With so many talented contenders in what is a diverse and enterprising industry, it was tough to choose just one person of the year.
An honourable mention has to go to Haka Tourism Group‘s Ryan Sanders. The tourism tour de force capped off this year by adding the first hotel to an impressive business that already spans adventure tourism, education and accommodation. We watch with interest to see what unfolds over the next 10 years at his fast-growing business, which is driven by cutting-edge digital marketing and brand positioning.
The Antipodean Explorer’s Amanda Johnston also earns a mention for her vision and ambition at the heart of plans to launch a luxury, length-of-NZ train service. The industry outsider is bringing forward a project that unlocks huge potential for the domestic industry – promising stops at 75 locations nationally – and also warrants attention on the international stage. She will be very hard to beat to our title in 2019 when the first train starts rolling.
But one individual stands out in 2017 as having led a team, a business, a community, a whanua, through a uniquely challenging 12 months.
Guiding Kaikōura’s iconic tourism business through a disaster that threatened its future, and the future of the tourism town, not to mention affected every employee and member of the community, was something this person did without question.
He demonstrated resilience – the byword of Kaikōura’s recovery from last November’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake – while spearheading a business determined not to let any employees go despite an uncertain, although certainly bleak, operational outlook.
While dealing with this devastation in his own backyard, his participation in the broader tourism industry also stepped up a gear this year.
He is the only working operator on the new Tourism Infrastructure Fund (TIF) panel, which he sees as an opportunity not to just address infrastructure challenges but also bring about regional economic development.
Following this appointment, he was co-opted on to the board of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, to help steer the direction of New Zealand’s biggest export sector.
And his company continued to win attention on the international stage. This year it collected a Maritime & Shipping Most Sustainable Eco-Tourism award and the Australasian Responsible Tourism Award at the World Tourism Awards.
Tourism Ticker’s inaugural Person of the Year is Whale Watch Kaikōura’s general manager, Kauahi Ngapora.
He told the Ticker the recognition was “a surprise and very humbling”.
“I’m fortunate to have an amazing team, other hardworking leaders within the Kaikōura community and a supportive industry around me,” he said.
“It has been a challenging year, and we still have a way to go but we can all look positively towards 2018 and beyond.”
Congratulations Kauahi – may 2018 be a less arduous year for you and your whanau but even if it isn’t, we know you’ll meet the challenge.
To all of our readers, thank you for your support. We hope we’ve been able to add some value to your day. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We’ll be back in 2018.