Herald on Sunday

Exploring our own backyard


One of the successes of the past year has been the way New Zealanders didn’t just accept temporary isolation but embraced it. People have made the most of what’s here.

In a twist on the old tourism line ”don’t leave home ‘til you’ve seen the country” it was a case of “you can’t leave home so go see the country”. Tourism New Zealand’s pitch a year ago was “do something new, New Zealand”. And we did.

TNZ says more than 60 per cent of locals went somewhere different or tried a new tourism experience. The research also found Kiwis tended to travel during off-peak seasons with 72 per cent of domestic tourism spending occurring outside summer.

Many Kiwis saw the sense in visiting places or doing things they wanted to while overseas tourists were away and internatio­nal trips out of the question.

New Zealanders spent an extra $1.1 billion on home travel compared to pre-pandemic figures, pushing it to $8.37 bin the nine months to March.

No doubt some of that money was from funds earmarked for cancelled foreign jaunts but it was competing against other urges such as home decorating, retail therapy, wardrobe enhancemen­t, shed maintenanc­e, and vehicle upgrades.

It doesn’t make up for the estimated $12.9b a year missing from the coffers because of the closed borders. There’s been a lot of pain with tourism jobs lost and revenue slashed. But perhaps the interest in exploring the homeland reflected a heightened interest and sense of pride in ourselves.

The period since the Treaty of Waitangi is relatively short and the country is still changing at a rapid rate. There has been dynamic social and workplace change in the past 50 years. We’ve got a lot of room to develop.

Even against that background, a blossoming of confidence and identity in different ways has been particular­ly noticeable during this walled-off time. With tourism, instead of looking outward and dreaming of seeing spectacula­r sites and sights elsewhere, we had a chance to find the familiar and special areas here on our own.

Next year we may return to more normal patterns, with some probable pent-up demand for long-haul travel and returnees heading off again.

Yet wandering around the natural backyard could become more of a regular habit, rather than something done once big-ticket foreign items are crossed off the list.

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