Coronavirus Covid 19: National Tourism Awards winners rewarded for their work during the pandemic

TNZ Award: 2020 was a leap of faith, for many Kiwi companies it has paid off. Photo / Supplied, Tourism New Zealand

Twelve New Zealand tourism operators have been honored for the aroha and community spirit they have demonstrated over the past year, as recipients of the National Tourism Industry Top Honors.

Canceled in 2020, this year’s awards recognize the work done by local businesses during the Covid crisis.

Tonight, the 2021 Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Awards took place at the Christchurch Art Center in an event designed to highlight some of the amazing community work and initiatives carried out by New Zealand travel companies – in one year without tourists.

The 12 winners came from across the country in various fields – from adventure tourism to aviation.

The judges said the winners of the Franz Josef parachute jump were "clearly committed to their local environment, community and whānau".  Photo / Supplied
The judges said the winners of the parachute jump Franz Josef were “clearly committed to their local environment, their community and their whānau”. Photo / Supplied

Some regions had many champions to celebrate.

Three Rotorua companies took top honors. The regenerative activity of Rotorua Canopy Tours has been praised with Maori Kaitiaki Adventures and luxury tour guides MDA Experiences.

Near Auckland, two companies from Waiheke Island were also awarded.

In the waters of the Hauraki, Waiheke Dive and Snorkel pledged to use the profits to regenerate their seascape, and above the vineyards, EcoZip Adventures was also a winner.

By doubling the efforts to regenerate and conserve the environment, EcoZip was able to retain its staff during the tourism crisis.

“Today, we are a different company, but with an equally important commitment to our employees, our
customers and our communities, ”said EcoZip, who said the price was a“ beacon at the end of 15 months of uncertainty ”.

Rotorua Canopy Tours winners congratulated for "continue to lead efforts in biodiversity education" .  Photo / Destination Rotorua
Rotorua Canopy Tours winners were congratulated for “continuing to lead efforts in biodiversity education”. Photo / Destination Rotorua

The 12 winners were selected from a pool of nearly 50 finalists chosen by judges from the national tourism body Tourism New Zealand, rating agency Qualmark and airline Air New Zealand.

Judge Hemi Sundgren Pou Ārahi, for TNZ, said it was a “humbling experience” to have to pick the winners.

“There are so many great people doing their best in an industry that has been subjected to a set of circumstances unparalleled in our lifetime,” he said.

Sundgren said the finalists were chosen for their “manaaki expressions [hospitality], tiaki [guardianship] and whanau [family and community] by focusing their time and energy on the communities they serve and the environment in which they live ”.

MDA Experiences was "everything to give back" in Rotorua.  Photo / File
MDA Experiences was all about “giving back” to Rotorua. Photo / File

“Our winners were ultimately selected for demonstrating genuine Kiwi aroha and giving back for the good of New Zealand,” said Sue Purcell, Jury Chair and Chief Financial Officer of TNZ.

“Even in a year of unprecedented obstacles, they found a way to support their people, the wider community and the environment, while keeping their businesses running. The stories we read are truly inspiring. “

Air New Zealand Judge and Sustainability Officer Meagan Schoeffel congratulated each of the finalists for their resilience.

“They felt that pressure on their shoulders and there are so many fantastic examples of people doing the right thing and not giving up.”

To be eligible for the awards, businesses had to be Qualmark Gold rated and have a proven commitment to delivering world-class experiences while being Kitaiaki to the community and the lands on which they operate.

Richie McCaw, TNZ ambassador and former captain of the All Blacks was also present to present the awards. A regular at trophy presentations, over the next six months McCaw will be handing out the prizes and trying out the winning experiences.

“To all of you who are still here and still contributing to this industry and all that New Zealand has to offer, this is a real testament to the courage that the Kiwis are made of,” said McCaw.

Winners: Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Awards 2021

• GCH Aviation, Christchurch
The charter airline has doubled its work with the NZ Flying Doctors’ Service during Covid-19 lockdowns, as well as partnerships with charities and the DoC’s wildcat management.

• Carino Wildlife Tours, Paihia
Marine Mammal Tours worked with local hapū and DoC to share valuable marine skills with the community needed to care for natural taonga.

Luxury Nightsky Cottage praised for its "commitment to regeneration".  Photo / Supplied
Luxury Nightsky Cottage has been praised for its “Commitment to Regeneration”. Photo / Supplied

• Cottage Nightsky, Ruapehu
On the edge of Tongariro National Park, the luxury eco-lodge has led by example while offering discounts to essential health workers.

• EcoZip Adventures, Waiheke Island
The adventure company not only retained but hired staff for its regeneration and conservation work during the tourism crisis.

• Kaitiaki Adventures, Rotorua
The operator shredded the local Maori taonga and te ao as part of his Rangatahi training program.

• MDA experiences, Rotorua
A luxury mountain biking travel agency has extended its trails to local schools and families with a “Share the Ride” program.

Winners Owen River Lodge congratulated for "stick together, listen, offer support".  Photo / Bill Bachman
The Winners Owen River Lodge was praised for “coming together, listening, offering support”. Photo / Bill Bachman

• Owen River Lodge, Nelson
The luxury fishing lodge has remained committed to its staff and date of opening amid the Covid downturn without compromising its care for the pristine shores.

• Rotorua Canopy Tours, Rotorua
Leading a restoration project on 250 hectares of native forest, it remained operational seven days a week outside of containment.

• Franz Josef and Fox Glacier parachute jump, west coast
Based in the hard-hit glacier country, its partnership with DoC has allowed staff to continue to earn living wages and develop broader skills.

The Carino winners in Paihia were "do remarkable things in the community".  Photo / Defender of the North
The Carino winners in Paihia “were doing amazing things in the community.” Photo / Defender of the North

• Diving and snorkelling in Waiheke, Waiheke
The “Regenerative” Dive Shop has established a unique “no-catch” area for marine life in Auckland for the enjoyment of divers.

• Wildwire Wanaka, central Otago
The adventure climbing company has used the past 15 months to reinvest in the business with staff training and redevelopment of its giant waterfall.

• Ziptrek Ecotours, Queenstown
The must-see Queenstown Adventure has used the past 15 months to bring Kiwi guests and develop new experiences such as a tree music festival.

For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, visit

Comments are closed.