welcome and hākari by the local hapū, Te Whānau Whero and Ngāti Rehua, who affiliate to the iwi, Ngāti Wai.