As the first official day of summer kicks off tomorrow and the nation gears up to explore their own backyard, the country’s tourism industry is firmly focused on developing more sustainable ways to host domestic and international visitors.
Two new reports from the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge investigate the small but flourishing marine ecotourism sector in Aotearoa. Both reports show the vital role that marine ecotourism can play in supporting the country’s regions and communities to thrive – socially, culturally, environmentally and economically.
“The marine ecotourism sector deals with nature, conservation and marine resources. But, more importantly, it has great potential to link back to community and local economic development,” explains Prof Simon Milne, from Auckland University of Technology and Co-leader of the Sustainable Seas Challenge’s Growing marine ecotourism project.
“In interviews, we asked what marine ecotourism means to operators and how they would define their success. What came through strongly was these are people who actively care for the coastal and marine environment and who want to give back to the communities who host their operations,” says Milne.
The first report includes free resources for planners, regional development, business and iwi/hapū. These resources show the location and extent of the marine ecotourism industry and are designed to incorporate new initiatives and data over time. The resources can also support and facilitate networking amongst operators.
A database was developed from online information to provide a range of baseline information about marine and coastal ecotourism across Aotearoa New Zealand. The database informs an interactive Google map that displays the location of operators and what they offer, such as diving or wildlife viewing. A data dashboard provides an interactive platform that gives users more detail and the ability to easily compare across regions and types of activities.