First cohort of visitor economy businesses complete new sustainability programme

Fifteen leading tourism and hospitality businesses from Waiheke Island and Aotea Great Barrier Island are celebrating their completion of the Taurikura Initiative, a capability building programme designed to support visitor economy businesses to accelerate their sustainability journey.

The Taurikura Initiative is a free, 12-week course for visitor economy businesses across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland wanting to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to lead the charge in their sustainability approach and create positive change. It offers personalised one-on-one support, collaborative workshops, community building and assistance in the creation of sustainability action plans.

The programme is being delivered by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, the region’s economic and cultural agency, in partnership with Tourism Industry Aotearoa, which represents all sectors of the industry in Aotearoa to enable the best tourism experiences possible. Funding for the programme was allocated through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Tourism Communities: Support Recovery and Re-Set Plan.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited’s Head of Visitor Economy Annie Dundas says, “Like all sectors, the visitor economy must consider the impacts it has on the environment, local communities and natural resources. In addition, visitor expectations are changing with growing demand for environmentally sustainable and community-focused tourism options. We also know that employees are attracted to working for businesses whose values align with theirs. It’s clear that every visitor economy operator has a crucial role to play in creating an authentically sustainable industry in both Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa.”

“To reduce the visitor economy's carbon footprint, mitigate the effects of climate change and meet evolving visitor demands, businesses need practical tools to drive change. The Taurikura Initiative provides a framework to create positive change for the environment, communities, industry and individual businesses through problem solving, planned action and strategic decision-making. This programme is so important for the recovery and the long-term viability of our visitor economy sector,” says Annie Dundas.

The Taurikura Initiative is built on the Tourism Industry Aotearoa Tourism Sustainability Commitment to look holistically at sustainability. Tourism Industry Aotearoa has successfully run similar programmes across Aotearoa since 2021.

Rebecca Ingram, CEO of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, says assisting businesses to move to a better future state is one of the organisation’s most satisfying roles.

“We are thrilled with the progress of operators in this first cohort. Not only have they made substantial changes in their own business, but they are taking the lead on sustainability initiatives in their own communities. This is where we see real change for the environment and in our society,” says Rebecca Ingram.

The definition of the te reo word Taurikura is ‘thriving, prosperous and at peace’.

“This evokes the type of approach we are taking with the programme – to be ever evolving and to find balance between the environment and the visitor economy, where all elements thrive and prosper. It creates an aspiration for the programme as well as being a name,” says Annie Dundas.

Waiheke Island and Aotea Great Barrier Island businesses began the 12-week programme in late March and completed it on 12 June. The next cohort begins on 1 August and runs through to 23 October with operators from Rodney and central city.

Feedback from participants is very positive. After completing the programme, Waiheke Island’s Ananda Tours, which offers premium food and wine experiences, achieved Qualmark Gold, having been Silver for several years.

“Although I felt strongly about the need to drive a more sustainable business, I struggled with dedicating the time to really focus on making changes and finding out where to start. The programme was helpful as it showed some simple steps and small changes we could make to minimise our impact straight away, while making a start on bigger goals to work towards in the future,” says owner Brooke Robinson.

Since taking part in the initiative, tourism operators on Aotea Great Barrier Island have begun working on a plan to phase out single use cups, which will reduce a significant amount of waste that needs to be taken off the island. They are now working with hospitality outlets on a suitable alternative to single use cups, a movement which has been successfully implemented in Wanaka.

The Taurikura Initiative follows the release of two key strategies by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited – the Destination AKL 2025 strategy, which provides a unifying vision for Auckland’s visitor economy, and the Destination AKL Recovery Plan, which presents a unified response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both put sustainability front and centre, identifying the need for baseline data around emissions and sustainability.

“Destination AKL 2025 articulates the need for destination management and the importance of planning to manage the impact of Auckland’s visitor economy. To this end, we are working with local boards and the visitor economy to develop localised destination management plans for sub-regions across Tāmaki Makaurau,” says Annie Dundas.

A celebration to mark the first cohort’s completion of the Taurikura Initiative was held on 1 August.