New Zealand is a superb place for families to learn together, laugh together and push their limits together - in a very relaxed atmosphere.
The first in our series exploring why, over the years, families have travelled to New Zealand.
People often talk about "creating memories" - something which makes me a little uncomfortable, a bit like saying "the weather's going to be good tomorrow" or the worst one of all and I hope I don't get struck by lightning for writing it down "it will be perfect"....aaarrrgghhh. But I think we all know what people mean. Looking back on a formative experience with warmth.
One of the main reasons a family will travel together is to learn together, laugh together, and look back on experiences with warmth together. They also love broadening the minds of the young ones with the sorts of things which over the years have broadened their own minds.
One of my greatest pleasures as a travel professional is putting families in situations which can lead to such memories, laughter and love. So this is one of my favourite reasons which people put on the table as to why they are coming to New Zealand.
What we do for such families really depends on who they are. Understanding what they enjoy and extrapolating from that what they might enjoy here in New Zealand. Taking the odd wild punt and presenting it as an option. And of course creating one-offs, which we do all the time.
From the perspective of one off experiences, families are excellent. They tend to all know each other (although I can think of one instance where a family didn't even know what each other liked to eat) - which makes our briefing more detailed and our planning/delivery deeper, tend to get on, can be mischievous (excellent entertainment factor especially when they give us the low down on another family member and we can carefully set a trap of some sort), and provide sufficient numbers to make one-offs very affordable.
In the past, this has given rise to a number of different experiences:
Maori is the winner. Very family oriented and with an intriguing culture, shared in a sophisticated manner, and of course they are the masters of manaakitanga (hospitality) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) which tend to be themes very close to the heart of our families. Fun and warm, they tend to give rise to fun and warm occasions.
Offbeat. A high-end family which travelled over in two private jets, wanted something basic, fun, a little raw. We rented a camp on some private land way up a mountain. Pretty basic. They loved it.
Learning. Fishing is the main one here, with relaxed and caring professionals. Some go for sustainable, ethical hunting - often with Maori, and then delivering the meat to elders after the event. One lucky boy had his first ever driving lesson in a full specification rally car on part of the New Zealand rally circuit with a champion as his instructor. And another had a helicopter flying lesson. Another had a jetboat driving lesson. Others were taught how to snorkel for lobster and abalone. Others taught new cooking methods. And so on and so on. One of our favourite categories this one. The right subject matter with the right people in the right place is a lovely thing.
Mind blowing. This has to be helicopters through Fiordland with legendary pilots. Not the standard fare served up to tourists (package A with price point B - yuck!), but real people who have lived real lives and who have reached the peak of their profession sharing some of what they love in a uniquely beautiful place with lucky families.
Challenging. A tough hike. With a Plan B of course, known only to the parents. Although we had another group abseiling down a 50-metre waterfall under the eye of an ex-special forces instructor.
Totally Chilled. No high-impact trip is complete without something totally chilled in there too. From picnics to vineyard meals, to private seaside villas. Time to take stock, to communicate, to just be. In a relaxing place where you actually want to spend some downtime.
This is what we obviously love doing and have done for quite a while now. This is why we like to get to know our clients before we even start planning - not after they've been through. This is meaningful. This is Ahipara.