As a secondary school teacher, Hinewai Hawaikirangi knows the importance of doing her homework. So when she and partner Cameron read the strict Qualmark criteria for becoming a sustainable tourism business, they knew exactly what they had to do – and much of it was just formalising what they had been doing in for much of their life.
Now, less than six months after establishing their eco cultural business, Napier Māori Tours, the couple have been awarded a Gold Sustainable Tourism Business Award, an achievement reached by fewer than 15 per cent of Qualmark businesses. Their tourism business assessor, Paul Chaplow says the achievement is an amazing result given the business is barely off the ground.
Napier Māori Tours offers a choice of three cultural experiences within easy distance of Napier City. For Hinewai and Cameron, the business is an opportunity for them to share their Māori values, way of life, and care for the environment.
Hinewai has a background as a science, Māori language and physical education secondary school teacher. Educating visitors about local Māori history is her passion. Cameron has a background in science, working to protect the environment as an environmental scientist.
Hinewai says: “We have always hosted friends and family, been involved in our Māori community and environmental projects and all of this has led us to this point. One day we sat down and decided to take the work that we do in a voluntary capacity and establish a business that could contribute to our family income. That meant taking what we know and are passionate about and applying the systems and processes to make it a business."
“We already set high expectations of ourselves and Qualmark makes you accountable and responsible and challenges you to continue to keep improving. We looked on the Qualmark website at the four key areas to focus on and started from there. It prompted us to get our plans down on paper and to build systems that could be assessed and audited."Hinewai Hawaikirangi
“We think that what Qualmark is doing is fantastic. The environmental criteria, in particular, are really important to us. This fits with our key philosophy about sustainability and not taking more than you give. It should be the norm for all tourism businesses.”
Some of the plans they were commended for in their Qualmark assessment involve working with their local community and developing partnerships. This includes enlisting the help of a student from the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) to help develop a social marketing strategy; running a famil for local businesses in the region, writing a river management plan for the hapu and leading a planting programme along local waterways. They are also ploughing back profits from the business into their local marae and planting programme and connecting with their local council, DOC, NZ Maori Tourism and their local regional tourism organisation.
When it came time for their Qualmark assessment, they weren’t daunted in any way. “We knew we were going into it well prepared. W e are sticklers for organisation and we knew we had the processes and systems in place and we could demonstrate that what we are doing is evidence based."
“Our assessor made it easy for us to arrange a time and place that worked for us and he really added value. Having been a tourism operator himself, he had insights and tips about advertising and marketing, about making payments and the various widgets and tools we could use. The assessment identified the areas where we need to do some work, which is fine. We want to be in the top 5 per cent of businesses so we will keep refining what we do so we can offer the best tours possible, re-evaluating and changing things slightly to make a better experience."
“The whole focus of the business is providing a cultural experience, with a high level of manaakitanga. We fully support Qualmark. For us it’s about helping to shape the world for our kids and grandkids,” says Hinewai.