Rural tour operator Kaikōura finalist in the New Zealand Tourism Awards

Will and Rose Parsons, directors and tour guides of Driftwood Eco Tours, offer in-depth rural experiences to a small group from November through May.

PROVIDED

Will and Rose Parsons, directors and tour guides of Driftwood Eco Tours, offer in-depth rural experiences to a small group from November through May.

A Kaikōura ecotourism operator offering in-depth rural experiences is a finalist for New Zealand Tourism Awards.

Driftwood Eco Tourswhich organizes trips to Urville Island, the Chatham Islands and other places of ecological and historical interest around New Zealand, is a finalist in the community engagement category,

Guide and co-director Rose Parsons said rural communities are central to how it operates.

“All of our guides are locals – some are farmers, some are local iwi, some are conservationists or specialists in their field.

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MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said New Zealand’s target market was quality visitors who would spend a little more and stay a little longer.

“We tell our guests, if you visit the Chathams with us, expect to be hosted by Chatham Islanders,” Rose said.

“When we take people to Urville Island for example, which is the largest island in the Marlborough Sounds, we engage with people who live on the island and share their knowledge and history.

“For example, Terry Savage, who has lived on the island for almost 30 years, he has a Maori connection, he collects a lot of artifacts and he gives us in-depth knowledge about argillite, a stone [black stone used by Māori for tools and weapons] found on the island.

“So it’s a very personal interaction with him as a local.”

Urville Island resident Terry Savage talks about Maori artifacts.

Provided

Urville Island resident Terry Savage talks about Maori artifacts.

The couple, who started the business in 2004, also organize a tour of the sprawling St James station.

“Every couple of years they have a wild horse sale,” Will said.

“These horses run free in the Canterbury-Marlborough outback. It’s a very exciting time because they’re quite frisky. They don’t always get all the horses in, they suddenly come off.”

The pair said they were well supported during Covid with a loyal following and are confident about the future.

“It’s still very difficult there for a lot of people, but New Zealand suddenly realized that we had a lot of value in our own country, and they could see it, and now they want to see it in more depth. .

“So tours like ours are very appealing to people because they have more time to spend in a small area, rather than seeing a lot of areas very quickly. That’s our strength,” Will said.

The couple said being a finalist in the New Zealand Tourism Awards was recognition for their team and the caliber of their guides.

“We would like to thank our long-time mentor and friend, Rob Stanley.

“His understanding of developing a small business with few resources and his experience of working with rural communities has been invaluable to the development of our business. We hope he will join us at the awards ceremony.”

The winners will be announced at an awards dinner on November 10 in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, following the Aotearoa Tourism Summit.