High-End Experiential Travel in New Zealand

The Travel Designer as Chef

The Travel Designer as Chef

Years ago, as I was trying to find ways of explaining to Tourism New Zealand what someone like me did in tourism and why it was important, I thought of the analogy of the chef.  The beautiful chef pictured above is of course the very talented Pen Lee of Split Apple Retreat, bringing high-end authentic and deeply innovative cuisine to New Zealand.  A bit like us and tourism.

What does a top chef do?  Take ingredients available to fairly much everyone  (apart from a few in the private garden or another secret place) and create something special.  Sometimes regularly.  Sometimes one-off.  Always with passion, flair and sometimes flamboyance.  What they create for a client when they combine the food with a particular location, light, sounds, ambience is an experience.  The carrot isn't the experience.  It's a part of the experience.

That was me explaining the difference between Ahipara and, say, a kayak operator.  We might include that most excellent kayak operator as part of a two week trip in New Zealand.  But we would make sure they were presented at the right place, at the right time, from the right supplier and in the right company.  Otherwise the kayak would be as unremarkable as a lone carrot on Pen's table. 

Now, let's consider that kayak and place it in a day.  Whole day or half day?  Morning or afternoon?  Where to wake up?  What about lunch?  And what about dinner?  Bed?  Drive times?  Weather.  

OK - we have that sorted, and we can call it a successful day or 'course'.  What about the day before, the day after?  Balance of activity versus travel versus rest.  Then recreate that perfect day in multiple different places with multiple different activities and multiple characters in a way which is balanced over two weeks.

Then, because hardly anyone travels alone, it's time to blend in another person, and another and another.

And, because everything we do is tailor made, we take all this into account for every trip our clients take to New Zealand.

But now, this is where we add yet another dimension.  Our clients all see different New Zealands based on their requirements.  If we take Milford Sound as a well known example, our clients can experience this place in multiple different ways (all by helicopter as this is so much better as an option than all of the others):

  • helicoptering in early in the morning - before the crowds get there - then taking a small vessel for a private cruise in empty waters before returning also by helicopter
  •  a variant of the above with lunch on a beautiful high country station at a restored historic stone cottage
  • Milford plus time on a farm with a farmer
  • Milford plus a remote hike somewhere West, where the crowds aren't, of course
  • Milford plus a private jetboat experience and a wild food picnic
  • Milford plus a paddleboard on an alpine lake
  • Milford plus a dive on the West Coast to catch your own paua (abalone) and crayfish (rock lobster)
  • Milford plus an ethically sound hunt for what are considered pest animals in New Zealand - deer, chamois and tahr
  • Milford plus some fly fishing for trout
  • Milford with one of the country's top landscape photographers
  • I think you understand what I'm trying to get to - so I won't continue with more menu items.  Let's also not forget that the flight paths on the above options can vary tremendously, meaning you can be covering new ground every time even if you take every single one of the options above.  Then of course there's breakfast, lunch, dinner, where you stayed and where you will stay... 

     So, when bringing together a trip to New Zealand, the travel designer (or more correctly, the destination management specialist) has an enormous amount of scope in which ingredients are selected and how they are combined.  The result is a meal, or succession of meals, which can vary wildly from one DMC (destination management company) to another.  Some prepare everything from scratch, some subcontract other chefs, some go to the internet, some take advice from a man in a pub, some must absolutely have what their neighbours had - despite not agreeing with them about everything else in life.  The travellers then have a most excellent range from which they can choose what they want.  Some people actually enjoy KFC, or randomly throwing a bunch of things in a pot and hope they work. (I have done both).  But not usually when it's a very important meal.

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