In Harmony: New Zealand And Emerging Luxury Travel Trends, Part 1
In my recent Luxist articles,The Dawn Of A New Economy, and Is The Recession Over?, I have discussed a multiplicity of luxury trends, derived from the Luxury Summit discussions and research, and from the American Affluence Center Research, Spring 2010. These new trends suggest changes in high end spending and saving, redefining what is newly important to consumers. Such changes have been enhanced by the recession that has at best lightly touched and at worst deeply affected both the aspirational and inspirational high net worth populations. Much of this research suggests changes in purchasing attitudes that range from a more conspicuous to a more conscious consumption, allowing for less artifice and more authenticity, less presumption and more purpose, less spending and more investing – all in material and experience that mean more than just acquiring more stuff.
Within the past year also, a greater interest has emerged in high end, authentic adventure travel, multi -generational family travel, and all with a greater eco-sensitive outlook. These luxury travel trends correspond, and indeed harmonize with high end travel offerings found in New Zealand, the youngest, least populated (still more sheep than people, 16 million sheep, 4 million people), and arguably one of the most unspoiled, green, eco-sensitive and adventurous and adventuresome country left in the world.
Maori ways are generally respected by non-Maori New Zealanders. The exceptional Te Papa Museum in Wellington, the capital, is a monument to Maori history, religion and lifestyle. There is one Maori television station in New Zealand, where only Maori language is spoken, and news and other programs are shown. At high end resorts, there are often Maori recipes and foods that are highlighted on the menus. As an prime example during my travels, I took a food walk with a Maori Elder, Chef Eru Tutaki ( see below), also the Chef at Treetops a Luxury Wilderness Lodge near Rotorua, NZ. We went into a deep forest and gathered young fiddlehead ferns, horopito (pepper) leaves and a stalk of some kind that tasted like celeriac root, for the dinner salad. Before Chef Eru picked the shoots, he said a prayer in Maori, asking forgiveness from Mother Earth, and also asking her to bless the food she was providing us for nourishment. Such reverence for the land, along with the powerful natural reminders of glaciers, snowcapped mountains, volcanic fissures, deep forests, all make New Zealand seem, to this American's sensibility, simply magical – a ubiquitous milieu that feels like a pre 9/11, pre-urban/angst innocence. It is no wonder that the Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, meaning Land Of The Long White Cloud.
It is also no wonder that Peter Jackson chose areas outside Queenstown, especially in the Remarkables Mountain chain (see above, first image), as the Middle Earth backdrop for the movie, Lord Of The Rings. I stood on the place where Mordor's castle had been superimposed, and remembered those high, unearthly mountains above. This area is also very close to the Kawarau river, where the first famous Bungee jumping bridge (see below) stands. So, at the place where Mordor's castle stood, well, virtually stood, all I could hear was the crunch of the fresh snow ( New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is winter now) coupled with occasional YAHOO of those who chose to do that crazy, seductive act of leaping off the Kawarau bridge.
For those who love the idea, not to mention the reality of risk in doing once-in-a-lifetime things, the Kawarau Bridge leap is just one of the multiple attractions New Zealand has to offer. Here are a few more – these are the ones I experienced or know of, there are hundreds more. With these adventures, the multigenerational aspects plays in more than one would think. In all of these adventures I experienced, many late boomers and seniors in the 70's and 80's were part of my traveling groups, inspirations all.
- Hot Air Ballooning - Outside Christchurch, NZ. Flying above Christchurch in early morning.www.ballooning.co.nz
- The Ziptrek Flying Fox EcoTour - flying through the trees above Queenstown. Going up on a Gondola, coming down on a strapped chair, held by a strong wire. (www.ziptrek.com)
- Lord of the Rings Tour, and gold panning on the Shotover River, both were accomplished by Nomad Safaris. (www.nomadsafaris.co.nz) For your information, I learned how to pan, and I did identify two tiny golf flecks in my pan after sluicing for many minutes. The Shotover River was a major gold source in the early 19th century.
- Waiora Spa -Rotorua, NZ -- The town of Rotorua sits atop thermal waters -- and this day spa has traditional Maori massages, with geothermal mud and Wai Ora Volcanic stones. (www.waioraresort.co.nz)
- Walking on volcanic islands and valleys -- Traveling by a small seaplane, then taking a boat over to the Orakei Korako Caves and Thermal Park was an exceptional thermal area experience. There are geysers on the island, Sacred Maori caves, geotheramal mud pools and lava flows. (www.orakeikoraku.co.nz)
- Jet Boating - traveling at quite a speed -- down and around the rapids on the Shotover and the Kawarau rivers. The one I took was Karawau Jet (www.kjet.co.nz.)
