In recent years Qualmark has been working consistently with licence holders to improve the sustainability of our industry, environmentally, economically and socially. Stray is one of our licence holders who have led the charge – creating a niche offering in the visitor travel market that engages its customers in its quest for sustainability. Its efforts have earned it a Qualmark Gold Sustainable Tourism Business Award.
While Stray’s core business is guided, hop-on, hop-off adventure travel passes around New Zealand, it also operates ‘Stray Journeys’ a popular small group touring business. What sets it apart from competitors is its focus on locations and community partnerships unique to Stray, which the company has coined its “Strademark Places”.
“Since day dot, Stray’s guiding motto has been all about ‘getting further off the beaten track’. This means we have a continual focus on finding unique destinations, communities and operators who can offer our visitors a more ‘real’ New Zealand experience. The term ‘Strademark Places’ came about more recently when we realised we needed a name to represent all these special destinations on our route,” says Antonia Newcomb, Stray’s Marketing Manager (or ‘Brand Bandit’ as her signature reads).
Strademarks include Hokianga Harbour with sand boarding, guided forest walks, and local stories about Opo the dolphin; Blue Duck Station, a conservation-orientated working high country station; Lake Aniwhenua, where visitors are hosted by a local family and participate in a community programme at the Murupara School; Raetihi, where visitors stay in a restored historic nurses lodge and the rustic Gunns Camp situated within Fiordland’s National Park.
“Stray’s approach to tour design is closely aligned with the industry’s Tourism 2025’s framework in both its support of the regions and its endeavour to create unique and meaningful traveller experiences within these communities. Each of our Strademark Places has a unique New Zealand story. Blue Duck Station, for example, situated on the Wanganui River is one New Zealand’s most remote high country stations. With challenging farm land, the owners have converted significant tracts of the land back to native bush and committed to a pest trapping and breeding programme for the native Whio (Blue Duck). Stray’s visitors learn about farm life on the station, local honey production, pest control programmes and paddock to plate principles,” says Antonia.
“In Lake Aniwhenua, Stray’s groups spend time learning about the history and social challenges faced within the Murupara region – an unlikely destination for the regular tourist. Our groups deliver lunches to local school and spend time with students sharing insights to their differing cultures. It is experiences like this that leave long lasting impressions with visitors over the more obvious commercialised destinations.”
As well as considering environmental and social sustainability, Stray has diversified its geographic footprint to become more commercially sustainable, with ventures in South East Asia and Australia. Here at home, Stray has successfully entered a new markets with the introduction of its Mandarin Adventure Tours designed to provide quality travel experiences to the growing Chinese market.