And it is not just the outdoor guides. The eco-sensitive travel and green experience dimensions are woven into the cultures of many of the most exclusive and popular high end hotels and lodges also.
- The high end George Hotel – in Christchurch, NZ. -- A multi-awarded high end luxury hotel ---The Leading Boutique Hotel' 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 in the World Travel Awards, one of Oceania's top 20 Hotels in the 2009 Conde Nast Readers' Choice Awards and voted #2 in New Zealand by Travel + Leisure 'World's Best Hotels Survey' 2009 . And with all this, The George defines their eco-sensitive policies in a note to their guests, that include all the 25 eco-sensitive strategies ( they call them luxury intiatives) in use. They also have a caring luxury statement that deals with their philanthropic endeavors, and support of local artists and artisans for their furniture creation and refurbishment. They also have eco-sensitive garbage cans in every room.(see below)
- Treetops, near Rotorua, NZ -- Treetops is a Luxury Wilderness Experience Lodge -- and offers photographic, birdwatching, helicopter, and horseback safaris, full day wild food cooking experiences, as well as wild game/fishing experiences as well. ( www.treetops.co.nz.)
- The small, elegant Eichardt's Private Hotel -- The most historic ( opened in the 1800s) private hotel in Queenstown, has a new component to it -- the Stockman's Camp - a 90,000 acre ranch at Branches Station, high in the Remarkables where the guest can do jet boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hunting -- or, have farming experiences, all while staying at the Owner's Lodge with private chef.
- The Remarkables Lodge -- built in the shadow of the Remarkables mountains, this small lodge -- 7 suites, 14 guests total, has its own vast herb and vegetable garden, where the chef chooses the most suitable vegetables for part of the dinner menu. (www.remarkables.co.nz)
Finally, while in New Zealand, I received a new report issued by Ragatz Associates, a group I know well, that does market research for the fractional interest industry in the United States. I have written about the fractional industry since 2004, and had thought often that New Zealand would be a great destination for fractional developers or destination clubs to consider. The new Ragatz report dealt, coincidentally, with this new subject: the estimated demand for fractional interest in Australia and New Zealand.
The New Zealand dimension is mentioned below:
"The concept ( of fractional interest resort real estate) remains at the cutting edge of the region's resort real estate industry, and long-term prospects appear very positive. It is fully anticipated that comparable growth will soon occur in Australia and New Zealand. It also is estimated that these possible buyers will generate anywhere from $9.3 billion to $70.7 billion worth of fractional interest sales. About 15 percent would be in New Zealand and 85 percent in Australia."
To my mind, that 15% of 9 billion (and that is the low end) is $1,350,000,000.
With the emergence of adventure travel, eco-sensitive travel and multigenerational travel, all of which infer the need for uniqueness and authenticity of experience, as well as the new possibilities for fractional growth, New Zealand stands on the verge of becoming an even more active high end travel destination than ever.
One more thing, about traveling to and within New Zealand. It's about Air New Zealand. This airline is multi- awarded, the most recent being the 2010 Air Transport World Global Airline Award, choosing Air New Zealand as number one in the world. In 2009, Air New Zealand won 13 awards for airline excellence. I traveled on that airline internationally and inter-island. The flight attendants were all helpful and pleasant, the planes on time, and traveling was, well, for an American, easy.
With that said, I can only compare it to the United States, post 9/11 airline travel. Though I fully understand and appreciate all that the United States TSA and security personnel need to do, sometimes it is just a guilty pleasure to return, if only a for eleven days, to a time when travel was simple and comfortable. And though the travel time from Los Angeles to Auckland is about 12 hours, the journey is well worth it, due to the singularity of the destination.
Note: I was fortunate enough to travel to New Zealand from June 13-23rd of this year – It was paid for by the New Zealand Tourist Assn with Air New Zealand being an affiliate. It would have been impossible in time and travel expense for me to cover this subject, with its many nuances, on my own. But rest assured my opinions, as usual, and in my typical determined first-born way, are always my own.